Tools of the trade
With a low $109 street price and a simple setup, the TEAC is easy to afford and simple to use from the get-go, providing you're not afraid to open your computer case. A quick setup poster makes the hardware installation a fairly painless process, and a nice, thick manual does a sound job of covering both hardware and software installation, as well as overall use. Everything you need for installation comes in the box, including IDE and power cables, mounting screws, one CD-R, and one CD-RW. The TEAC is compatible with Windows 98 SE and later.
The TEAC's software bundle is a bit deceptive, though. Big names such as Roxio Easy CD Creator, for burning CDs, and MusicMatch Jukebox 7.1, for ripping and playing audio discs, may catch your eye, but just the basic versions are included here. Not only are you constantly reminded to buy upgrades, but several of Easy CD Creator's features are visible--and disabled. To enable functions such as scheduled data backups, photo- and video-CD creation, and CD-label design, you must upgrade to Easy CD Creator Platinum for $99. ArcSoft PhotoImpression 3.0 rounds out the bundle and provides simple image-creation and editing tools. Basic editions have their constraints, but if your burning needs are limited to tasks such as creating data and audio CDs, the TEAC's the right drive for the job.
Speedy, save extracting
The TEAC did a good job in CNET Labs' tests, coming in near the top of the heap in three out of four tests. It took only 2 minutes, 50 seconds to create a 43-minute CD; on the packet-writing test, it burned 400MB to CD-RW in just 5 minutes, 28 seconds. In the read test, the TEAC got the blue ribbon, taking less than 1.5 minutes to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition. The TEAC lagged in audio-extraction tests, however, requiring a leisurely 1 minute, 36 seconds to extract 27 minutes of audio. By comparison, the QPS Que 40X/12X/48X did it in nearly half the time.
Should you run into any glitches, you have several options. TEAC offers a solid online library of troubleshooting documents, manuals, updated drivers, and firmware updates for the CD-W540E. Telephone tech support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, but it's a toll call. E-mail tech support is also available, and the drive is covered by a standard one-year warranty.
Despite some fun software inclusions such as the photo-editing utility, the TEAC is more for work than play. Its sluggish audio-extraction performance and lack of audio-editing or CD-design software make it less than desirable for music mavens. But its strong packet-writing and straight writing performance, coupled with its affordable price, make it a wise choice for businesses on a budget. However, if you'd prefer full versions of the software instead of the limited ones that come with this drive, competing products include them for just a little more money.
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 TEAC held its own in our tests, scoring at or near the lead in three out of four tests. However, audio extraction was the TEAC's weakness: The drive took 1 minute, 36 seconds to extract a 27-minute audio track.