MultiSpin 4X Pro. (CD-ROM drive) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by David Gerding
Progress is swift throughout the computer industry, and the CD-ROM market is no exception: NEC introduced double-speed drives in January 1992 and followed them in late 1993 with a triple-speed line. NEC's latest achievement, the 4X Pro quad-speed drive, is an indication of just how quickly CD-ROM technology is evolving.
The drive's raw performance ratings are impressive, but even with a four-times speed-up the drive doesn't approach the speed of a hard disk; it has an average track access time of 180 milliseconds. This represents only a slight improvement over the average access time of the fastest 3X unit. The 4X Pro, however, moves data at a sustained rate of 600K per second. The sum effect of these increases makes for CD-ROM performance that many will find worth the extra cost.
On my 33-MHz 486 system, the drive showed exemplary throughput. In a purely subjective test, running side by side with a low-end double-speed drive, the quad-speed did indeed feel significantly faster. Performing identical search and media-playback requests using The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia as a benchmark, the 4X performed noticeably faster, though not quite twice as fast.
In the area of motion video, however, the unit really shone. Video clips played back on the 4X Pro appeared more fluid and life-like, because the increased throughput led to significantly fewer dropped frames. Multimedia aficionados may find the premium price worth it for this capability alone. When combined with ATI's latest Graphics Ultra+ video card, which has built-in support for Video for Windows, multimedia titles ran with remarkable fluidity in full-screen glory.
The 4X Pro is a solid unit, and as a bonus has a full set of controls on the front for listening to audio CDs. However, the price may keep all but the most committed multimedia fans at bay for the time being.
NEC Technologies (800) NEC-INFO $995