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MSI StarSpeed 16x DVD-ROM Drive: While CDRWs make up the majority of optical drives found in most PCs, a DVD drive can come in handy if the kids are hogging the TV.
Date: January 22, 2003
Catagory: Memory & Storage
Written By:


, well known for their motherboard and video cards, do have quite an extensive line-up of products, which also cover small form factor PCs, as well as other areas of multimedia. DVD drives are commonplace now in most PCs, and given its ability to read CDs, along with DVDs, there's no reason why anyone should even consider buying a dedicated CDROM nowadays.


Data Transfer Rate: 21600KB/sec maximum speed at DVD-ROM drive, 7200KB/sec maximum speed at CD-ROM drive
Access Time: 95ms typical
Interface: E-IDE/ATAPI
Disc Size: Supports 8cm/12cm size disc
Power Requirement: DC 5V ± 5% 1.5A (Maximum), DC 12V ± 5% 1.8A (Maximum)
Support Format: CD-Audio, CD-ROM(Mode 1 & Mode 2), CD-ROM(Mode2, form 2), CD-Plus, CD-i/FMV, Video CD, Photo CD(single- and multi-session), I-TRAX enhanced CD, Karaoke CD, CD-R, CD-RW

- Supports PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2 and Ultra-DMA 33 Mode 2
- Multi-Read function
- Complies with MPC III standard
- Low power consumption
- Digital volume control

Click to Enlarge

The StarSpeed DVD is a 16x DVD-ROM drive, and 48X CD reader, which is about as fast as they come these days. The physical requirements are all there, such as the eject, skip, headphone-in and the manual eject in case to need to go ghetto in removing a disc. It's an ATAPI drive, meaning it'll work with pretty much any motherboard on the market. There is a Low Vibration Mechanism built into the drive, and spinning a CD at full speeds resulted in slightly less noise than the AOpen DVD drive.

Click to Enlarge

The StarSpeed comes with a manual, screws, an audio cable and some DVD software. The software is the same as the one bundled with some of their motherboards, but comes in a jewel case this time, rather than a paper envelope. Installation was a non-affair, and if you can't figure out how to install a DVD drive, you'd probably be best to look into some pre-packed eMachines. :P

Test Setup

Epox 8RDA+ nForce2: Athlon XP 2400+ provided by , 2 x 256MB Crucial PC2700 Ram, ATi Radeon 9700 Pro, 120GB Western Digital SE 8MB Cache, Windows XP SP1, nForce 2 Unified Driver Package 2.0, ATi Catalyst 3.0

The drive will be setup on our USB 2.0 Enclosure, which has shown no decrease (nor increase) in performance for CD reading. We'll be comparing this drive directly against the AOpen 1640DVD drive. Its benchmark screen grabs can be found in our USB 2.0 Enclosure review. Test software will be the following...

SiSoft Sandra CD-ROM/DVD Benchmark
Nero CD Speed
Quake 3 Arena (CD used for benchmarking purposes)

Nero CD Speed - Average Speed

Click to Enlarge

We loaded up our Quake 3 disc, and fired up Nero's CD Speed benchmark. It covers a lot of areas, including overall CD speed, and CPU usage.

At 48x, the MSI StarSpeed is quite a bit faster than our AOpen's 40x rated speed. Regardless, neither drive actually averages those numbers (the MSI does top out at 41.02x), but the StarSpeed has an extra 2x on the AOpen.

Nero CD Speed - Seek Times

Seek times are important, especially when skipping to certain sections of the disc. I think it's pretty obvious that the MSI drive is significantly faster in this case.

Nero CD Speed - CPU Usage

Neither drive holds any real advantage over the other in average CPU usage.

SiSoft Sandra CD-ROM/DVD Benchmark

Owing to it's 8x speed advantage over the AOpen drive, the StarSpeed scores an easy victory here.

Data Compatibility Testing and Notes

The StarSpeed handled commercially pressed software well enough, and handled every DVD I threw at it. Things were not as rosy with some CDR media though. All media, burned at 16X and lower, were readable by the StarSpeed, but I had some problems with some random discs (Sony, Kodak, and generic) burned at 24x. Our Plextor 24/10/40A, the burner used to create these discs, read them without any issues. It really is random though, as some discs worked just fine. For the record, this also happened on our AOpen 1640.

Final Words

It's been awhile since we've looked at an optical drive. It's not because we don't use them, or upgrade them, but simply because there isn't going to be much to say about it unless there's a reason why you should pick one over another. To be honest, one CD burner or DVD drive is really no different than any other, save for faster speeds, or maybe a new gimmick or two.

The MSI StarSpeed DVD-ROM drive falls under the former, where it's about as fast as other DVD drives, but what it does have going for it is the price. Averaging , this is one of the cheaper retail (not OEM) DVD drives on the market, and it includes some pretty decent DVD software. It did beat out our AOpen DVD, but it is a newer drive, so it had better.

Pros: Good price, decent software, fairly speedy.

Cons: Some issues with CDR media burned at high speeds.

Bottom Line: The MSI StarSpeed 16x DVD has earned a spot as our primary PC DVD drive, not because it's that much better than other drives out there, but simply because it works well, and it is reliable, and in the end, the fastest DVD drive we have in the labs. I will be keeping my Plextor handy though for those faster discs. It earns our recommendation until something faster and cheaper comes along.

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