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Richard Price
12 March 2002

Sony CRX85UThis Sony CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive is the neatest external unit I have seen. It is very portable, weighs only 250g and features 20x burn speed, 8x rewriting, 8x DVD playback and 24x CD playback.

Theoretically this makes it possible to record 650 MB of data on a CD-R disc in about 3 minutes, and a CD-RW disc in about 8 minutes.

Installation was a breeze. Like all Plug and Play technology, once the drive is detected all that’s needed is to install the software.

Sony have included a comprehensive suite of software programs to make using a CD as simple as using a floppy disc.

Included with the unit is B’s Recorder Gold for creating custom video, audio and data CDs; B’s Clip for drag-and-drop file copying; VideoImpression for creating and editing videos from existing files; PhotoBase for editing and managing digital image files or creating easy-to-view albums; and Retrospect which enables easy file and hard disk backup.

The unit comes with either a USB 2.0 or a PCMCIA interface.
FireWire would seem more sensible I am not sure why Sony decided on the USB format.

There are two different USB standards (versions 1.1 and 2.0) so users can run into problems with cables. While USB 2.0 architecture uses the same cables and connectors as USB 1.1 compliant products not all cables on the market are certified as USB 1.1 compliant.

Thankfully, Sony has included USB 2.0 compliant cables with the unit.

Users may consider upgrading to USB 2.0 it is not that difficult. A number of companies have USB 2.0 cards some of which include FireWire ports.

However, I have never bothered to install one because when I last looked Microsoft was still considering USB 2.0 support for Windows ME. As far as I know Windows 98 does not support USB 2.0.

It is not enough to just have a USB 2.0 device. A USB 2.0 host controller card and a USB 2.0 driver are needed as well.

Anyone looking at investing in the USB version needs to ensure their system fully supports USB 2.0. Anyone using Windows 98 will have to rely on 3rd party USB 2.0 support from the card manufacturer.

So, why Sony bothered with USB I will never know. Most home users could happily potter around burning CDs and never realise the difference, but they would get a shock when trying to watch a DVD movie. USB 1 is totally useless for DVD movies and while USB 2.0 is rated as 40 times faster then USB 1, I doubt it will be much better.

I can almost hear the telephones ringing at Sony help centres.

On the positive side, the large 8 MB data buffer on the CRX85 drive delivers high sustained transfer rates.

Sony’s Power Burn technology, ensures reliable, worry free CD recording. It does this by eliminating buffer-under-run and optimising the burn to the brand and type of disk used. The technology also reduces errors due to mechanical shock, scratches or fingerprints on the disk

Users need USB 2.0 or a PCMCIA interface to get the full benefit of this unit.

The Sony CRX85 is available for both Mac and PC.

Price AU$799



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