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Unpacking & Installation

I love retail boxes. For your dough, you get a large, well-protected enclosure that floats the drive inside so careless handling upsets the unit as little as possible. This was not some hardware thrown into a static bag with peanuts. After removing the drive itself, a whole lot of goodies fell out of the box. The retail package includes not one but two manuals: the first is how to install the drive ad nauseum, while the second is the typical "quickie" guide. If IDE CD-ROM installation eludes you, please examine the full installation manual as everything is explained in pains taking detail. A dual device IDE cable fell out, as did an audio cable. Watch out for a tiny package containing 4 mounting screws. Retail boxes cost more and you get more--nice package.

Ever fling one of those jumper thingies across the room and then search for an hour with no success? An increasing trend and a very welcome one at that, is supplying "tailed" jumpers instead of the slippery and nearly impossible to grab standard kind. When I instinctively lunged for the toolbox to nab a pair of needle nose pliers, I discovered that my energy was spent in vain. Somebody has come up with a great modification. Although not brand new, Iíve personally only seen these green, plier-less jumpers appear on various gear during the last 90 days.

The 72Xíer slid into the only free 5-1/4" slot available in my testing ATX case. It fit quite nicely under the Plextor SCSI Combo. All tests reflect the Kenwood being plugged into the Primary IDE ATA33 cable as a secondary device only to the Maxtor 7200 RPM hard drive. My drive was born in September of 1999 and had firmware revision 208E.

Drive Impressions

The BM6 motherboard BIOS identified the DMA capable device as Kenwood CD-ROM UCR-421--so far so good. Then I was in for the shock of my CD-ROM testing life. I ejected the tray, plopped in my monthly 650MB backup CD-R and ran Erik Deppeís CDSpeed99. I watched and listened. The graph began to trace the transfer rate curve, but something was amiss. I never heard the drive spool up and I certainly wasnít hearing it running now. A quick glance partially ended my disbelief-the drive was indeed running. It made no noise whatsoever. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch Öyou get the idea. I frowned slightly when I saw the slower than expected transfer rate, averaging about 22X, but wait. I get ahead of myself here. Quickly, I slipped in a slightly shorter (625MB) CD-R of the same TDK brand. Whoosh! Well, not exactly. The familiar 10-15K rpm spinup never happened. I think I heard some noise, but I canít be sure. The CDSpeed99 graph told the rest of the story. Topping a whopping 65X average transfer rate, the Kenwood silently went about it work, and I raised my eyebrows all the way up to my receding hairline.

 

I threw every relevant CD I had in this machine. 74 minute TDK & Maxell CD-Rís burned at 2X, 4X, and 8X on Ricoh, Panasonic, and Plextor burners. I even plopped in two ringers: a generic overburned 80+ minute no-name brand audio CD and my only copy coded commercial audio CD. The overburned CD was made with the Plextor 820 writer and the copy coded commercially pressed audio CD is Jean Michel Jarreís Jarre Logic from 1998. The Kenwood is the only CD reader that was capable of ripping audio from the Jarre disc. Not even the Pioneer 10X DVD nor the Plextor 40X Max could extract error free audio wav files; the 72X was a first in this area.

I do not own nor do I know of anyone personally that has CD-RW discs. Considering the cost, up to ten times higher, it seems to be a waste of time, what with reformatting and generally low reads speeds (rarely above 20X I hear). Therefore, tests with any CD-RW media were not performed. This may or may not have changed my opinion of this drive. Rest assured that if any CD-RW media finds its way to Ohio, I will quickly amend the review.

If youíve been brave enough to do a web search for other reviews regarding this CD-ROM, you may have questions about its reliability. Reliability must be qualified. If UPS or FedEx decides to play fork truck lift hockey with their shipment, or if the sensitive unit is dropped onto a hard surface, Iím fully convinced that the focus of all those 7 beams could easily shift enough to make the unit inoperable. As with all newer, more fragile technology, extra care must be taken to ensure continued reliable operation. No one would expect a hard drive, after being dropped 2 feet onto concrete, to work and you should expect likewise from the Kenwood. Donít manhandle this gem. If this unit goes *poof* at some later date, Iíll post an addendum to that effect.






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