If you're thinking about buying a CD Writer for your PC, now is a good a time as ever. 8x write-speed drives are appearing and Yamaha, as ever, is one of the first manufacturers to get its drive onto the shelves.
With a speedy 8x write on CD-R discs, a full 650Mb can be written in just over nine minutes. It also features 4x rewrite on CD-RW discs and will read data at up to 24x. The only drive we've seen to beat this specification is Plextor's PlexWriter 8/4/32A which reads at up to 32x.
The CRW8424E supports all four CD writing modes: Disc-at-Once, Track-at-Once, Session-at-Once and Packet Writing (writing to a CD as if it were a floppy or hard disk). It also supports a wide range of CD formats: it can read from and write to CD-ROM in standard ISO9660 format, audio CD and CD-DA format. This makes the drive useful for backing up data, writing audio CDs and creating multimedia titles, using the CD-Extra mode.
Software comes in the shape of Adaptec Easy CD Creator version 4.0. This is a powerful and easy to use suite of programs that allow you to write audio and data CDs, CD-Extra and mixed mode CDs, and create labels and inlays. Adaptec Take Two lets you back up data on your hard disk, and DirectCD 3.0 allows you to write to a CD-R or RW directly as if it were a floppy disk.
The user manuals are extremely helpful and have good diagrams that make the installation process a breeze. All you need is a free bay in your PC, a spare EIDE channel on the motherboard and enough courage to prise open the case and wield a screwdriver inside.
We appreciated the two indicator LEDs on the front panel. One tells you whether the drive has power and whether a disc is loaded, the other informs you when a disc is being read or written. A headphone socket and volume wheel complete the controls, and there's a manual eject hole for retrieving a CD in the event of a power failure.
Using CD Tach 98 we put the CRW8424E through its paces. We found that with a weighted average the drive came out with a read speed of 14.4x, slightly slower than we were expecting. Random access time was slightly higher than the quoted 140ms, at 155ms. In general use neither of these results are noticeable, and unless you really need a separate 48x CD-ROM, this drive should provide for all your CD needs.