CenDyne 40X/12X/40X external USB 2.0
Easy does it
The CenDyne lacks extraneous niceties such as installation videos and software manuals, but everything you truly need comes in the box. It includes the drive, cables, Ahead Software Nero Burning ROM 5.5 for mastering chores, and the same company's InCD program for packet writing. To install the drive, plug in the USB and power cables, insert the software CD, and follow the onscreen prompts. Total time: about five minutes. The drive works with Windows Me, 2000 Professional, and XP. If you need help, consult the concisely written installation guide, which also offers handy tips on topics such as media compatibility.
The full-sized drive weighs about a pound and measures 8.5 inches deep by 6 inches wide by 1.5 inches high. It feels reasonably sturdy and features metallic-blue-and-silver styling with flowing, slightly sculpted lines. Two buttons on the front of the unit let you skip tracks and stop or eject CDs, and the right-front side of the unit sports both a headphone jack and a volume control for easy access. The back plate features a 35-pin Centronics-style connector for the proprietary cable and a power connector for the 4-ounce AC adapter (the drive won't run off bus power).
More discs per hour
In CNET Labs' tests, the CenDyne turned in some remarkable scores--faster than nearly all of the external competition, as well as many internal IDE burners. The drive mastered our 473MB audio file in a mere 2 minutes and took a paltry 1 minute, 39 seconds to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition. In packet-writing tests, the drive took 7 minutes, 49 seconds to write 400MB to CD-RW. It also extracted 273MB of audio in only 53 seconds. The CenDyne offers buffer-underrun-compensation technology so that you can confidently burn in the background without fear of creating bad discs.
The drive carries an industry-standard, one-year warranty, and CenDyne provides telephone support Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT on Saturdays, though it's a toll call. Online support includes FAQs, e-mail to a technician, product registration, and a tech-support bulletin board, though we could find no software or firmware updates specific to this model. You can always update the Nero software at Ahead's Web site, if necessary.
If you need a burner that's easy to share, we recommend the CenDyne external USB 2.0 CD-RW. It offers easy setup and the fastest mastering times we've seen for an external drive, all at a very affordable price.
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)
The CenDyne external USB 2.0 CD-RW took just two minutes to complete the audio-burn test, beating all the other external drives and some internal models as well. During packet writing, the CenDyne also beat out most of the competition. When it came to audio extraction, however, the CenDyne finished in about the same amount of time as 32X external drives from Cyclone and QPS.
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.