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AOpen CRW5232 AOpen CRW5232: We have a spin with an AOpen CD burner that burns up to 52x for CDR and 32x for CDRW.
Date: July 30, 2004
Written By:

Test Setup

MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R: Athlon 64 3200+ (10x200: 2GHz), 2 x 512MB Kingston HyperX PC4000, AIW Radeon 9600 XT, 120GB Western Digital SE 8MB Cache, Windows XP SP1, VIA Hyperion 4in1 drivers 4.51, ATI Catalyst 4.6

We'll be using a combination of synthetic and real world benchmarks for our review. Synthetic tests will be done with Nero's CD Speed, and for real-world performance, we'll be timing burn times in Nero 5.5 and digital audio extraction using CDeX.

Nero CD Speed

For our CD Speed tests, we'll be using a commercially pressed Windows XP CD, a CDR of a slipstreamed Windows XP CD with extra drivers and utilities, and an audio CD of Barenaked Ladies' Stunt. We will be presenting benchmarks at the drive's "default" of 40x, and the drive's max speed of 52x.

WinXP 40x
CDR 40x
Music CD 40x

For the AOpen CRW5232 to reach its maximum read speed (as is the case with most optical drives), the disc needs to be near full capacity as most drive's maximum speeds are only reached at the outer edge. Therefore, since the commercially pressed CDs (Windows XP and Barenaked Ladies) are only about 3/4 full, we're seeing read speeds max out at less than 34x. The CDR, which is almost full, peaks at about 41x, slightly above the default. The average read times are also slightly higher as well.

WinXP 52x
CDR 52x
Music CD 52x

For our CDR, we can see a significant improvement in speed when moving to 52x. The music CD also sees a slight gain, which is only useful if you're ripping the CD as 1x is plenty fast for standard playback. For our commercially pressed Windows XP CD, there's no change at all.

Digital Audio Extraction - CDeX

We used CDeX to rip the contents of the Barenaked Ladies: Stunt to our hard drive. This was done at both 40x and 52x. Remember that lower times are better.

Time (Minutes: Seconds)

Yup, you are not seeing typos up there. The AOpen CRW5232 is both faster and more reliable at 40x than it is at 52x when it comes to ripping audio. At 52x, the CD began to rattle at track #8 (4 errors), and rattled at track #9 (2 errors), before slowing to a crawl for the rest of the CD. Since I tested at 52x after 40x, I retested at 40x to be sure the CD wasn't damaged, and ended up with the same time as with the first run. After three runs at both speeds, it's safe to say there are problems at audio extraction at 52x. For kicks, I tossed in a 77 minute compilation CD I made and at 40x, it took about 6:30 to extract, whereas at 52x it took just over 10 minutes with eight to ten errors per attempt.

We also did a ISO creation test using Nero, and with our commercially pressed Windows XP CD, at 40x and 52x it took two minutes and twelve seconds. I used a larger CD (Morrowind), and there was little change, taking 2:26 at 52x and 2:25 at 40x.

Burn Times - Nero

I collected a number of media files, ranging from 4MB to as much as 150MB and burned them on to a CD. In total, there was 645.9MB across eight files. We used Sony 52x CDR media, and a TDK 32x CDRW CD for our CDRW tests (which were done at 32x).

Time (Minutes: Seconds)
32x (CDRW)

At 52x, the files burned 28 seconds faster than at 40x. While there is a "12x" advantage over the 40x speed, at 40x, times were 36 seconds faster than at 32x.

Using the right speed rated media, we encountered no errors burning and playing back the CDs on a number of players. I did have problems playing a compilation music CD burned at 52x in my car stereo, but the 40x CD worked fine. The only drive that did not accept any CD burned faster than 32x was a Teac 4x CDROM on an old Toshiba notebook we have kicking around.

We attempted to burn at 52x using some Verbatum 32x media, but as you can see below, the drive's Just Speed feature caught on and capped the speed at 40x.

Although we were able to burn at 40x, the CD did not work on some of our drives. It only worked on the AOpen CDRW5232, and three Plextors we have in the labs. The other drives either locked up or reported no media.

I should point out that and we were able to use 4x media at 52x when we turned the Just Speed feature off. None of our burned CDs worked though, which was what we expected, but if you're feeling adventurous, go for it.

Final Words

Whether or not you still need a CDRW drive these days will depend a bit on how you use your computer. Personally, I don't find the current CD burning speeds of DVD writers to be fast enough, and considering how much those drives cost in comparison to a standalone CDRW drive, I would prefer to put them through less abuse and not rely on them for CD burning duties.

No doubt, the AOpen CDRW5232 is quite fast, but the 52x speeds are something I am a little wary about. It was not reliable at all for audio extraction, and makes quite a racket as well. After a few hours of abusing my slipstreamed Windows XP CD at 52x, I noticed a small chip on the outer edge which definitely wasn't there before we started. Being a CDR, I am not terribly concerned, but this would not be my reaction if it happened to my commercial CD.

Outside of the 52x audio extraction issues, a small gripe we have is the rather minimal software package. Nero Express is not my first choice, as I would have preferred a full blown version, and version 5.5 is a bit old considering 6.0 has been out for quite some time.

We didn't mention it during testing, but the JustLink worked quite well, allowing CDs to burn without issue even when running a defrag and virus scan on the drive that the CDRW5232 was pulling data from. The buffer stayed above 50% most of the time, and I only saw the drive pause once. Burn times did not increase much, taking 2:38 at 52x which is about 25 seconds more than it took when the hard drive was not taxed.

Pros: Good performance, and reliable burns.

Cons: 52x DAE issues, Nero Express 5.5 is old and too "lite".

Bottom Line: The AOpen CRW5232 is a solid drive with some DAE issues and weak software bundle. However, at about , the price is definitely right and it'll make it easier to ignore the shortcomings.

If you have any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.


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