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Traxdata CDR 4120 PRO 4X Write/12X Read CD Recorder Review

Traxdata has done an admirable job with the CDR 4120 PRO in offering a solid and well-rounded package that successfully balances state-of-the-art 4X recording power with ease of use for both home and business users.

Traxdata CDR 4120 PRO 4X Write/12X Read CD Recorder

Hugh Bennett
EMedia Professional, October 1998

Well-known in their native U.K. and throughout Europe and Asia, Traxdata Ltd. is one of a growing number of sophisticated companies assembling, selling, and supporting rebranded CD-Recordable bundles. Traxdata’s latest offering is the CDR 4120 PRO CD writing solution, which integrates TEAC’s second-generation CD-R55S recorder with top-flight supporting elements. With performance and features at the top of its class, the CDR 4120 PRO offers state-of-the-art 4X writing speed, true 12X CLV read and Digital Audio Extraction performance, flash firmware, 1MB buffer, and a SCSI interface, as well as Disc-At-Once (DAO) and packet writing capability.

Seldom is any product as perfect as its spec sheet might imply, however. The CD-R55S has a few noteworthy shortcomings, among them a lack of Running Optimum Power Control (Running OPC), no support for the Serial Copy Management System (SCMS), and no R-W subcode handling ability. Despite these deficiencies — which won’t affect most buyers’ use of the product anyway — the CD-R55S has been enthusiastically integrated into many CD duplication and production systems.

Depending upon the geographic location in which it is marketed, Traxdata offers a number of versions of the CDR 4120 PRO, including a Mac bundle as well as internal and external PC configurations with and without a SCSI card. The $479 internal PC version reviewed here is an intelligently stocked package that comes complete with a Traxdata-branded TEAC CD-R55S 4×12 recorder, an Advansys ABP-930 SCSI card and cable, two blank discs, CeQuadrat’s WinOnCD and PacketCD CD-Recordable software for Windows 95/NT, plus some label design templates and a marking pen.

For day-to-day storage duties, the CDR 4120 PRO package includes the latest version of CeQuadrat’s PacketCD incremental packet writing software. Similar to Adaptec’s popular DirectCD, PacketCD makes the recorder appear to the operating system as a writable drive so any number of files can be dragged and dropped to CD-R as if it were a write-once floppy. Alternatively, files can be saved to CD-R from within any application software without the use of a traditional premastering tool.

CDs are written using OSTA’s UDF 1.5 file format so, in addition to being readable by recorders running PacketCD, recorded discs can be accessed from CD and DVD-ROM drives using standard UDF drivers. PacketCD also writes a UDF driver in a reserved ISO9660 portion of each disc for instances where suitable drivers are unavailable.

PacketCD is designed to remove the complexity from CD recording so the software is extremely easy to use. After a blank disc is inserted into the recorder, a wizard appears on the screen with the option to format the disc. Following a short thirty-second procedure, the disc is ready for action as a standard drive icon. In addition to being simple to use, recording with PacketCD is also fast, taking only a minute or two longer than using a dedicated writing program like WinOnCD or Adaptec’s Easy CD Creator. Comparatively, 4X writing enables the recorder to create a full, 650MB disc in 19 to 22 minutes, as opposed to 38 to 40 minutes required for 2X recording.

PacketCD 3.0 also offers the option of recording discs as proprietary compressed volumes which can only be read by PacketCD. As a result, this option is best used for personal backup rather than for exchanging data. Although the manufacturer promises that the compression feature nearly doubles disc capacity from 650MB to 1.23GB, real-world testing indicates that, depending upon file types, it is possible to squeeze only another 100 to 200MB on a disc.

For more advanced projects, Traxdata also includes an OEM version of CeQuadrat’s WinOnCD 3.5 recording software. A full-featured package, WinOnCD is capable of creating most disc formats including ISO 9660 with Joliet extensions and controllable file placement, multisession, CD-DA, CD Extra, and basic Video CD (from MPEG or AVI files). The software can also be used to duplicate most disc types with an easy-to-use CD copying function. However, users wishing to create bootable CDs or ISO 9660/HFS hybrid discs must upgrade to the full retail version of the software. Similarly, converting analog audio sources like cassette tape and vinyl records to CD requires the additional purchase of the Just Audio software, also available from Traxdata.

Disc creation with WinOnCD is very straightforward with the software fully supporting the advanced recording capabilities of the TEAC CD-R55S, including Disc-At-Once writing. For example, assembling an ISO 9660 disc is a simple case of selecting the correct disc type from the new project greeting screen that appears when the program is loaded, selecting the source volume, dragging the files to be written into the recording window, and pressing the record button. For those who have an aversion to manuals or documentation, WinOnCD even boasts a built-in optional wizard that tutors users and guides them through the disc creation process. Rounding out WinOnCD’s feature set is a rudimentary graphics capability used to create and print jewelcase booklets and inlay cards as well as to design disc surface labels for users who own sticky labeling kits.

