At first glance, the Yamaha CRW2100EZ seems like a dream machine. An internal drive for PCs and Macs is an idea whose time has come, and its 16X write speeds, 10X rewrite speeds, and 40X audio extraction would make it the fastest on the market. It comes with lots of extra software, a CD-labeling kit, and extensive documentation. Unfortunately, compatibility and software problems hamper the drive's performance; instead of a dream machine, the CRW2100EZ is something of a fixer-upper. At first glance, the Yamaha CRW2100EZ seems like a dream machine. An internal drive for PCs and Macs is an idea whose time has come, and its 16X write speeds, 10X rewrite speeds, and 40X audio extraction would make it the fastest on the market. It comes with lots of extra software, a CD-labeling kit, and extensive documentation. Unfortunately, compatibility and software problems hamper the drive's performance; instead of a dream machine, the CRW2100EZ is something of a fixer-upper.
Installation of the CRW2100EZ is quick and painless. The drive kit includes everything you'll need to be up and burning quickly: a data cable, mounting screws, an extra jumper, a comprehensive user manual, and one high-speed (10X) CD-RW. A foldout installation guide walks you through every step of the process. The user manual gives a more complete description of the installation and extensively documents the abilities of the drive. The first thing you'll notice when you start up is how loud the drive is, probably due to its high speed. If it's loose in the brackets, it will shake and rattle, so make sure that the drive is screwed down securely when you install it.
At $299, the drive isn't the cheapest on the block, but Yamaha packs a ton of extras with the CRW2100EZ, starting with Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4.02d and DirectCD 3.01d (Toast 4.1.1 for Mac users) CD-mastering software. To this, Yamaha adds two more CDs' worth of applications and a CD-labeling kit. Adobe has three titles for manipulating and organizing graphics and photos: ActiveShare, PhotoDeluxe Business Edition, and PageMill HTML editor. Neato's MediaFace II 2.0 goes with the labeling kit and offers design ideas and templates, and PC users also get the full-featured MusicMatch Jukebox 5.1.
The performance of the CRW2100EZ was mixed, and it fell short of our expectations for a 16X drive. In CNET Labs' tests, the Yamaha CRW2100EZ got the best time for burning an audio image to CD-R: less than 4 minutes for a 43-minute CD. But on other tests, 12X drives gave the CRW2100EZ a run for its money. Though the CRW2100EZ burned 500MB of data to CD-R faster than the Teac CDW512E and Plextor PlexWriter 12/10/32A, it was 15 seconds slower than the Ricoh MP7120A. Also, in the packet-writing test, the Yamaha took almost 10 minutes to write a 400MB directory to CD-RW, trailing more than two minutes behind the Ricoh, though it had no problem reading the file back to the hard drive.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the drive is an issue with the Adaptec software, which prevents the CRW2100EZ from extracting audio at Yamaha's claim of 40X. Yamaha knows of the problem and offers downloads on its Web site for CRW2100EZ owners, including a firmware upgrade and a free application to optimize ripping speed. In all fairness, it's good that Yamaha is working hard to fix the problem but not so good for the user who has to do the work to make the drive perform as promised.
Yamaha offers the standard one-year limited warranty on hardware, as well as unlimited tech support. You can get free, toll-free phone support in the United States during business hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Yamaha also offers email tech support to customers outside of the United States. A service and support site offers documentation for troubleshooting the CRW2100EZ, as well as firmware downloads and support updates.
Packed with extras, easy to use, and covered by a good support plan, the CRW2100EZ has all the ingredients of a great drive except one: performance. With some work, the drive could live up to the performance its specs suggest. But until Yamaha works out the software kinks, most users would be better served by a 12X drive such as the Ricoh or the Teac.