Yamaha delivers fast, affordable CD drive

We don't normally review CD drives, but the high performance and low cost of the new Yamaha Corp. CRW-F1 caught our eye.

For instance, the device touts a speed rating that matches or exceeds any rewritable CD drive on the market. The unit's 44x full-CAV read and write speeds are surpassed only by the 48x speed of AsusTek Computer Inc.'s CRW4816A.

Although the Yamaha device trails the Asus slightly in many disc operations, the differences are so slight that users will not notice them in actual use. Also, bear in mind that the device's use of full-CAV — in which a constant rotation speed is maintained as data is written from the inside of the disc outward — means that the CRW-F1 will record large amounts of data more quickly than it will record small amounts of data.

True, the faster Asus unit costs considerably less, with a retail price of around $70. But the Yamaha CRW-F1 has some features you won't find in any other unit. First, it is the only drive we're aware of that offers a 24x rewrite speed.

Second, the Yamaha device offers a unique DiscT@2 — pronounced "disk tattoo" — feature. After you've closed a CD, you can use DiscT@2 to print text and images on the unused portion of the disc. The drive "prints" to the disc by exposing the dye in the disc to the laser, just as if it were recording data.

The quality of the resulting image depends on the type of dye on the discs you're using, with some providing a sharper and easier-to-see image. At best, however, the resulting images are ghostly, and of course, they're on the data side of the disc so they are of limited usefulness as labels. In fact, we're not sure what practical need DiscT@2 might fulfill, except perhaps providing an identification tag that's difficult for users to change.

Unlike many high-speed CD-RW drives, the Yamaha CRW-F1 can attain its top speed regardless of whether it is recording audio or data. The drive also supports multiple writing modes, including track-at-once, disc-at-once, session-at-once, multisession, packet writing and Mount Rainier (CD-MRW).

And the CRW-F1 features Yamaha's Advanced Audio Master Quality Recording system, which purports to decrease digital noise or jitter and make CDs more compatible with a variety of players. When using the system, the drive will write with longer pits and lands than when recording in standard mode.

The CRW-F1 is available in both external and internal models. We tested an external model that uses a USB 2.0 connection and found it a snap to install. External devices are also available in SCSI and FireWire versions. In addition, internal models with Enhanced IDE and ATAPI interfaces are available.


At a Glance

Internal interface: Enhanced IDE/ATAPI

External interface: USB/SCSI

Data capacity: 700M (80 minutes), 650M (74 minutes)

Write speeds: (CD-R) 44x (19x — 44x full CAV); 16x, 12x, 8x, 4x, 1x (CLV)

Rewrite speeds: (CD-RW) 24x, 10x (full CAV); 24x (partial CAV); 16x, 12x, 10x, 4x, 2x (CLV)

Read speed: 44x (full CAV)

Digital auto extraction: 44x (full CAV)

Data buffer size: 8M (3,176 sectors)

Data transfer speed: 150 kilobits/sec to 6,600 kilobits/sec

Access time: 130 milliseconds (average random access time)

Writing methods: Disc-at-once, session-at-once, track-at- once, packet writing, Advanced Audio Master Quality Recording, CD-MRW

Supported formats: CD-DA, CD-Text, CD+G, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Bridge, Video CD, CD-I, Mixed Mode CD, CD Extra, CD-MRW

Buffer underrun protection: SafeBurn

Dimensions/weight: 5.84 x 1.657 x 7.72 inches, 1.98 pounds

Minimum hardware: Pentium II processor or higher, 300 MHz requirements or faster, 64M RAM (for Windows XP, 128M RAM)

Operating systems: Windows 98, 98 SE, Me, 2000 Professional, XP and Apple Macintosh OS


Yamaha CRW-F1

Grade: A-

Yamaha Corp.

(714) 522-9105


The unit costs $229 to $279.

The Yamaha CRW-F1 is a fast, reliable rewritable CD drive with some unique features, including an unprecedented 24x rewrite speed and DiscT@2, a method of using the laser to print text and graphics on the data surface of the CD.

The CRW-F1 works with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98, Me, 2000 Professional, XP and Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh operating systems.


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