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Does A 52X** CD Burner Burn 6.5 Times Faster Than An 8X burner?

Originally posted 10/11/02 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated 10/16/02 with 52X burner** results and better IDE results***


CD burner speeds are up to 48X**. Like you, I've been wondering how fast they really burn. I decided to "build" my own FireWire 48X burner using a generic case and a Buslink 48X (Lite-On LTR-48125W) CD-RW. (Why Lite-On? Because it was rated second fastest by PCWorld and because it had a fast 80ms average access time.)

Since we had 40X, 32X, 16X, and 8X burners already in the lab, I knew it was time for another shootout... heh, heh, heh.

** On 10/12/02 I discovered CompUSA had received a shipment of Memorex 52X CD-ReWriteable drives (same as Lite-On LTR-52246S) which they are selling for $79 after rebate. On 10/15/02, I exchanged the 48X12X48 Lite-On for a Memorex 52X, tested it, and added those numbers to the graphs below.






 (* The Sony CD-RW was labeled as both 40X and 48X burn on the box. The small print said there was a "one button turbo" mode that boosts it from 40X to 48X. Apparently that only works on PC's with special software because I got the same times whether I designated at 40X or 48X in Toast. And the verify speed matched that of the other two burners with 40X read speed... hence, the 40X designation in my graphs.)



The Memorex 52X burner burned CD's 3.1 times faster than the Pioneer 8X, not 6.5 times faster as the "X" rating implies. It burned 114% faster than Plextor 16X, not 325%. I used 48X rated CD-R blanks because I couldn't find 52X rated ones.

Verify speeds are much closer due to faster READ speed ratings for the "slower" burners. The 52X burner was only 107% faster than the 8X Pioneer and only 27% faster than the Plextor 16X.

As for "ripping" audio CD's, the 52X's speed gain was only 27% over the slowest burner.

If you step back from the graphs and squint, you can see the law of diminishing returns kicks in as you go up in speed rating. Most people will be very satisfied with the speed of a 32 or 40X burner... most people... but not a speed freak like me. ;-)

A word about capatibility. Not all brands of burners work with Macs. For example, I tried an Aptec 48X but it wouldn't work no matter what interface I used and no matter what software I tried. Some drives are partly compatible. The Memorex 52X worked with Toast, could boot a System CD, and could import music using iTunes. However, neither Finder nor iTunes could use Apple's built-in Burn software to burn a CD. I suspect the 52X burner is too new to be supported. AccelerateYourMac has a drive compatibility database where you can look to see what CD-RW's have been tried with various models of Mac.

***The first posting of this page showed the Sonnet Tempo ATA-133 PCI host adapter to be much slower than the FireWire interface when doing VERIFY and RIP. It turns out that the problem lies with firmware in the ATA-133 controller card. When the firmware was written to support ATAPI devices like burners, they used "slow" mode. Why? Because they ran out of ROM space. Whoops.

The same thing applies to the Tempo ATA-100 card. (Acard's ATA-66 and ATA-133 adapters don't support ATAPI devices.) This is a non-issue for most users since only nuts like me would use anything other than the internal ATA interface for driving a CD-RW.

As you can see, I updated the graphs with the results from testing the 52X and 48X burners using the Power Mac's internal ATA interface (same cable that drives the SuperDrive). The VERIFY and RIP speeds now closely match that of the FireWire interface.

Does the 52X or 48X burn speed advantage justify the premium price? Not if you want to be sensible. You'll typically pay $150 for an off-brand 48X FireWire burner. My custom 52X solution cost me $178 (Drive $79, Case $99). Compare that price to the 32X ACOMdata FireWire burner sold recently at Compusa for $20 after rebate. (That deal is done but watch Deal Mac for more like it.)

On the other hand, if you just bought one of those new DDR "Wind Tunnel" G4 Towers with the spare optical bay, I think you can afford the $79 for a Memorex 52X or comparable burner.

One other performance note. I prefer using Roxio's Toast 5.2 Titanium to Apple's built-in burn software. Why? Apple's software took 100 seconds longer to burn a CD due to having to copy the files to a staging area.

My other reason used to be that Apple's software didn't support multi-session burns on the same CD blank but that has changed with OS X version 10.2.



PCWorld rated the top ten 48X CD-RW's. The Lite-On was rated second fastest and number two in the ratings.

CDspeed2000 has a fascinating AVERAGE speed rating chart for various models of CD-RW. According to their tests, none of the 48X burners averaged more than 38X. But then, the fastest 40X burner averaged 32X. They also illustrate the difference between CAV, P-CAV, and Z-CLV writing mechanisms.

PCWorld article on conditions under which CD blanks can shatter while spinning the new fast drives (at 150mph at the outer edge).

XLR8YourMac has an illustrated installation guide in case you want to add a fast CD-RW to your Beige, Blue'n'White, or early Graphite Power Mac.



The sexiest PRE-PACKAGED FireWire CD-RW is the Mercury model from Other World Computing. It's pricey at $180 for a 40X but the Teac burner used does feature an 8MB buffer and the case kit matches the look of the newest Power Macs. The OWC people emphasize that they chose the TEAC drive because it produced the best quality music CD's. They also offer a model with the Plextor 40X.

FLASH: You can get a La Cie 52X24X52 FireWire drive from Macs4All for $190.

But if you BUILD-YOUR-OWN FireWire burner or plan to shove one into a spare optical drive bay, shop around. The Lite-On 48X is selling for $72 at CompUSA is selling the Memorex 52X CD-RW for $79 after rebate (both in the store and on the web site).

Pay attention to DealMac for hot deals on REBATES AND SALES on the 40X and 32X models as their popularity drops.

If you are into RE-WRITE, the Memorex 52X re-burns at 24X.

For FIREWIRE CASES, my favorite is the clear plastic Mercury FireWire case kit from Other World Computing. It's slim, good looking, and uses an external power supply (no noisy fan). It works with CD-RW or DVD-R drives.

You can order the Roxio's Toast 5 Titanium SOFTWARE direct from Roxio or buy it from your favorite reseller. (If you already have it, Version 5.2 for OS X is available that supports 52X mode and is supposed to include MP-aware code.)

Costco is selling TDK 48X CD BLANKS in quantity 100 for $15 after rebate.



The test "mule" was my trusty G4/1000 MP "SDR" Power Mac with 1.5 1GB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM and 120GB IBM 120GXP boot drive running OS X (10.2.1).

CD-RW test units included:
Memorex 52X CD-ReWriteable (same as Lite-On LTR-52246S) in a generic FW case and internal IDE interface.
Buslink 48X12X48 (Lite-On LTR-48125W) in a generic FW case and internal IDE interface.
Sony (CRX210A) 40X12X40X in a generic FW case
ACOMdata (Mitsumi CR-48XATE) 32X12X48X FireWire CD-RW
QPS QueFire! (Plextor PX-W1610A) 16X10X40X FireWire CD-RW
Apple (Pioneer DVR A04) SuperDrive (8X CD write, 24X CD read)

Software used for burn and verify tests was Roxio's Toast 5 Titanium for OS X. (Version 5.2 now supports 52X CD-RW's.) The test files for burning were a collection of MP3 tunes totaling 695.5MB. The test file for comparing Toast to the Apple burn software was a single 457MB file.

Apple's iTunes 3.01 was used for "ripping" a CD to MP3. The test CD had 20 songs totaling 1.1 hours or 727.4MB's.




LINKS to SPEED tests on other sites

HOT DEALS on speed upgrades

rob-ART morgan,
mad scientist and webmaster


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