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Review of the Actima A44T 44X CD-ROM Drive

I usually use Acer CD-ROM drives, but last week the vendor I was placing an order with didn't have any.  At his recommendation, I bought a couple of 44X CD-ROM drives made by Actima, a Taiwanese company I never heard of before.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of these drives.

The A44T is well-packaged in attractive retail box which includes everything needed to install the drive except an IDE cable to connect it to a secondary IDE port, which is typical.  The other potential installation problem is the audio cable.   It has identical four-pin connectors on both ends (see picture) and they may not be compatible with older sound cards.  Also in the box is a DOS driver disk, mounting screws, and a fairly good, albeit brief User's Manual in English, German, Spanish, French, and Chinese.  The manual is printed on good quality paper, includes diagrams of the front and back of the drive, hardware and software installation instructions, and a few trouble-shooting Q&A's.

The A44T has a hefty "feel."  It weighs about 2.2 Lbs, has CD drawer which is a little more solid than some of the flimsier ones I've seen on drives lately.  The CD door is integral to the drawer and has a gasket around the inside edge to keep out dust and to keep in sound.  The eject and play buttons on the front have a solid tactile feel, like those on a high-quality calculator.  The volume control is firm without any wobble.

The only installation problem I had when installing these drives in two computers over the last few days was caused by the audio cable.  One of the computers had an old SoundBlaster and no CD-ROM input receptacles compatible with the plug on the cable.  It was no big problem for me because I have a big box of all sorts of audio cables in my shop, but it will be a problem to some buyers.  Other than that, installation was really simple in both cases.  ATAPI driver on the various flavors of the Windows 98 Startup Disk recognizes the drive and brings it up for a quick Win 98 installation on a new system.  After installing 98, I installed the drivers provided on the Actima floppy by F8ing at boot-up to bring up the DOS prompt and typing a:install.  Windows 95 and 98 will then detect  the drive.  With this procedure, the CD-ROM is also available when booting directly to the DOS prompt.

OPERATION.  This drive is fast and quite.  Although, you can hear the drive spin-up, it is very quite compared to others I've seen (heard).   You would think that one could work-out a proportionality between a 44X drive and a 36X drive and the 44X drive would be 22% faster.  Such is not the case.   Nor is a 36X drive 50% faster than a 24X drive.  These speeds are maximum speeds, not average data transfer speeds.  Actually, the A44T is about 8.5% faster than an Acer CD-936E/AKU 36X UDMA 33 drive.  The A44T moves 104 MBytes to a Western Digital UDMA 33 drive in 43 seconds in a computer with a 400 Mhz K6-2 and 64 Mbytes of memory--that's fast.  The 36X Acer drive moves the same data in the same machine in 47 seconds--that's also fast.  So, all of these X's don't mean a whole lot once a CD-ROM has a UDMA interface and is 36X or greater.

FEATURES

  • 44X maximum speed
  • ATAPI/E-IDE interface
  • Digital and analog sound outputs
  • DOS, Windows 3.X/95/98/NT and OS/2 Warp compatible
  • Complies with MPC III standard
  • Supports PIO Mode 4 and UDMA 33
  • Handles both 8 cm and 12 cm CD's
  • Emergency manual eject
  • Auto-speed switching for different disc formats
  • Multi-read capable
  • Data transfer rate: 6,600 KB/sec maximum (which doesn't mean a whole lot either)
  • Average access time: 100 ms (typical)

Actima also has  a 50X version and CD-R/W drives.

Larry

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