During the evaluation, WinOnCD proved both capable and reliable, able to record successfully any project demanded of the software.

Traxdata has done an admirable job with the CDR 4120 PRO in offering a solid and well-rounded package that successfully balances state-of-the-art 4X recording power with ease of use for both home and business users. The TEAC CD-R55S recorder at the core of the bundle does not disappoint, and comes highly recommended to users in its own right where Traxdata-branded products are not as easily found. Further distinguishing the Trax bundle is the array of packaged software, including CeQuadrat’s PacketCD 3.0 and WinOnCD 3.5, which provide significant flexibility for most recording tasks.

Even those contemplating the purchase of a CD-ReWritable system might have a hard time dismissing the CDR 4120 PRO, since Traxdata’s package offers significant time savings in writing speed for the same price as many 2X CD-RW systems.

TEAC’s CD-R55S 4X12X CD Recorder

How times change. Only a couple of years ago, Yamaha had the unique distinction of being the sole provider of 4X CD recorders, but with the end of 1998 on the near horizon a number of additional manufacturers including TEAC, Matsushita, Sony, Mitsumi, and Plextor are now offering 4X devices or plan to do so soon. It should come as no surprise, then, that in relatively short order, 4X systems are expected to replace 2X systems as entry-level products.

The attraction of faster recording speed is hard to deny. Quad-speed writing (600KB/sec transfer rate) records a full 74-minute (650MB) disc in 19 minutes, while double-speed (300 KB/sec transfer rate) recorders take 38 minutes to write the same amount of data. It’s no wonder that professional, business, and home users cotton to quad-speed recorders.

At the heart of Traxdata’s CDR 4120 PRO is TEAC’s new CD-R55S mechanism. This second-generation TEAC CD recorder uses a similar design to their first 4X product, but with substantially improved 12X read performance over the original 4X CD-R50S design. In addition, the CD-R55S is more broadly compatible with most of the quad-speed-capable blank media now on the market than was the case with the CD-R50S.

One area where 4X recorders have made great strides in the past year is read performance, and TEAC’s CD-R55S currently leads the pack with full 12X (1800KB/sec data transfer rate) CLV capability. Tests conducted with CD Tach 98 reveal the CD-R55S does not disappoint, with seek times and transfer rates near the published specification using 16KB block sizes at all physical regions of the disc.

Written disc quality is an extremely important way of evaluating the performance of any CD recorder, so to ensure discs written with the TEAC mechanism are of sound mind and body, the CDR 4120 PRO was put through the wringer. Twelve full 74-minute discs from six media manufacturers (two each of Kodak, TDK, Mitsubishi/Verbatim, Ricoh, Mitsui Toatsu, and Taiyo Yuden) were recorded and analyzed using Audio Development CD CATS and Philips JET test equipment. Additionally, while timing the operation, interchangeability was estimated by performing byte-level comparisons of the discs’ contents to source data using a mix of fourteen 8X to 32X max CD-ROM drives from Plextor, Toshiba, Mitsumi, Panasonic, NEC, Philips, TEAC, and Goldstar.

Results were predictably solid with all the discs comparing on all of the drives close to their full speed and passing lower-level checks without any obvious problems.

In addition to providing recorders to Traxdata on an OEM basis, TEAC’s CD-R55S is available from several other companies. TEAC itself offers internal and external branded versions, and the CD-R55S is also available as the heart of Smart and Friendly’s SpeedWriter and Pinnacle Micro’s RCD 4×12 packages.

Companies Mentioned in This Article

1150 Ringwood Court, San Jose, CA 95131; 800/525-7443, 408/383-5737; Fax 408/383-9612;

CeQuadrat (USA) Inc.
1804 Embarcadero Road, Suite 101, Palo Alto, CA 94303; 800/330-6734, 650/843-3780; Fax 650/843-3799; http://www.cequadrat.com

Product in Brief

Synopsis: Traxdata’s CDR 4120 PRO is a solid and well-rounded package that successfully balances state-of-the-art 4X recording power with ease of use for both home and business users. The TEAC CD-R55S recorder at the core of the bundle does not disappoint, boasting both reliable 4X recording and rock-solid CLV 12X CD reading and audio extraction capabilities. Further distinguishing the Trax bundle is the array of packaged software, including CeQuadrat’s PacketCD 3.0 and WinOnCD 3.5, which provide significant flexibility for most recording tasks.

Price: $479 internal full package (including software, media, and SCSI adapter); $419 internal drive bundle without SCSI adapter; $479 external PC and Mac version

For more information, contact:
Traxdata Ltd. The Tithe Barn
Tithe Court
Langley, Berkshire SL3 8AS
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1753 586655
Fax +44 (0)1753 595547

About the Author

Hugh Bennett, editor-in-chief of Hugh’s News, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems, a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is author of The Authoritative Blu-ray Disc (BD) FAQ and The Authoritative HD DVD FAQ, available on Hugh’s News, as well as Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

Copyright © Online Inc. / Hugh Bennett