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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > 32x CD-RW

Monday, February 18, 2002
Mitsumi CR-480ATE CD-RW

1. The first 32x CD-RW drive arrives!

Mitsumi CR-480ATE IDE CDR-W - Page 1

The first 32x CD-RW drive arrives!

- Introduction

has been following the CD-R writing technology for quite sometime now but has never managed to 'lead' the writing race since Sanyo has been the pioneer in this area from the arrival of the 8x CD-R drive. However nothing should be considered as granted nowadays... Mitsumi engineers worked hard and the result of their efforts is a new CD-RW drive with the codename 'CR-480ATE'. The new drive not only supports the faster writing but also the faster re-writing speeds ever been available to users. The need for speed keeps increasing and the total time for burning CDs keeps lowering down.

Can the 32x CD-R writing speed considered as a major step in the CD-R recording technology? How faster can a 32x recorder really be from the 24x recorders? What about writing quality at the highest recording speed ever available? Lets find out! This review should be considered as a 'preview' since future firmware updates will improve both reading/writing performances.

- Features

The drive supports 32x writing (Z-CLV), 12x re-writing, 16MB Buffer, "ExacLink" as the main anti-buffer underrun technology and "Mt. Rainier" format. The maximum reading speed of the drive is 40x but this may change in the final mass production units (up to 48x). Mitsumi continues to keep the recorder's buffer high enough to avoid extended use of 'ExacLink'. The exact writing speeds are 4x, 8x, 16x (CLV), 16x-24x and 16x-32x (Z-CLV) and re-writing speeds of 4x, 10x, 12x (CLV).

The supported formats are: CD-DA, CD-ROM (Mode 1 und 2), CD ROM XA (Mode 2, Form 1 und 2), Enhanced CD, Photo CD (read only), CD Text, Video CD and it supports the following recording methods: Disk at once, Session at once, Track at once, Multisession and Packet Writing.

- Mitsumi's 32x writing technology

The Mitsumi CR-480ATE supports 32x-writing speed with the use of the Z-CLV writing technology. Despite the fact that OAK's chipset support both Z-CLV/P-CAV writing technologies, Mitsumi chosen Z-CLV cause: "...The reason why we select Z-CLV is technically easier and writing a better reliable data:

* CLV : Does not need control the Laser Power, always same power, but has to be under control spindle motor. Inner fast, Outer slower
* Z-CLV : Laser power control will 3 times in model 24x, 5 times in 32x.
* P-CAV : Spindle motor does not need control but Laser Power will always slightly change!! This technologies is quite difficult and costly!! and miss writing happen often
...".

The main reason that made Mitsumi to adopt the Z-CLV technology for the new 32x model is the cost and the extended research that must be done in order to have a reliable recording. Just remember that last month Yamaha released their 24x P-CAV recorder, when 24x Z-CLV recorders are from June 2001 in the market...

The 32x writing speed range is divided in 4 zones: The drive starts writing at 16x from lead-in till the 2mins, shifts up to 20x at 6mins, shifts up to 24x at 16mins and lastly shifts to 32x at 42mins and stays there until the end. The average recording speed is 26.34X. It's not clear yet if the shift points are fixed in all cases, or they will vary according to the quality of media used.

- The competition

The only manufacturer that has announced 32x recorder so far is Sanyo. Many OEM vendors to ship retail products to the market will use the Sanyo "CRD-BP1600P". The Sanyo 32x drive has two advantages over Mitsumi's 32x proposal, according to the drive's specs:

a) 20x CLV and
b) 20-32x Z-CLV writing speeds

We will have to wait and see if the drive's performance at both 20x CLV and 20x-32x Z-CLV would be as smooth as the beta drive from Mitsumi is. Unfortunately by the time this article was written, Sanyo failed to provide working sample unit for straight comparison. As soon as the compatibility of the media is increased, with newer firmware, we will have a clearer view of Sanyo's 32x performance and recording times. In case of the same shift points will be used, the total difference in recording time, at 32x speed, is expected to be around 5-10secs (from the Mitsumi CR-480ATE).

You should expect more 32x recorders also from Ricoh, AOpen, LiteOn, SamSung, LG, Plextor and Sony at the first quarter of 2002.

- The media

In order to benefit of the new writing speed, Mitsumi and the most manufacturers state that 32x certified media should be used. Most media manufacturers plan to ship 32x certified media in the first quarter of 2002. Ritek/Verbatim have already announced such media and for sure Taiyo Yuden, Mitsui, Ricoh and Mitsui will follow.

There are rumors that the 32x media supplied by some Taiwan manufactures will have a minimized thickness of the recording layer. As the recording layer become thinner, good sensitivity can be obtained (for such high recording speeds) but with cost in reliability. Let's hope that this will not become a reality...

- The package

The package, in which the drive arrived, contained a bare drive -engineering version- among with 5 pieces of 32x certified media (based upon Maxell Chemicals) for our recording speeds. The drive expected to hit the European market around the middle/end of January 2002.

The front of the drive is exactly the same as we witnessed in almost all the previous Mitsumi models. The drive doesn't have the Mitsumi logo on the front of it, while it has the "High-Speed RW" logo, which indicates its RW speed. You will also find only one led, the eject button and the headphone input jack/volume selector:

On the back of the drive we will find the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for assigning the drive as a Master/Slave, the SPDIF output connector and the analog/digital output connectors:

- Installation

The Mitsumi CR-480ATE was installed as a Master in the secondary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA33 mode and after booting, identified itself as the "CR-48XATE". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was a November 2001 model with firmware revision vP1.02 installed. After a while Mitsumi provided newer firmware update (P1.05), which was used for revising the recording/CloneCD tests. The final mass production firmware would be 1.0A and as you understand will have fixed some few errors we mentioned. We used the Nero (5.5.5.7), InCD (3.14), CloneCD (3.2.1.1) and Padus DJ (3.50.818) for the recording tests.

- Test Machine

WinMe/XP OS
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
ATI AIW 128
Mitsumi CR-480ATE firmware vP1.02/vP1.05
PleXWriter PX-W2410A firmware v1.02
TEAC CD-524E firmware v1.0A
Yamaha CRW3200E firmware v1.0b




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