HP unveils CD-RW drives

Citing the growing trend of computer users downloading music from the Internet and then creating their own CDs, Hewlett-Packard Co. has unveiled six new CD-Rewritable drives.

Dubbed the HP CD-Writer line, the drives let you create your own CDs containing music, photos, or computer data. HP expects to ship the drives Sept. 1, and they range in price from an entry-level US$199 to a high-end $399.

CD-RW drives let you create audio CDs or CD-ROMs on CD-R media, and with CD-RW media, you can also create rewritable discs–which function much like a super-size floppy disk.

HP’s high-end drives, the CD-Writer 9600si and 9600se, will use the SCSI interface and provide maximum write speeds of 12X for CD-R and 8X for CD-RW, and CD-ROM reads up to 32X. The drives will cost $349 for the 9600si internal version and $399 for the 9600se external. HP’s basic software bundle includes MyCD CD-R mastering software and Adaptec’s Direct CD 3.01 packet writing software. HP also throws in a backup application, labeling software, and a media player.

For those who want comparable performance in a more affordable internal IDE model, HP offers its $299 CD-Writer 9510i and 9500i. They are the same drive in different software-bundle configurations. The 9510i is a retail version that–aside from HP’s basic bundle–will come with the Broderbund Multimedia Organizer. The 9500i comes with Corel Print Office and will be found only through the reseller channel.

In its desire to fit every need and budget, HP steps down the performance and the price a bit with its $249 9350i and 9340i internal IDE models, which will write CD-R at up to 10X, write CD-RW at up to 4X, and will still read CD-ROMs at up to 32X.

The $199 9150i and 9140i internal IDE models are entry-level drives that will offer 8X CD-R, 4X CD-RW, and 23X CD-ROM read speeds.

The 8230e and 8220e models are designed for users who need portability and the easiest possible installation. These $249 Universal Serial Bus interface models sacrifice performance, however, writing CD-R and CD-RW at a maximum of 4X, and reading CD-ROMs at only 6X.

HP’s new drives offer features similar to those of other recently announced CD-RW drives. In June, Plextor introduced its PlexWriter 12/10/32A drive, which, like HP’s, sports 12X write and 32X read speeds, but bests HP with a 10X rewrite and is a Best Buy on PCWorld.com’s “Top 5 CD-RW Drives.” Ricoh also has announced a drive with similar specifications to Plextor’s.

Other CD-RW drives, however, lag behind HP’s fastest new devices. Yamaha’s fastest drives offer 8X write, 8X rewrite, and 24X read speeds.