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Aopen CRW1232 Pro
review by david, 15 August 2001

Introduction

A few months ago, 12x cdwriters were considered top of the line. Heck, not so long ago, 8x writers were considered the best cdwriters ever. CDRW technology seems to be progressing at breakneck speeds, with the advent of 16x, 20x, and recently, 24x capable drives. This only applies to write technologies, though rewriting speeds have reached a stagnant sort of peak of 10x only for the last 2 or 3 generations of CDRW drives. Now, practically everyone has a CDRW drive. More and more OEMs offer CDRW drives in their system packages, oft one generation behind the faster ones available on the market. Its becoming the norm to have one of these in your computer system, coupled with relatively cheap CDR prices nowadays, whether cheap or branded, this offers the regular consumer or computer enthusiast a cheap way to back up and share files among themselves and their acquaintances.

Aopen has been one of the more recent newcomers to the CDRW market, where previously they were more known for their motherboards. This drive, coming in at around RM 330 or USD 87 roughly, is dirt cheap. This is the current price. The unit I have, which I bought around 4 months ago, went for roughly RM 500 or USD 130 or so. I'm practically knocking my head on the wall for this. Then again, at *that* time, it was one of the cheaper 12x capable drives around, if you compared prices for drives produced by Creative, Iomega and Asus, for example.

Then you may ask the question, "Why review a 12x burner when there are other much faster drives out there?". Well, for one thing, i don't have the financial capability to get a new burner whenever a newer and faster model comes out. Otherwise, for the budget minded, a getting a 12x burner will enable the best bang for the buck. 16x-20x burners are still quite expensive at this point in time.

Most CDRW makers also provide burnproof capable drives nowadays, with the exception of Yamaha, who only introduced their version of burnproof, named SafeBurn, with their 20x CDRW. At that time, most 12x capable drives already had burnproof, or some similar variant. Aopen had JustLink featured in its CDRW drives, basically another type of burnproof. Note that there are 3 versions of the Aopen 12x10x23x drive, one with CRW1232A model number, one with CRW1232, without the 'A', and one with the CRW1232Pro model number. The CRW1232 doesn't have JustLink, whereas the CRW1232A and CRW1232Pro has JustLink and was released shortly after the CRW1232. The difference between the two with JustLink is that the Pro supports data transfers up to ATA33 specs, while the 'A' model doesn't.

JustLink

Justlink is basically the same as BurnProof, where the burner will stop writing when the buffer empties, i.e. a buffer underrun. Usually in non-burnproof drives, this will cause the CDRW to abort the writing process, and you're basically out of luck and less a CDR. With JustLink, the CDRW drive pauses until the buffer refills, and then resumes writing after that. What makes it so different from BurnProof? Well, with other technologies, the gap from the point where the CDRW stops writing until the point where the CDRW resumes writing is roughly 40um or so. This gap is called a data blank. At gaps like these, usually the optical unit reading the drive would report an error reading the CD with a data blank on it. Most optical devices nowadays are of high enough quality to disregard that 40um gap and continue reading like normal. This 40um gap is assumed to occur when writing at 12x. What if you're writing at 24x instead. That gap would be 80um instead. This increases the chance of an error reported by the optical drive. JustLink causes a gap of only 2um at 12x writing. Aopen claims this allows their drives to cope with whatever writing speed used, with less chance of errors.

I won't bore you with specifications of the drive, save to say that you can get them from the Aopen website. Lets take a look at the package itself.

Inside the box >>


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