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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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Test Setup

ABIT NF7-S nForce2: Barton 2500+, 2 x 256MB TWINMos PC3200 Ram, ATI AiW Radeon 9700 Pro, 80GB Maxtor, Windows XP SP1, nForce 2 Unified Driver Package 2.03, ATi Catalyst 3.6.

The comparison drive was the MSI CR52-A2, which we reviewed here.

Benchmarks

We used CD Speed (packaged with Nero) to test the read speeds of the MSI CR52-M. Seeing how MSI claims a 52x read speed, we'll see if they can backup their claims. The test media will be a commercially pressed Quake 3: Arena CD, and a CDRW filled with about 630MB of mixed data. 52x reading has been enabled.


Quake 3: Arena

Q3A does not fill up the whole CD, so we can see that the MSI CR52-A2 never really gets to its maximum performance. It tops out at about 46x, and averages 37x throughout the disc. You'll have to understand that given the nature of CAV technology, the maximum rated speed is only reached at the outer portion of the disc.

I grabbed a CDRW filled with mixed media. Everything from application files, to images, to zip files occupied 630MB worth of space.


630MB CDRW

Since the CDRW occupied most of the disc, we can see the CR52-A2 inching closer to its maximum thoroughput. The drive tops out at about 51x, and averages about 39x through the disc. CPU usage was low as well, so the drive shouldn't drag your system to a halt when reading data CDs.

Burning at 52x will present a couple of hurdles. For one thing, I know that quality 52x media isn't something that's easy to find. Another problem is although 52x may be ok for data backups, audio mastering should be done at lower speeds to maintain compatibility with standard CD drives. I wrote two CDs, both at 52x for this test. One CD was a 695MB mix of data files, ranging from Word docs, to executables. The second CD was 698MB of WAV files to be converted to an audio CD format. The media used was from a spindle of TDK media, rated at 48x, but works fine at 52x.

CD-R Tests

The audio CD burned about three seconds quicker on the CR52-M, which is a nice improvement considering both drives are rated at 52x. Neither drive had any advantage at burning data discs.

The data CD worked on every CD drive on each PC I tested on (two Plextors, an AOpen, and three MSI drives), but one. The audio CD worked on all six drives, as well as my AIWA CD player, but it kept ejecting in my car's CD player. I wasn't too surprised, since it spits almost any disc burned at over 32x.

CDRW Tests

For the CDRW tests, I backed up the same data, minus about 50MB worth of files to fit on the 650MB media. We tested burn speeds at both drives maximum speed using the supplied 32x CDRW media.

Well, seeing as to how the CR52-M has an "8x" advantage, it was no surprise to see the newer drive clobber the older one.

Forced 52x Compatibility

The drive was able to burn the 48x TDK disc we tested with at 52x without any problems. I also had a spindle of 48x Kodaks that went problem free, and some 48x Verbatums that worked fine. I had major data loss with some generics I had lying around though, as the drive allowed 52x burning, but none of the CDs worked at all.

SuperLink Testing

Since SuperLink is a major component of the MSI CR52-M, I thought it'd be a good idea to make sure it works as advertised. Using the same TDK media, we burned the same data used in our 700MB CD-R test at 52x. During the burn process, I proceeded to defrag the drive the data was being retrieved from.

As expected, burn times increased from 2:25 to a whopping 6:04. Since the drive was constantly stopping, given the hard drive activity, it is natural that the burn times are a bit longer. We tested the CD for readability, and as with the earlier compatibility test, just the AOpen 16x DVD had issues.

Final Words

Burning speeds are among the fastest I've ever seen, and discs came out problem free, though I did have a few problems when I tried to burn at 52x on generic discs that had no speed rating. Most of those discs flat out failed. Media burned at their rated speeds worked just fine.

The buffer under run protection seemed to work perfectly, and out of 4 discs burned, none exhibited any problems. I wasn't exactly sure how to test the EXACT-Rec, but seeing how the discs came out fine, I guess it worked.

Noise-wise, the drive is noticably quieter than the CR52-A2, and at 52x burning, it was quieter than our Plextor 32x burner.

It sucks that no IDE cable was provided, but with Nero, and some great hardware features, it's pretty tough for me to pick another drive over this one. Add to it, the very low price point, and my advice is unless you're a "Pro-Insert Manufacturer here" fan, this is a drive you'll want to pick up.

Pros: Fast, ships with Nero, buffer-underun, EXACT-Rec and quiet operation.

Cons: No IDE cable.

Bottom Line: Unless you already have a 40x or higher burner, it's probably time to consider upgrading to a faster drive if you tend to do a lot of CD burning. Considering the overall package is quite impressive, this drive is a steal. If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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