Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 160 / JANUARY 1994 / PAGE 130

OmniCD. (CD-ROM drive) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes

Why are CD-ROM discs so great? They hold tons of data. Why are they so bad? They're s ... I ... o ... w. And I mean really slow. The average CD-ROM drive has an access time of 350 ms while the average IDE hard disk has an access time of about 15 ms. When it comes to throughput, the average CD-ROM drive moves data at about 150K per second, while most modern hard disks pump info at 1MB or more per second.

How do you make a CD-ROM drive faster? The best way is to double its speed, and that's just what Creative Labs has done with the OmniCD. Instead of moving data at the 150K rate of single-speed drives, it doubletimes data at 300K per second. The OmniCD isn't the only double-speed drive available, but it's one of the least expensive. And it's completely compatible with The Multimedia PC Marketing Council's recently released Level 2 Specification, which calls for a 16-bit sound card and a double-speed drive.

Installing the OmniCD is painless. If you have a Sound Blaster Pro or ASP 16, the CD interface is already built into your sound card. So you just plug the drive's control and audio cables into the card, plug a power connector into the drive, and install the CD drivers, and you're in business.

If you have another brand of sound card or no sound card, the OmniCD comes with its own dedicated interface card. It's worth mentioning that Creative Lab's CD uses a proprietary interface rather than the industry-standard SCSI.

There are several goodies packaged with the OmniCD. First, the drive is Photo CD compatible. Included in the package is a special version of Aldus PhotoStyler, one of the best bitmap graphics editors around. You'll also find several utilities, including CD Player, which makes playing audio CDs easy.

After installing the OmniCD, the first thing you're likely to notice is that it doesn't use a standard CD caddy. Caddies are a pain, and I'm glad that the OmniCD and several other second-generation CD drives are opting for the caddyless design.

"All this is great," I hear you say, "but how fast is it?" Well, as you'd expect, it's about twice as fast as a regular drive but feels even faster. The difference between using the OmniCD and a single-speed drive is dramatic. With the OmniCD, images snap onto the screen, full-motion video sequences are suddenly fluid, and searches are quicker. Everything is easier and more enjoyable.

After using the OmniCD for about a month, I can't find a single thing to complain about. In fact, the only negative is that it doesn't use a SCSI interface. But even that's something of a virtue, because its proprietary interface makes it compatible with the zillions of Sound Blaster Pro and ASP cards already out there. At $299, this is a deal that's hard to beat.

Creative Labs

(408) 428-6600 $299

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