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The Mitsumi 48X IDE CD-ROM Revisited

Mitsumi has somewhat of an image problem. In the era of CD-ROM drives up to the 24X speed range, Mitsumi's worked, but they were lousy at Digital Audio Extraction (DAE). When the 32X'ers hit the shelves, that problem was solved as the DAE in the 32X and 40X drives was fast enough to handle being fed to 8X writers. In my previous CD-ROM roundup (Sept. '99), I compared the older and soon to be out-of-production 40X unit to the then unofficially released 48X model. Six months later, has Mitsumi still "got the goods" or have they gone back to the 24X days, when DAE performance was poor?

48X Versus 48X
Factory Specifications
The CD-ROM
  • 48X Max Data Transfer Rate
  • 75 mS Access Time
  • 128 KB Buffer
  • 100,000 MTBF
  • ATAPI IDE Interface
  • Vertical Or Horizontal Mounting
  • 1 Year Warranty

The original 48X unit had a model number of 4820T, was manufactured in June '99 and had a firmware revision of VD02A. The newest member has a model number of 4824T, was manufactured in Feb. '00 and has a firmware revision of VQ01E. All other specifications remain the same as the older model.

General Impressions

After the easy IDE hookup, the drive was detected and the 10,000+ rpm spoolup was heard. Unlike many other high speed drives, this motor only emitted a very pure, clean whooshing fan-like noise. At no time did typical high speed gear-grinding noises come from the 5.25" bay. This is not a quiet drive, but it's not a nasty, noisy drive either. The motor noise was almost soothing it was so clean.

In the past, I have been partial to CD-ROM drives that arrive without two front panel function buttons. Specifically, the addition of the play/track advance button has given me many a headache. For some reason, drives that can play an audio disc without the IDE cable just love to spontaneously play them just when the phone rings. On many an occasion, I had to disable the auto insert notification for the offending drive to keep my sanity. From the days of the 2X Mitsumi drives, I've never seen one with this additional button, only the eject/insert button.

Data Extraction

Using Erik Deppe's CDSpeed, we can see that no matter what Data disc I fed this drive, it read it perfectly and at maximum speed. Usually, I've found that even the almighty Plextors slow down to an average transfer rate of 24X when tackling discs larger than 630 MB. That fact alone automatically places the 4824T in an elite list of CD-ROM readers that was previously occupied by the Pioneer 10X DVD (40X CD-ROM) and the now discontinued Mitsumi 40X. When the seek tests were running, I heard a difficult to describe sound. Suffice it to say that the seek tests must be a little off; however, the Mitsumi did appear to have strikingly fast track search times. To my ears, the random seek time of 34 mS (which is astonishly low) seemed about right as the laser motor squeaked from track to track.

Audio Extraction

Ugh! Just when I thought that the engineers had possibly looked into the lousy DAE performance of the 4820T, my anticipation grew as the audio graph drew itself. Bummer! My heart sank, similar to the really, really lousy audio extraction performance--or should I say, the lack thereof.

The seek times are still a mystery. I've never witnessed such strange numbers. Surely the Mitsumi can't possibly have a full seek time of only 3 mS. Still, judging by the extremely quick laser head motor sounds, I could be convinced that this 48X'er has the quickest seek times I've ever experienced. When playing Quake 2/3 with the CD music engaged, the SCSI Plextor 40X has an annoying delay that halts gameplay dead for a split second--well, about 80-90 mS anyway. The 4824T had no such lag. The music could switch tracks instantaneously. As the announcer's voice in Quake 3 says, "Impressive."

Conclusion

For data transfer rates, this 48X model soars past the competition up to nearly double it's $39 web price. The non-audio performance is in a rare class of drives, beit SCSI or IDE. DAE is a totally different matter. Only acceptable for paring with 2X CD-R's, I cannot recommend this unit for audio enthusiasts, unless you'd be willing to wait--and wait--and wait for the extraction process to conclude. Overall, mostly due to the tremendous Mitsumi reliability and readability of data CD's, I strongly recommend the 4824T for most replacement and mission critical applications.

William Yaple
04/09/00





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