In the last few years, prices for CD recorders have dropped considerably. They have almost lost their meaning as status symbols as well. Millions of Compact Discs containing music or computer data are made by home users every day all over the world. CD recorders differ mainly in their write speed, but the interface, buffer size and the read speed are just as important.
Plextor used to be the number one address for cutting edge CD recorders for a long while, but recently Sony, Teac and AOpen offer their own 12speed writers as well. Others like Asus are also close to the launch of their CDR. We took a quick look at AOpen's new model.
Installing a CD-ROM or CD-R drive should be no problem even for beginners. After checking the jumpers at the backside of the drive (master or slave) you can already install it into an empty 5.25" drive bay. Since CD recorders are basically just a CD-ROM drive with enhanced features, every drive can be used instantly as it will be given a drive letter automatically. Inserting any data CD will be enough to test the basic functions of the drive.
In order to determine media compatibility, I used several brand and no-name CD-Rs. AOpen's CD-recorder worked fine at full speed with any CD-R I threw at it, regardless if high-class brand CD-R or if no-name unmarked CD-R. 4 MB of memory are buffering write data in order to ensure a constant data stream. This buffer can only bridge approx. two seconds, but it proved completely sufficient. If you use the bundled software Nero 5.0, you will get another 20 MB buffer of main system memory. Those 24 MB of write buffer reduce the chance of encountering the feared 'buffer underrun' to a minimum. However, users with 64 MB or even less memory cannot really take advantage of this software buffer feature, because the system will swap-out the software buffer to the hard drive as soon as the physical RAM is completely used. This obviously eliminates the advantage of stream buffering.
Aopen's drive proved to be a fully sufficient CD-recorder that produces reliable CDs/CDROMs in very short time.