Double Take

CD-RW/DVD combination drives can give you the best of both worlds, so don't think twice about giving them a second look.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the April 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A CD-RW drive and a DVD drive: They're this year's must-haves at the top of everyone's computer drive wish list. But you can't make up your mind about which one to get first? In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, we're looking at the new, convenient CD-RW/DVD combination drives. If you have just recently bought a well-equipped desktop computer, then you've probably already got one. But for those of you with simple laptops or less-than-loaded PCs, a CD-RW/DVD combination drive is a hot prospect for an add-on. Prices are good, the media is cheap and write speeds are only getting faster.

No matter what kind of computer you have, everybody has, at the very least, a CD-ROM drive these days. It's a smart way to share data with employees, colleagues and customers. Current CD-RW drives have come a long way from the pokey 4X speed devices we were falling over ourselves to get our hands on a few years ago. Now, even the slowest machines clock in with 8X CD-R write speeds.

If you're speed-sensitive, the type of connection is very important in choosing a combination drive that's right for you. USB is familiar and convenient, but it's not quite the fastest. Consider 480Mbps USB 2.0 or 400Mbps Firewire for the most breakneck data-transfer speeds. Sony's $300 CRX85U/A2 offers USB 2.0, while the $699 QPS Que! Fire DVDBurner outshines Firewire.

For PCs that are not already equipped with Firewire or USB 2.0, an internal card can be added to your rig for around $60. The speed of these ports will help keep your DVDs spinning smoothly onscreen. And a USB 2.0 drive will still work with your regular USB connection, although at a slower speed.

Next question: should you get an internal or external combo drive? An internal drive, like the $199 Samsung SM-316, is inexpensive and takes up no desk space. But you'll have to rope an IT-inclined employee into service or install it yourself if you're comfortable under the hood of the computer.

External drives are attractive for their no-hassle, plug-and-play nature. Just one external drive can make the rounds of your office computers if you're pinching pennies and don't mind a little extra trouble. Either USB or Firewire is what to look for when you make your decision.

In addition, long flights and lengthy airport layovers are much more tolerable when you add DVD capabilities to your laptop to help you pass the time. Of course, the CD-RW side of a drive like the portable $300 Sony CRX85U/A2 makes an otherwise superfluous upgrade a practical business purchase. Unless your laptop is already equipped, you may want to invest in a USB 2.0 card so you can take full advantage of the faster speeds. A two-port IOGEAR USB 2.0 PCMCIA card, for example, costs $99.95, a relatively small investment for added efficiency.

Road warriors, in particular, need to make regular backups of valuable data. CD-RW discs can be bought for around $1.50 apiece, and CD-Rs are even less expensive. Burning your own backups wherever you are is a fast, convenient way to take care of a necessary chore. And then you can fully enjoy the DVD version of 9 to 5 with a clear conscience.

In the future, you can expect to see more combination drives that match CD-RW up with DVD-R or DVD-RAM. These competing writable DVD technologies offer large storage capacities (up to 9.4GB) as well as the ability to burn discs that will play on DVD machines. The $600 QPS Que! Fire DVDBurner is a good example of a Firewire combo drive that handles both DVD-R and DVD-RAM. And, like CD writers before them, combo drive prices will slowly work their way down. As offices everywhere become saturated with regular DVD and CD-RW drives, this will be the next big push.

Shopping List
Feeling the need for speed? Find out which hot CD-RW/DVD-ROM combos are burning the competition.

12x Mobile DVD/CDRW
(510) 438-6530
12x/8x/32x/8x USB 2.0 Mac and PC, portable, other interface cables available $349
Que! Fire DVDBurner
(800) 559-4777
24x/12x/24x/6x Firewire PC and Mac, 6x DVD-R, 2x DVD-RAM $600
(800) samsung
16x/10x/40x/12x EIDE/ATAPI PC only, internal drive $199
(800) 352-7669
20x/8x/24x/8x USB 2.0 PC and Mac, portable, PC card connection available $300
SD-R 1202
(800) toshiba
16x/10x/40x/12x ATAPI PC only, internal drive $190

* Read the specs in the order of CD-Rwrite/CD-RW write/CD-ROM read/DVD-ROM read

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