It's hard to know who was first in this combo market, but there are now several manufacturers shouting from the rooftops about their combination drives. Ricoh has one of the best-specification drives, with the MP9060A capable of writing to CD-R media at 6x, rewriting to CD-RW at 4x and reading CDs at up to 24x. On the DVD side, the drive can read at 4x.
Having two laser diodes in one pickup module enables the MP9060A to read DVD and write to CD-R/RW in a single drive. This is great news for those wanting to upgrade from CD-ROM to DVD and CD writing at the same time. It also makes less demands on your PC, only using up one CDRom-sized bay, one EIDE connector and one power connector.
Of course, the bundled software is almost as important as the drive itself. Ricoh has decided to go the Adaptec route with Easy CD Creator which also includes Direct CD. Easy CD is a popular CD creating program, and is easy to use. Direct CD lets you use your CD-RW disk just like a floppy disk in Windows.
For DVD movies, Software Cinemaster is included. The rest of the kit includes one preformatted CD-RW, one CD-R, an audio cable and the mounting screws. Unusually, no EIDE cable was provided. This could be a problem if the existing one in your PC has no free connectors, or there isn't a second cable installed.
Apart from 6x CD writing speed beating the Toshiba SD-R1002's 4x, the Ricoh has the advantage of being able to write CD Text information. This means information such as the track title and artist can be stored along with the audio tracks. Only the latest generation of CD players can read this information - and only mid- to high-end models at that. The MP9060A has a 2Mb buffer, as does the Toshiba, which hopefully means hiccup-free CD writing.
We tested the drive using our CD and DVD benchmarks. Attaining a weighted average CD read rate of 16.2x, the Ricoh performed well but could only manage 2.7x in the corresponding DVD test. We were hoping to see over 3x. At 115ms, the random access time for CDs didn't beat Toshiba's 83ms, and it was a similar story with the DVD test: 164ms compared with 136ms.
These figures aren't critical, however. In real world use, the drive is still pretty quick for CDs, and you'll only notice that it's slower than other DVD drives when DVD applications start becoming more mainstream.
We wrote an audio CD from .wav files stored on the hard drive (57 minutes of music in total) and from the time it started the burning process, the CD was ready to use in just 10 minutes and 20 seconds. Using some simple maths, this equates to a write speed of 5.5x, although this isn't a true measure as it includes the time to write the lead out.