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52X/24X/52X External CD-RW Drive - USB 2.0 / 1.1 review: 52X/24X/52X External CD-RW Drive - USB 2.0 / 1.1

52X/24X/52X External CD-RW Drive - USB 2.0 / 1.1

Chris Robertson Senior Product Manager
6 min read
Over the years, Iomega has created a number of innovative products, including the venerable Zip drive. But unfortunately, the new Iomega 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0) drive doesn't live up to the legacy. The drive's size and weight limit its portability, and the included HotBurn software, while easy to use, hampers its performance on certain tests. (The drive's performance improved quite a bit when we switched to Nero Burning ROM 5.5.) On the plus side, Iomega provides top-notch online support for both its drive and software. But if you're looking for a drive that you can cart around town, check out the cheaper CenDyne 40X/12X/40X. It took us less than 10 minutes to set up the external Iomega 52X/24X/52X CD-RW drive. After you install the HotBurn software, simply plug the drive into a free USB port, and you're good to go. The 28-page, jewel-case-sized, quick-install guide contains one page of crude drawings and two pages of basic instructions in English. (The rest of the guide provides the same information in 11 different languages.) If you need extra hand-holding, check out the installation guide on the included software CD or visit the Iomega Web site. In addition to the drive, the box includes a USB cable and one blank CD-R disc.
The drive is compatible with Windows 98 SE, Me, 2000, and XP. It also works with Mac OS 8.6 to 9.1, but unfortunately, only Mac OS X supports USB 2.0 connections. This means that the drive will run at USB 1.1 speeds of 4X/4X/6X.
Even for an external drive, the Iomega 52X/24X/52X CD-RW is extremely bulky. At more than five pounds, it weighs as much as many thin-and-light notebooks. It also measures 7.5 by 9.75 by 2 inches high, which limits its portability.
The Iomega, however, works like any other CD-RW drive. The front includes the standard fare of headphone jack, volume control, status light, and eject button. On the back, you'll find an RCA audio output jack for connecting the drive to your computer's sound card. We did encounter one problem, however: the drive's power-cord connection is not very secure, and in our tests, it came undone easily while shifting the drive around.

HotBurn offers a well-laid-out and easy-to-use interface.

For PC users, Iomega includes its own HotBurn Pro software for most mastering duties; Mac users get a slimmed down version, which lacks some of the advanced data and music capabilities. HotBurn's simple interface is geared toward novices: Simply select the type of project you want to burn from the menu on the left-hand side. Each project then pops up a new window, which, unfortunately, often points out useless or obvious information. For example: "When creating your MP3 CD, you are able to add only existing MP3 files to the layout." The program's more advanced features let you correct CD errors, choose multisession recording (the ability to write additional data to CD at a later time), and create a bootable CD. You can access these options by pressing the Pro Features button at the bottom-left corner of the screen or just choose to display them when you first install the software. But even though there is an abundance of useful features for all skill levels, the software had trouble with basic packet-writing chores. More on the software, in the performance section.
HotBurn, like most mastering applications, also includes a CD label designer where you can create disc labels as well as booklets. Iomega also throws in Adobe's ActiveShare software (which lets you edit photos, create photo albums, and share them with friends) and MusicMatch Jukebox 7.5, an all-in-one audio player, ripper, and burner. MusicMatch Jukebox also lets you connect to portable MP3 players and manage your collection of digital-audio files.
On certain tasks, the Iomega performed admirably, equaling or besting other 52X drives we've tested--surprising, because external drives usually do not perform as well as internal models. For example, the Iomega took just 1 minute, 45 seconds to burn a 43-minute audio CD, comparable to other external USB 2.0 drives, such as the LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW. In our read test, the Iomega took less than 90 seconds to install Microsoft Office 2000 SBE.
If you plan to do a lot of digital-audio extraction or packet writing, however, you should seriously consider purchasing Nero Burning ROM 5.5 to use with this drive. HotBurn doesn't support digital-audio extraction, although you can rip audio tracks from CD using the included MusicMatch application. When teamed with Nero Burning ROM 5.5, the drive finished near the top of the pack. It took only 46 seconds to extract (or rip) a 27-minute audio track.
Packet writing with HotBurn was abysmal. When writing a 400MB directory to CD-RW, the Iomega needed a whopping 18 minutes to finish the job. Most 52X drives accomplish the task in less than 5 minutes. Again, this is a problem with the software, not the drive. Using Nero, it took just less than 4 minutes, 45 seconds. Even formatting a disc took almost 10 minutes--an extraordinarily long time. Iomega is aware of the problem and will release a downloadable software update via its Web site that will fix the drag-and-drop transfer speed.
If you don't have a USB 2.0 connection, speed drops significantly. If you're using a USB 1.1 connection, the Iomega works as fast as a 4X/4X/6X drive. (You can find a USB 2.0 card for as low as $25.) Also, when using this drive, make sure you close any large programs to free up system resources; the Iomega has only 2MB of buffer memory, which is low compared to the 8MB found in many other high-speed burners.
Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Packet writing from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)  
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)  
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
Samsung SW-252 CD-RW (52X/24X/52X)
Iomega 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
Time to install Microsoft Office 2000 SBE  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office SBE  
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X
Iomega 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
Samsung SW-252 CD-RW (52X/24X/52X)
DAE (digital-audio extraction; 26-minute, 58-second track)  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time, in minutes to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track  
Iomega 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X
Samsung SW-252 CD-RW (52X/24X/52X)
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media (submitted by the manufacturer) and with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. For more details on how we test CD-recordable drives, see the CNET Labs site.
When it comes to service and support, Iomega really shines. While the drive comes with the standard one-year warranty, the company offers exemplary online support for both the drive and the software. The Web site includes FAQs, software and driver updates, tutorials, error message explanations, and user guides. Iomega also offers user-to-user forums, e-mail support, and a live one-on-one chat function with technical support. Our e-mail inquiry about buffer underruns received a thorough response in less than one hour. Free technical support is also available by phone during the warranty period from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT, although long-distance charges may apply. After the warranty expires, phone tech support will cost you $15 per incident.

Iomega offers an abundance of support options via its Web site.


52X/24X/52X External CD-RW Drive - USB 2.0 / 1.1

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 6Performance 6Support 9
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