The CD-RW is standard equipment on most new PCs and has been one of the fastest growing sectors of PC hardware. Along with a rapid adoption rate, few technologies have progressed so far and as fast as CD-R/RW hardware. It was only last Christmas that many found themselves with new 24X or 16X CD-RW units under the tree, allowing unheard-of write speeds. The 32X CR-RW units were starting to trickle out, followed by even-faster 40X models, and it seemed that peeling off the CD packaging, inserting the disc and setting up the software may have taken longer than writing a full CDR.
Well, hold onto your hats, because CD-R/RW speeds continue to rise, and we're starting to see 48X models taking over the market by force. Many of the big names, such as Lite On, TDK and Acer, are present and accounted for, other industry powers such as Plextor and Yamaha remain stuck in the 40X bracket. The CDRW side of the equation also hasn't been standing still, with the new "HighSpeed Re-Writable" specification allowing for 10X, 12X and now even 16X rewriting speeds on compatible media. With CDR and CDRW speeds increasing a pretty fair clip and buyers flocking to these faster units, this is actually not a bad time to enter this market, especially with a high-end CDRW model.
VisionTek is a company best known for their high quality, performance 3D video cards. Their best-selling Xtasy line of NVIDIA-based cards are a staple of retail and online stores, and has really led to incredible growth for VisionTek. Even so, it was a bit of a surprise when we got wind of their new line of CDRW drives, especially since their 48X and 40X CDR speeds certainly placed at the top of the class in terms of overall performance. This didn't seem to be an afterthought, but a serious entry into the retail CDRW sales market.
The VisionTek Xtasy 48X CD-RW drive features 48X CDR, 12X CDRW and 48X read speed specifications, along with an impressive 48X audio extraction/read speed. These are very impressive specs for the initial VisionTek offering, and each sits right near the top of the scale. This tray-based CD-RW uses an EIDE interface, has digital/analogue audio output, and features the standard jumpers for Master/Slave/CS settings. It also includes buffer under-run technology, SMART BURN (to maintain data integrity) and a 2-MB cache.
The actual VisionTek Xtasy 48X CD-RW drive is pretty standard fare from an aesthetic point of view. Apart from the VisionTek tray sticker, this unit looks much the same as most high-end drives, and will definitely blend in with your other system components. There are also the usual headphone jack, volume control and LED indicator light present on the front panel.
VisionTek seems to be looking at the mass retail market with their Xtasy 48X CD-RW drive, and it definitely shows. There is nothing worse for an inexperienced user than buying a less-expensive OEM drive and then finding yourself without the adequate hardware and software. This may not be a problem to the enthusiast system builder, but just like finding a set of batteries with your new electronics toy, many prefer a more polished hardware package for their PC equipment as well.
VisionTek has done a pretty good job in this case, and includes a full user manual, a quick start guide, an IDE cable, an analogue audio cable and four mounting screws. Virtually everything required for the hardware installation is included and even old hats like us appreciated not having to rummage around looking for mounting screws.
The software selection is also very nice and VisionTek has made exactly the right move by including a copy of Nero Burning ROM (220.127.116.11 in our package), which the CD burning software we recommend. The only area that could use some improvement is the selection of recordable media. VisionTek is well-known for their branded CDR/CDRW media but there is only a single, high-speed VisionTek CDR in the package, It certainly would have been nice to see a similar high-speed CDRW disc included.