The Combo Drive design is quite innovative, and looks to replace up to three separate components, and combine them into a single unit. A model such as the AOpen COM5232 can handle CD read, CDR/RW write, and DVD read duties, all in one EIDE drive. The latest wave of Combo Drives also don't take a back seat to high-end CD-RW drives, and the AOpen COM5232 supports up to 52X CDR and 32X CDRW speeds. The read speed specifications are equally impressive, and it handles CD-ROM data at a 52X clip, CD-RW at 40X, and reads DVD-ROM at 16X. Media read support is also top notch, including both DVD-R/RW and +R/+RW, along with a host of other CD formats as well. This model is similar to the COM4824 drive, but with upgraded performance specifications, which makes it an even more impressive unit.
The AOpen COM5232 includes the CD-R and CD-RW write speeds of a high-end drive, and matches that up with some nice physical specifications. The drive features a 2-MB data buffer, support for buffer underrun technology, and can read virtually every CD and DVD standard format. Compared to the AOpen DVD writeable drives, the COM5232 is more of a multimedia unit, and features a volume control and headphone jack. Other basics include an eject button, indicator light, chapter/song skip button, and emergency eject hole. A nice extra is the ability to customize the drive faceplate in white (default), black and beige colors. These faceplates were included in the our review package, thus giving it a real enthusiast look and feel.
The retail bundle of the AOpen COM5232 is a bit more sedate than previous models, but it still adds in some impressive extras. Basics such as the Quick Install Guide, CD-ROM audio cable, and 4 mounting screws are present and accounted for. Nero Express, InCD and PowerDVD cover off the software end, but AOpen has not included any CD-R or CD-RW disks. This drive is value priced to be sure, but even a single blank disk would have been a nice touch. We mentioned the extra colored faceplates we found in our retail box, but these seem to be an optional component that you need to confirm with the vendor. We've seen both versions listed online, and at similar prices, so do your research if you have a black or beige case.
There were no real surprises with the AOpen COM5232 drive, and it handled both CD reading and writing duties with ease. The CDR testing allowed 52X speeds without issue, and although we weren't able to allocate name-brand 32X CD-RW media, it did pass our 24X CD-RW testing with ease. Overall compatibility was quite high, both in terms of the written media and for playback of existing CD and DVD-based disks. The drive is also relatively quiet, and there were no problems in having it recognize the different disk formats. The AOpen COM4824 received top marks in a previous review, and the higher write speeds offered by the COM5232 only improve on the design.