Panasonic – 650MB 24-speed SCSI PD/CDROM drive review

combined CD/removable storage drive
Photo of Panasonic – 650MB 24-speed SCSI PD/CDROM drive
£250 + VAT. 650MB PD cartridges: £20 + VAT

With DVD-RAM now one of the most over-hyped and delayed technologies in the history of the PC, users impatient for low-cost, high-capacity removable storage devices are looking elsewhere. If you’re one of those users, you could do worse than consider this new drive from Panasonic.

Panasonic’s range of PD drives has been steadily expanding over the last few years, with internal EIDE drives, a compact, external parallel port drive and now this latest internal SCSI-2 unit. What they all share is the PD mechanism, which uses optical phase-change technology to store 650MB of data on inexpensive, single-sided cartridges. PD has its advantages when compared to other types of removable storage device, but also some disadvantages. It is not quite as fast as Iomega’s Jaz drive, for example, which is based on magnetic media, but is more robust and quieter in operation. The cartridges are physically larger than many of the competing technologies, but cheaper in terms of cost per megabyte.

In addition to its PD capabilities, this drive also acts as a 24-speed CAV (constant angular velocity) CDROM drive, capable of transferring data at rates up to 3,600KB/sec, which is about three times faster than the PD mechanism. Seek times are roughly the same for both types of media, at around 90ms.

Software drivers are provided for most major operating systems, with a version of CorelSCSI supplied for Windows 95 users. Once installed, these drivers add two drive letters to the operating system; one for the PD mechanism and one for the CDROM drive. You can’t use both at the same time, though, as the drive’s tray will only hold one type of media at a time. If you were after a drive with which to back up your CDs, therefore, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But for backing up vital data from a hard drive, for archiving little-used data or for adding extra storage capacity to a PC with a brimming hard drive, this is an effective and convenient solution. All the more so since Panasonic claims that its DVD-RAM drives will be able to read PD cartridges.

Panasonic includes a copy of Seagate Backup Exec (which is a decent backup tool for Windows users) with the drive, along with the necessary drive installation screws and cables, but no PD cartridges.

Company: Panasonic

Contact: 0845 600 3535

Whether the 24-speed CDROM mechanism is really that much faster than the existing 8-speed models is debatable, but this latest PD drive adds the convenience (for corporate users) of a SCSI-2 interface and performs well, adding backup/archiving capabilities to a PC without consuming an extra drive bay.