Ricoh Unveils 10X Rewritable CD-RWs

SAN FRANCISCO (05/17/2000) - CD-Rewritable technology is picking up speed with an announcement Monday by Ricoh Co. of drives and discs capable of up to 10X rewrite speeds. But there's a catch: The new discs won't always work in existing CD-RW drives.

The 10X rewrite speed is impressive, as the fastest rewrite speed of current CD-RW drives is 4X. Even if the drives could write faster, currently available 4X-rated CD-RW media wouldn't permit it.

Ricoh expects to ship the new drives and discs by late June, but details such as model numbers, the maximum speed ratings for CD-R writes and CD-ROM reads, and specific pricing is not yet available, says Takayuki Kuroshima, marketing and business development manager for Ricoh's DMS-C division.

Expect to pay a premium, though. Kuroshima predicts the new drives will debut priced at about $400.

Today's current CD-RW discs usually cost $1 to $2 each; the new discs will probably cost about $4 each. In addition to technology improvements that will push up drive prices, the new discs include a more expensive material that enables the higher rewrite speeds, he says.

Because of the higher costs, the new drives probably won't appeal to people who use their PCs to burn audio discs, he says. Instead, the faster rewrite speeds are targeted at people who use CD-RW to frequently back up important business information or for software development.

Compatibility Problems

The new drives and discs will follow the latest CD-RW standard, called the Orange Book Part III, Volume 2, Version 1.0, he says. The new version supports rewrite speeds of 4X to 10X; the previous standard (Volume 1, Version 2) supports rewrite speeds of 1X to 4X.

The new discs will support rewrite speeds of 4X, 6X, 8X, and 10X, but they will not work in today's CD-RW drives--even those that bear a 4X CD-RW rating, Kuroshima says. Some customers may be able to install a downloadable firmware upgrade necessary to make their drives work with the new discs, but others will not. Users need to check with their drive vendor for details.

To help avoid confusion, discs that work in today's 1X to 4X drives will likely be labeled as "conventional" and the new discs that work with 4X to 10X drives will be called "high-speed," he says.

There's currently an effort by some to eliminate the 4X designation from the new disc's packaging, to read only 6X to 10X. That would help eliminate some confusion, he says.

Ricoh is only the latest vendor to announce drives and discs supporting faster CD-RW speeds. Yamaha expects to begin shipping by late May new drives and discs that offer 8X rewrite speeds.

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