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TDK VeloCD review: TDK VeloCD

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MSRP: $119.99
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The Good Fast write speeds; excellent setup documents; well-organized support Web site.

The Bad Audio cable not included; meager 2MB buffer.

The Bottom Line While not the fastest drive in its class, the 52X VeloCD matches solid performance with excellent documentation and online support.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

Review Sections

When you buy a new CD-RW drive, you never know quite what kind of documentation you'll get. You may find a printed manual in the box, but then again, you may not. The instructions on such a manual might be clear and concise with accompanying illustrations, or they might not. Fortunately, TDK's new VeloCD 52X/24X/48X CD-RW drive dispels any mystery with its refreshing setup procedures. The box includes two handy quick-start guides for installing the drive and using the software, as well as a step-by-step setup video on the included CD. But although the VeloCD is exceptionally easy to use, it proved only an average performer in CNET Labs' tests. If you can live without hand-holding and want to save a couple bucks with a faster, cheaper drive, check out the CenDyne Lightning V. TDK offers one of the friendliest out-of-the-box CD-RW experiences in the business. In fact, other drive manufacturers could learn a lot from TDK.

For starters, the VeloCD comes with a concise, illustrated setup poster and a quick-start guide that give easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on installing the drive and using the included software. But while this alone puts most vendors to shame, TDK goes a step further. Its CD Blender Software Suite includes an excellent Shockwave presentation (available with Spanish subtitles) that shows you how to open your system, install the drive, set the jumpers, and connect the cables. And just in case you lose the printed documentation, the CD contains PDF versions of the quick-start guide and a more in-depth installation manual that includes FAQ and troubleshooting sections. You can also find connector labels and jumper information etched into the back plate of the drive.

Included video makes installation easy.

In addition to the drive, the box includes an IDE cable, an emergency-eject tool, and mounting screws. And while the TDK lacks an audio cable, modern programs such as Windows Media Player will play tracks across the IDE bus. When we tried it without an audio cable, it worked fine. But because it uses more CPU and bandwidth, you may experience glitches when running other programs. The VeloCD works with Windows 98 SE, Me, NT, 2000, and XP but not Macs.

The front panel of the VeloCD--with its transparent-aqua media tray and subtly sculpted lines--looks more attractive than most burners and features a headphone jack, a power/busy light, an emergency-eject port, and a tray-eject button. The back panel has a full complement of digital and analog audio ports and drive jumpers, as well as IDE and power connectors. For buffer-underrun error protection, the drive uses SmartBurn, which automatically adjusts the writing speed to match the amount of data in the buffer. On the downside, the burner offers only 2MB of buffer memory. Many high-speed burners, such as the Yamaha CRW-F1, provide a full 8MB.

Nero Express.

TDK bundles Ahead Software's Nero Express mastering program, which boasts a sleek user interface with lots of straightforward wizards for creating audio, data, video, and Super Video CDs. And although highly simplified, Nero Express also lets you make more-complicated CD compilations, including bootable data CDs and mixed audio and data CDs. You get Ahead's InCD for packet-writing duties and TDK's own Digital MixMaster for ripping, playing, and burning audio files.

Overall, the TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X offers slightly slower performance on most tests compared with other burners in its class, including the CenDyne Lightning V and the Memorex internal CD-ReWritable.

Still, for most users, the VeloCD delivers plenty of speed. It burned a 43-minute audio CD in 1 minute, 40 seconds, second only to the CenDyne. Its packet-writing and digital audio-extraction scores actually placed the drive behind its 48X predecessor, but we found the difference insignificant in real-world applications. In read tests, the VeloCD took only 1 minute, 25 seconds to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition but trailed the faster CenDyne and Memorex drives.

Write tests
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)   
Packet-write from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)   
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
CenDyne Lightning V (52X/24X/52X)
Memorex internal CD-ReWritable (52X/24X/52X)
TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X CD-RW
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
Audio-extraction tests
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)

CenDyne Lightning V (52X/24X/52X)
Memorex internal CD-ReWritable (52X/24X/52X)
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X CD-RW
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
Read tests
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)

CenDyne Lightning V (52X/24X/52X)
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
TDK VeloCD 52X/24X/48X CD-RW
Memorex internal CD-ReWritable (52X/24X/52X)
LaCie 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 optical drives, see CNET Labs' site.

The VeloCD 52X/24X/48X drive comes with an industry-standard, one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT. In addition to the usual spattering of manuals, firmware updates, and FAQs, the well-organized TDK Web site offers a series of how-to videos on topics such as Nero Express and archiving vinyl to CD.

VeloCD 52X support page.

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