| Do you need a CD burner? Or would a DVD drive be a better fit? There's certainly no shortage of choices--you can get a drive that can write, rewrite, and read plus media, dash media, or both. Some even have DVD-RAM capabilities. But DVD burners can also burn CDs, which begs the question: Are the days of CD-only drives numbered? After reviewing a slew of these ever-faster DVD drives, we turned our attention back to their elder brethren--CD burners--to find the answer.
At this point, CD-RW drives retain two distinct advantages over even the highest-end DVD multiformat drives. First and most importantly, they cost significantly less. The three internal CD-RW drives rounded up here--Lite-On's LTR-52327S, MSI's CR52-M, and Samsung's SW-252FRNS--are each available online for around $40, give or take a few dollars. In comparison, our current Editors' Choice multiformat DVD drive, Plextor's PX-708A, costs about five times as much.
CD-RW drives' second advantage is that they can record on CD-R media at 52X and rewrite on CD-RW at 32X, while state-of-the-art DVD drives max out at 40X and 24X, respectively. Burning an entire 700MB of audio on CD-R at 52X takes about three and a half minutes, compared to just less than six minutes at 42X. That might not sound like much of a difference, but if you're churning out handfuls of CDs every day, the extra speed can add up to a serious time savings.
Despite the continuing surge in DVD drive sales and the fevered expectations for double-layer technology, we think that fast, inexpensive, scrappy CD-RW burners have some life left in them yet--at least until the price of DVD burners (and media) comes down. Our advice: If you're not really thirsty, don't supersize your soda, and if you're not truly ready to take on the exorbitant practice of burning DVDs, don't buy a DVD burner. A cheap and speedy CD-RW is still the best deal around.
Read the CNET editor's take