$hopping for a CD-ROM drive?

Here are a few tips that can help you make a smart choice.

With all the new 6x, 8x and even 10x drives on the market now, prices are decreasing at an incredible pace. At the beginning of the summer, a good 6x drive would have cost you approximately $200, and prices have dropped about 50% since then. The 8x drives are now hovering in the $150 to $200 range, making them ultra-affordable. The joyride can't last forever though, and we're about to get off. Prices have already started to rise slightly. Now is a great time to go ahead and invest in a new CD-ROM drive for the future. Shopping is not all fun and games, though. The buyer does need to beware, due to substandard drives that are out on the market.

There are two factors that determine the performance of your CD-ROM drive. The first is called the transfer rate, sustained transfer rate, or sequential read speed. This is what determines the rating of the drive. The original single speed drives transfer data at a rate of 150 KB/sec. This was good at the time, but with programs growing ever larger, CDs were not very practical at this speed. A new generation of drives was developed, called double-speed because they transferred data at 300 KB/sec, or double that of the original drives. This made CD-ROMs much more useful, and was the reason for the huge increase in the use of them. Triple speed and quad speed followed, with transfer rates of 450 and 600 KB/sec respectively. The new 6x and 8x drives that transfer data at 900 KB/sec and 1.2 MB/sec respectively. This number is a standard and is required for the manufacturer to market the drive as a certain speed. (i.e. if you buy an 8x, you can trust it will have a transfer rate of 1200 KB (or 1. 2 MB)/sec). Buy at least a 6x, or you'll be back at the store in under a year looking for a faster unit.

The second factor that determines your drive's performance is the seek time, sometimes called the access time. The seek time is the average length of time it takes the drive to find a certain piece of data. As the transfer rates increased, the seek times decreased. Most Quad-speed drives' seek times were around 240 ms, whereas 8x drives are as low as 140 ms. This is where you get ripped off if you get too much of a "bargain." The first 6x and 8x drives had access times so high they weren't effectively faster than a triple-speed or quad-speed. You could be buying one of these. Not necessarily an older drive, but an older model. The technology has developed to a point now where access times are as low as 140 ms, and are constantly improving. Make sure that your access time is close to or under 200 ms, and under 175 if you want good performance. "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." This old axiom holds a lot of truth in it. If you can't believe the deal you're getting, then ask a friend or co-worker who knows about computers to take a look at it. I thought that the price of the drive I recently purchased was too low, but I researched it thoroughly and couldn't find anything wrong. It works flawlessly and performs excellently. So there are good deals out there, you just have to look.

Here are a few other things you want to look for:

The editors suggest (but do not endorse) the following manufacturers. These are the drives we have has good experiences with. It doesn't mean all of their products are perfect, or that other makers' are not. They are just suggestions.


And here's where you can buy them online:


Seth Waddell

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