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September 25th, 2000


Sony Spressa CRX145S/XS
Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Sony
Product Home Page: Sony Spressa CRX145S/XS
Description: External SCSI CD-RW Drive
Address: Postal Address
Price: US$299 (street)
Telephone: (800) 588-3847
Fax: (888) 476-6972
Requirements: 50-pin SCSI-2 port or card
32 MB RAM
Hard disk drive with sub-12 ms access
Sustained transfer rate of at least 2 MB/s
MacOS 8.5 or higher
System Used For Testing: Dual processor G4 (450 MHz)
256 MB RAM

G3 All-in-one 233 MHz
128 MB RAM

[Review]
Sony Spressa 10x CD-RW SCSI Drive, Speed & Reliability

Sony Spressa CRX145S/XS
by Michael Munger

Introduction

The Sony Spressa drive is an external SCSI-2 CD-RW unit offering speeds up to 10X/4X/32X (Write/ReWrite/Read). The cable shipping with it has a 50-pin miniplug SCSI connector that goes toward the back of your Mac or its SCSI card. The drive's buffer size is 4 MB. It comes with a software installation CD for CharisMac Discribe, Retrospect Express and a bit of documentation. (In Europe, Sony drives ship with Adaptec Toast.)


Documentation

The Quick Start guide and the full user's guide give you enough information to do the full setup of the drive and understand its characteristics as well as some basic troubleshooting.

The software's documentation came only in PDF format, and not in a printed format. We would like to have seen the documentation, at least an abbreviated form of it, come in a printed manual.


Installation

To install the unit on our G3 we needed to buy a 25 to 50-pin SCSI adapter. The drive comes with a big Centronics to 50-pin cable and the port on the back is a huge Centronics. On the G4, the Adaptec SCSI PCI card that ships with the build-to-order unit has the right 50-pin port. Installing the software was simple and fast enough. After a restart, everything was ready to go.

You have to press the power button before starting up since the extension has to detect the drive during the extensions parade.


The software

We were puzzled by Discribe's interface, which could be more Mac-friendly. It feels rather unintuitive and led us to forget to set up write speeds because of a lack of visibility when changes are made to the main screen's buttons.


Click the thumbnail for larger view.

Nevertheless, the mastering application works fine for burning and it features some drag and drop capabilities. Discribe uses "project" as its term for a CD burn.

The Message and Configuration will alert and inform you about your burn and the setup you have and the menu bar will allow you to select your recorder as well as tuning your preferences.

What does not work with Disk Copy images is when you choose them as a type of volume to create in a new project. It pops up a navigation box, but does not recognize a mounted image nor the file itself. You can get around this by choosing Macintosh HFS as a type of volume and then you choose the volume to reproduce.

Burning a fully customized disc (with volume icon, name, icon positions and window size) with this method was easy. Using other methods will give a CD without any control over the icon placement or window position.

The software respects its burn time, just like a normal ticking clock. It does force you to stay away from your Mac since it locks it from any other use while burning (as with all other mastering software, but not packet-writing software, such as DirectCD) and Sony even recommends closing all other applications to make sure that they could not interfere with the burn in any way.

Discribe offers Mac HFS, Audio, ISO 9660, hybrid (for cross-platform) and Disk Copy formats.


Burning a backup on the G3

This drive arrived just in time to perform a full backup to ease the transition between two computers. We were limited to the 1x, 2x and 4x speeds since the 25-pin legacy SCSI connectors could not transfer data fast enough for 8x or 10x burns.

For day-to-day performance, one has to understand that the time depends on the selected speed and the amount of data to burn on the CD. The average burn took around 18 minutes for 400 to 500 MB discs at 4x. Around 36 minutes for the same tests at 2x.

After testing data integrity with a verification tool, only human error transpired :-) When taking the same CDs to a Blue & White tower to send e-mail attachments, everything went fine, the drive recognizing the media and reading it efficiently. It was the same when we restored the backup on the G4, installing a few things from the CDs and copying the data files.


Burning on the G4

This is when we felt the full speed of a 10x burner. On the same media, it took 5 minutes and 52 seconds to burn an almost full 650 MB bootable CD. This is fast. Upon using the disc to start up a beige G3 (from its older internal drive) and run utilities from it, the bootable CD proved reliable. Data verification did not fail either.


Burning audio CDs

Someone volunteered to use a copy of an audio disc he already owns. The test occurred in his car and home players to verify performance. By using the "Extract Audio" mode, it was possible to make AIFF files from an audio CD and prepare a burn. We did not have any performance problems.


Reliability vs 10x

All we can say for now is "so far so good". No CDs have failed to perform so far, no matter what format. While CD-R and CD-RW reliability is a known issue, especially when burning at fast speeds, it did not seem to have any effect on our setup. Note that we used only high quality discs and that we still recommend being conservative with 2x and 4x speeds for critical backups.


CD-RW discs

This drive burns up to 4x in ReWritable mode with the appropriate discs. It certainly eliminates the lightning-speed burns witnessed on CD-R drives but it does work nicely to erase a disc and to write several times on it. On the other hand, we would not recommend using this as a primary source of burns for critical data since CD-R technology is still superior in reliability to CD-RW. The best idea is to use it as a temporary means to store high amounts of data, like for transfers from one computer to another.


CD-ROM functions

As the unit offers 32x reading capabilities, we decided to put it to the test with audio and QuickTime movies for multimedia playback. To our surprise, it proved totally flawless, not a bit of sound or video missing or choppy when playing the files. We had expected minor performance problems since the drive is external and connected to a SCSI PCI card, but the results were fine. Data transfers were quite all right too.


Conclusion

This CD-RW drive satisfied us for needs of backup and multimedia CD mastering. Its shortcomings seemed minor enough for this unit to be a good purchase. Media reliability is still a subject of debate, but the drive itself performed as it should have. Other Spressa 10x drives are available in USB and internal.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros Amazing 10x burning speed
High reliability
Great multimedia recording/playback
Cons Minor problem with Disk Copy images
Windows-like software interface
Beige case
Discribe docs in PDF



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