Sony CDU-7201W. (CD-ROM drive) (includes related article) (evaluation)
by Mike Hudnall
The Sony CDU-7201W CD-ROM drives offers solid performance and some attractive features in a long, slim case less than half the width of most system boxes. And while CD-ROM technology isn't brand new, I couldn't help feeling just a bit like a kid at Christmas as I explored the capabilities of this CD-ROM drive.
The CDU-7201W performed without a hitch, whether the disc contained games, information about the Civil War, sounds, images, or just plain music (you can use it to play your audio CDs). The only problem I experienced - not enough memory for one of the games - was not the fault of the Sony drive at all. I was simply trying to load too many things into memory at once, a problem solved by creating a special boot disk for when I use the CDU-7201W.
On the front of the drive, you'll find a jack for headphones and a volume wheel, as well as an eject button, an emergency eject hole, the caddy insertion slot, and a light to tell you when disc access occurs. I did wish for a light in front to indicate when the drive is on, though. Unless you power on all your computer equipment with an outlet strip, you'll need to check the power switch in back of the box to see if it's on. Behind the box you'll also find stereo phono jacks, DIP switches for assigning a drive number, a ground terminal, and two ports - one to connect you to the proprietary controller card and the other to daisychain with as many as three more drives.
Installing the card and the software to run it is fairly straighforward, thanks to good documentation. Sony gives you the option of installing to your hard drive or to a floppy. If you choose the former, the installation program will replace your startup files and rename the old ones, so I recommend installing to a floppy. Once the program is installed and you boot up, the software tells you what drive letter gives you access to the CDU-7201W. In my case, it's drive S (for Sony?).
There's also a fairly straightforward program allowing you to listen to audio CDs (but scant documentation for it). I like being able to listen to my Bach CD in background mode while using an application on one of my other drives. Thanks to the headphone jack, I can listen without disturbing nearby coworkers.
To protect the drive during transportation, Sony employs automatic locking of the optical pickup every time the caddy (the device that holds the disc) is ejected. Also, whenever you load of eject the caddy, the drive automatically cleans the objective lens of the optical pickup. This automatic maintenance proves particularly important when you realize that CD-ROM drives, unlike your stereo turntable and stylus, are not user serviceable. The laser beam used to access disc information could harm your eyes, so Sony cautions you not to open the drive's cabinet.
Sony has established itself as a leader in television and audio technologies. With its CD-ROM drives, Sony is well on the way to making quite a name for itself in computer technologies as well.