A cheap and easy drive

hardware review; A user's guide to joining the world of the CD-Rom
With the rise of the CD-Rom as a means of buying software, the CD-Rom drive has become an essential PC peripheral, as well as the medium for the most sophisticated games and edutainment programs. But what should you do if your computer does not have a drive? Simple: fit one: CD-Rom drives are getting faster and cheaper at the same time. Top-quality high- speed drives are available for under pounds 100.

CD-Rom drives come in two main forms: internal and external. An external CD-Rom comes in a separate box, plugs into one of the ports at the back of the PC and needs its own power lead.

This means it is easy to install but performance can suffer, limited by the relatively slow external connection. If your PC has an expensive high-speed port, known as a SCSI connector, however, an external CD-Rom drive will be both easy to plug in and fast.

Most home and cheaper business PCs have an IDE system: for these an internal CD-Rom drive is probably the best option. In its September issue, PC Magazine looks at 20 internal drives and discovered that manufacturers performance claims were not all they seemed. Once upon a time CD-Rom drives were single- speed. Now, 10 years after the first drives appeared, quad-speed have been overtaken by six, eight and even 10-speed drives.

But our laboratory testing shows that the headline spin speed figure emblazoned on the front of many models did not reflect their true performance.

The Editors Choice Award for IDE CD-Rom drives went to the Samsung SCR- 830, a bargain at just pounds 99. Despite being only an eight-speed drive the Samsung out-performs a number of 10-speed drives in the review and is particularly well built.

Other eight-speed drives came out well from the testing and were highly recommended. These were the Goldstar GCD-R580B (pounds 89), the Panasonic CR- 583-B (pounds 90) and the Sony CDU-311E-RP (pounds 115).

For those with the SCSI port on their PCs (and many SCSI-equipped Mac owners) the Plextor 8Plex PX-83CS (pounds 349) receives the SCSI Editors Choice.

Samsung 0181 391 0168

Goldstar 01753 500400

Panasonic 01344 853334

Sony 01932 816000

Plextor 01782 577677

See the September 1996 issue of 'PC Magazine' for further details. All prices quoted are exclusive of VAT. The PC Magazine Editors Choice and recommended products are based on objective benchmarks developed by Ziff- Davis Labs.