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MSI CR52-M 52/32/52 CDRW: One of the best CD burners we've tested got a big bump in the CDRW department. How does the drive fare in our labs?

Date: September 4, 2003
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If there's one area that consumers have plenty of products to choose from, it's CD burners. Most often, buyers simply go with the fastest burner they can afford. We can't really argue this mentality, since let's face it, most drives aren't all that unique. Take BURN-Proof protection. What was once exclusive to a handful of drives, it's included in pretty much every drive under the sun.

Manufacturers have the problem of separating themselves from one another. Since BURN-Proof is everywhere, they started moving up the drive speeds. Thing is, at 52x, drives are getting pretty much as fast as they are going to get.

MSI's latest CR52-M CD burner doesn't change the formula too much from their previous burner (the CR52-A2). There are a few notable upgrades, namely the jump from 24x CDRW to 32x, which we'll look at today.

Specifications

" 52x CD-R writing / 32x CD-RW rewriting / 52x CD-ROM reading
" SuperLink" prevents buffer under run and minimizes recording failures
" Supported Mount Rainier technology
" Supported over-burn feature
" Supported 99 (870MB) or 90min (800MB) CD-R disc
" Supported 8cm or 12cm disc diameter
" 2MB internal buffer
" Firmware upgradeable
" Enhanced IDE/ATAPI interface
" PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2 and UDMA Mode 2
" Horizontal and vertical operation
" Supported optimum power control
" Supported CD-R write speed at 2x, 4x, 8x, 12x, 16x, 20x, 24x, 32x, 40x, 48x and 52x
" Supported CD-RW write speed at 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x, 12x, 16x, 20x, 24x and 32x
" CD-UDF compatible
" Writing Modes: Disc-at-Once, Track-at-Once, Session-at-Once, Multi-session, Packet Writing, RAW Mode

The drive itself is a standard 5.25" CD ROM drive, though with MiniForm, it is slightly shorter than the majority of drives on the market. For SFFs, such as the MEGA 651, a shorter drive will make life much easier when installing, and restrict less airflow. Speaking of SFFs, a lot of people like to use these for HTPCs, so less noise is better. SoftBurn is a feature that reduces noise while burning a CD.

We received an early sample, which explains why you see 52x24x52x on the front faceplate. The drive label says otherwise, and indicates the correct model number.

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. These buttons do serve additional functions though, which we'll get into in a moment.

If you plan on listening to standard music CDs, there is headphone jack and volume control on the left side of the drive. 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.

On the back, you have your IDE connection, your audio cable connection (cable is included), jumper settings and the power connection. Note that an IDE cable is not included. This has been the case with all MSI CD burners. I'm sure a lot of you have extra IDE cables, but I don't think it would have been a big deal to add one to the package.

Following Plextor's lead, the inside tray is coloured black. Though I have yet to see any hard evidence, but the theory behind it is a black tray absorbs reflected light better than a standard beige or white tray. This increases reliability of the burn process.

Features of Note

As we already mentioned, the drive is a 52x32x52x. Now, high spinning discs could be problematic as some drives have been known to literally blow apart at these speeds. I didn't blow up the CR52-M, and this was after enabling 52x reading, but who is to say it won't happen? In that case, MSI has reinforced the drive with HyperGuard, which is a safety measure to protect your delicate body parts from a CD exploding.

By default, the drive reads at 40x, but by pressing the eject button for 3 seconds, you enable 52x read speed. The drive reverts to 40x once the disc is ejected. The eject button also lights up blue when a disc is inserted, so you won't need to eject to see if there's a disc in there.

Reading
Writing

Looking closer at the LED buttons, another neat feature is the skip track button flashes blue while the drive is reading data, and the same button flashes green while drive is writing data. Now, I would imagine 99% of you know what your drive is doing at any given moment. However, in the cases where you've educated family members, they'll know not to eject a disc if they borrow your computer to play a music CD while you're burning.

Media support is typical of most drives, but one thing that did catch my attention was support for 99 minute CDs (870MB). Though I don't have any of these discs handy, if you like to pirate backup any DVDs to VCD, this will be useful since most movies tend to end at about the 90 minute mark.

There is a 2MB buffer, which is a tad on the small side of things, but the CR52-M does offer SuperLink 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 measure to prevent coasters is ABS (Anti-Bumping System) Technology. What this does is absorb shock and reduce vibration of spinning discs, which should mean reads and writes are more reliable. This is especially handy with unevenly weighted media spinning at 32x and up.

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.

Other than the drive, MSI provides a drive specific copy of Nero, which is my personal favorite, a Quick Installation Guide, an audio cable, and some screws. They didn't provide CDR media, but they did toss in a 32x CDRW disc.

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