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MSI CR52-A2 52/24/52 CDRW: If you spend a lot of time backing up data, you'll want a drive that is both fast and reliable. On paper, the MSI CR52-A2 looks up to the task, but let's see how it does in the labs.
Date: March 21, 2003
Catagory: Memory & Storage
Written By:

When the first CD writers made the jump from 1x to 2x, consumers rejoiced with the increased speed. The same goes with the jump to 4x, then 8x and so on. To be honest, it began to get boring at 24x and faster. Sure, discs were burning faster, but the problem of errors seemed to get worse with the faster speed CD writers.

Things were revolutionized as the CDR format matured with the introduction of CDs that can be rewritten. CDRWs were painfully slow compared to the CDRs, but that was the price to pay for a rewritable format. As with the write once format getting faster, so did the CD rewrite.

Various forms of buffer under run protection schemes started to take shape as burning speeds increased. In a nutshell, a buffer under run is when the data flow stops going to the laser burning the disc. A series of zeros are written, and the next thing you know, you got a coaster for your favorite beverage. This can happen in a variety of ways, but the most common cause of under runs is a busy hard drive that the data is being read from. The protection schemes have the ability to stop a laser, and continuing again when data flow returns.

So you take fast CD write-once speeds, fast CD rewrite speeds, and mix in buffer-underrun protection, and you have a formula for a well-rounded CD burner. The boredom comes in when you shop, and find every burner on the market have all these features. Furthermore, if you already have a fast burner with all these features, does it make a whole lot of sense to step up another level? What else does a potential burner you're shopping for have to differentiate itself from the rest?

Today we'll be reviewing the MSI CR52-A2, which is a 52x burner, with 24x rewritable speed, and 52x CD reading speed. It also offers buffer under run protection, and a few other features that may make it worth noting when shopping for a new drive.


Maximum Data Transfer Rate: Read (7800KB), Write (7800KB), Rewrite (3600KB)
o Microsoft WHQL Certified
o BURN-Proof Prevents Buffer Under Run
o EXACT-Rec Monitors Accuracy of Writing
o 2MB Buffer
o Compatible with MS-DOS, Windows 95/98/ME/XP/NT/2000
o BURN-Proof™ prevents Buffer Under Run
o EXACT-Rec (Enhanced eXtracting & Adapting Control Technology for Recording ) monitors accuracy of writing
o AWSS (Advanced Weighting Suspension System) Technology reduce vibration & noise
o ROPC technology boosts recording reliability
o Support discs capacity: 790MB(90min) / 700MB(80min) / 650MB(74min)
o Disc formats: CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-ROM/XA, CD-DA, CD-I, Bootable CS, Photo CD, Video CD, CD-Extra, Mixed Mode CD, CD-Text
o Writing Model: Disc At Once, Track At Once, Session At Once, Multisession, Packet Writing.
o Build-in headphone jack, CD-Audio volume control knob and play/skip button
o 2 MB internal buffer
o ISO 9660 compliant

The MSI CR52-A2 burner ships in a rather large box, containing the drive, screws, software and the manuals. Everything is neatly packed, and the cardboard packaging keeps the drive from bouncing around. One item curiously missing is an IDE cable. I'm not sure if this is a cost saving measure, but surely it doesn't add much to the price of the package.

The drive itself is a standard 5.25" CD ROM drive, with nothing major to separate itself from other drives. If you plan on listening to standard music CDs, there is a headphone jack and volume control… standard fare stuff.

On the right side of the drive, you'll find your track forward button (for skipping tracks on a music CD), and the eject button. You also have a pin hole to manually eject a disc if the eject button doesn't work, or if you forget to remove the disc before powering down the PC.

One cosmetic difference is the fact that the drive face is a soft white, rather than the generic beige we typically see. Other than the company logo, and the drive speed label, that is about all there is to note.

On the back, you have your IDE connection, your audio cable connection (cable is included), jumper settings and the power connection. Given the 52x rating of the drive, I would have liked to have seen a small fan on the rear as is typical with Plextor's top end drives.

As we already mentioned, the drive is a 52x24x52x. This translates into a write speed of 7800KB, a rewrite speed of 3600KB, and a read speed of 7800KB. In terms of speed, this is as fast as it gets for CD burners, though MSI is not the only manufacturer with a drive this fast (on paper).

Media support is typical of most drives, but one thing that did catch my attention was support for 90 minute CDs (790MB). Though I don't have any of these discs handy (they're hard to find around here up north), this feature is a nice thing to have if you're planning to warez… backup any DVDs to VCD since most movies these days don't seem to run more than an hour and a half.

There is a 2MB buffer, which is a bit small for performance drives, but the CR52-A2 does offer Burn-Proof buffer under run protection. Though it is still possible to create coasters, you're more likely to cause errors due to user error, rather than the drive itself.

Another feature to prevent making coasters is the EXACT-Rec technology, which stands for Enhanced eXtracting & Adapting Control Technology for Recording. What this does is monitor the accuracy of the writing. Basically, it'll keep an eye out for the data being written, and make sure that the 1s are 1s and the 0s are 0s.

AWSS, which stands for Advanced Weighting Suspension System, is supposed to keep vibrations and noise at a low level. When CD burners increased in speed, CAV kicked in to prevent drives from actually spinning at XX speeds throughout the disc. If they were allowed to spin at such high speeds, you'll most likely end up with discs that don't work (or they blew up), and the noise generated would be insane. Modern CD drives still do make a fair amount of noise, but the AWSS is supposed to suppress some of it.

You get some CD media. The CDR disc is obvious, but the CDRW is completely blank. Guess they ran out of ink to mark "CDRW". One excellent part of this package is that MSI chose to go with Nero Burning Software (v5.5.10.3), which in my opinion is the best there is.

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