Toshiba TXM-3201A1-PCF. (CD-ROM drive) (includes related articles) (evaluation)
by David English
Now's a great time to buy a CD-ROM drive. By the time you read this, Microsoft will have released its multimedia extensions for Windows, and the number of new CD-ROM titles will be growing exponentially. Manufacturers are falling all over each other as they try to gain the edge on price and features.
If you're the kind of person who buys conservatively - who wants a product to have a proven track record before you'll consider buying it - take a good look at Toshiba's TXM-3201A1-PCF. It's considered by many to be the workhorse of the currently available CD-ROM drives and is one of the first drives that fully meet Microsoft's multimedia specifications.
It's also a highly versatile drive - you can buy an internal version (XM-3201B, $600) or an external version, and the external version is available with either a PC interface kit (TXM-3201A1-PCF, $950) or a Mac interface kit (TXM-3201A1-MAC, $850). The PC kit includes a SCSI card and requires an available slot, but you can also plug the TXM-3201 into a standard parallel port with a MiniSCSI (Trantor Systems, 5415 Randall Place, Fremont, California 94538; 415-770-1400; $179).
If you're new to CD-ROM drives, you'll appreciate that this one is easy to install. You simply run a setup program that writes the necessary drivers to your hard drive and adds a few lines to your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files. The PC interface kit is manufactured by Future Domain for Toshiba and includes a half-slot SCSI adapter card and a special SCSI cable. A word of warning - although the Future Domain SCSI cable looks like a standard Macintosh SCSI cable, it isn't wired the same way. If you hook the cable to a Mac, you could damage your computer.
The drive worked fine with every CD-ROM disc that I tried - there was never any loss of data, the sound was clear and steady (a stereo headphone jack is located on the front of the unit), and the SCSI software drivers were always able to locate the drive.
It's not covered well in the manual, but you can also play audio CDs on the TXM-3201. In order to do this, you have to set the last DIP switch (in the back of the unit) to the up position. Place an audio-CD disk in the caddy - just as you would a CD-ROM disk. To move to the next audio track, press the Open/Close button for less than a second. Unfortunately, you can't go backwards or move randomly through the tracks. To eject the disk, press the Open/Close button for more than a second.
For a solid and reliable CD-ROM drive that has weathered the test of time, Toshiba's TXM-3201A1-PCF is an excellent choice.