The TEAC CD-W516E offers the best price and is the fastest drive for reading and writing data discs in CNET's roundup. Unfortunately, it falls short in other areas. Light documentation makes installation a little more challenging for novices, and the drive's digital audio extraction (DAE) performance lagged behind the pack. Audiophiles may want to hold out for a drive with faster DAE, but more savvy users may jump at the TEAC's value for nonaudio applications. The TEAC CD-W516E offers the best price and is the fastest drive for reading and writing data discs in CNET's roundup. Unfortunately, it falls short in other areas. Light documentation makes installation a little more challenging for novices, and the drive's digital audio extraction (DAE) performance lagged behind the pack. Audiophiles may want to hold out for a drive with faster DAE, but more savvy users may jump at the TEAC's value for nonaudio applications.
The TEAC CD-W516E's low $229 price and internal IDE connection make it a cost-effective upgrade for PC users with a modicum of know-how. While installing an internal drive takes a bit more time and thought than connecting a USB or FireWire device, the TEAC kit contains everything you need to do so successfully: drive, manual, CD audio cable, 40-pin signal cable, mounting screws, and software CD. TEAC also throws in a blank CD-R and CD-RW.
Although the documentation that comes with the CD-W516E is a bit light, installation is straightforward. The IDE interface means that the TEAC can be installed by itself on an IDE channel or alongside other IDE-type drives. The TEAC drive can be installed in any available drive bay and connected to your IDE controller in less than 15 minutes. Windows recognizes the drive at start-up, at which time you can install the included software.
Unfortunately, the CD-W516E's bundled software could be better. The Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 suite provides DirectCD and all of the tools needed to copy or create data and music discs. But the only notable new feature is a fancy graphical interface that offers a bit more hand-holding for data and audio recording tasks and little more. The rest of the software is conspicuously devoid of documentation, diagnostics, how-to video clips, or presentations, as well as other media and utilities that are frequently found with the latest CD-R/RW drives.
Dazzling performance, except...
When it came to speed, the TEAC was a good performer in all but one area. CNET Labs' test results showed that the TEAC outperformed the LaCie 161040, the QPS Que Fire, and the Plextor PlexWriter 16/10/40A in various tests. The 400MB packet-writing test from hard drive to CD-RW took the TEAC only 7 minutes, the best time of all the drives tested. It burned a 43-minute audio track to CD-R in just 3.7 minutes--second only to the Plextor. The TEAC drive also beat the competition by installing Office 2000 SBE in just 3.1 minutes. But the 500MB single-session data burn to CD-R took about 4.4 minutes (edged out by the QPS and the Plextor). And the real disappointment with the TEAC came with a 3.4-minute extraction of a 27-minute audio track--far behind the other drives' scores.
The TEAC CD-W516E comes with a typical one-year warranty (we wish it were longer) and adequate support. Free phone support is available for just about every region of the world, but it's not toll-free and is accessible only during business hours (in North America, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday). E-mail and Web support is available 24/7 through the TEAC site, which also offers updated drivers, firmware, FAQs, downloadable manuals, and a glossary to help demystify CD-R/RW terminology.
TEAC's rewritable drive is a plain, no-nonsense, competitively priced kit, ideal for experienced users and enthusiasts. Novices may want a kit with more comprehensive printed documentation or additional utilities on the CD. Data applications will certainly benefit from the TEAC, but audio enthusiasts will want a drive with faster audio-extraction performance.