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Optical Drive Performance Trends

CD-ROM performance has enjoyed a steady increase from 1X in 1991 to 32X in 1997. Despite DVD's debut in 1997 at 1X speed (equivalent to 8x CD speed), the majority of consumers are still choosing the faster CD-ROM drives over DVD.

DVD has not taken off as quickly as many had predicted last year. In fact most research firms that are following the CD/DVD-ROM market have substantially revised their predictions regarding DVD adoption for 1998 and 1999, to predict a healthy continued growth for CD.

Another prevailing conception is that the industry as a whole has reached a transfer rate which has "capped out" at 32X. The reality is that not only has the ceiling not yet been acheived, but the preponderance of drives in the market today do not live up to their advertised "X ratings". Conventional CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) drives, which comprise the bulk of models on the market today, allow for a maximum speed of 32X or higher, but on the outermost tracks. Data read from the inner tracks of a disk, where most of today's software is located, is read at a mere 12-16X. For this reason, there has been significant amount of negative press and analyst reaction.

"They..(32X drives) generally obtain the 32X speed only on a disc's outer tracks---which is why manufacturers rate the drives as, for example, 14/32X. There's a catch, however: Data rarely fills the outer tracks, so drives rarely read 32X."

- PC World, February, 1998

"PC vendors are shipping 16X drives not because they're faster but because they want buyers to think so! More honest (drive makers) label theirs '16X Max'. Forget a CD-ROM's X rating. A drive's advertised speed doesn't always reflect its true performance."

- PC Computing, June 1997

"For those with the need for speed, an ATAPI 24X speed CD-ROM is the only antidote, right? Wrong! While manufacturers push these potent peripherals like street vendors hustling swag- hyping quality and wielding fancy terminology- these 24X drives don't deliver."

- boot magazine, October 1997

"If you're expecting a 24X drive to give you double the performance of a 12X drive, think again. In fact, none of the beta-model drives we tested lived up to expectations."

- Windows Magazine, November 1, 1997



CD-ROM Market


CD-ROM performance and sales have enjoyed significant growth over the past 10 years, with an estimated 195 million plus CD-ROM drives installed worldwide, according to a recent report by InfoTech Research. The installed base of CD-ROM will peak after the year 2000. However, CD will continue to dominate the CD/DVD-ROM market until after the year 2002.

DVD-ROM Market

The DVD-ROM market has gained popularity, with most consumer electronics manufacturers promising to support DVD. However, deployment has been slow and will not likely ramp up until more DVD titles are available towards the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999. At year-end 1997, there were a mere 60 DVD-ROM titles, as compared to 46,000 CD-ROM titles in print, according to the InfoTech report.


CD-ROM prices have consistently decreased while performance has only marginally increased, leveling off at 32X, which is really only 14-17X on average. Zen TrueX enabled CD-ROM drives will significantly boost performance, extending the usefulness of CD-ROM technology for many years. Zen will also apply TrueX technology to increase the performance of DVD products.

Narrowing the Gap Between Storage Devices

Zen TrueX technology addresses transfer rate and access times that currently limit CD-ROM on today's PC's. Reading and processing two tracks simultaneously doubles the transfer rate. Reading ten tracks increases the rate tenfold - that's over 6Mbytes/sec at 4x speed, for example.

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