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October 02, 2003|By Kevin E. Washington

Combo drive from Samsung has plenty of speed to burn

Speed counts when you're burning a bunch of CD-Rs of holiday or special event pictures for family and friends. I've been moving at 16X for about two years - daunted by the price of faster CD-writing drives.

But the time has come to upgrade and the Samsung SM-352 Combo Drive ($80) is an excellent investment if your computer needs a new burner to take the place of the old 8X or 16X burners that were state of the art shortly after the last millennium ended. Once installed with the Ahead Nero Burning ROM software, you'll be able to crank out 800, 700 and 650 megabyte CD-Rs at 52X speed. CD-RWs can be burned at 24X.

Samsung provides a first-rate product - because it not only burns CDs, but also reads DVDs at 16X. While I've got a DVD reader on my laptop, I didn't think much about getting one for my desktop because it sits in the same room as my DVD player and television. But it has come in handy when I've had a DVD that requires a computer to open up little goodies included with a movie.

The 352 reads DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM formats. Cyberlink PowerDVD 4.0 XP comes bundled with the device.

The 352 was bundled with Nero burning software. Nero worked well, performing as well as Click and Burn, my favorite burning software.

Buffer underrun technology (including an 8 megabyte buffer) helps to make sure that you won't end up with CDs carrying no information. In three weeks of burning several hundred CDs during tests, we never got a bad CD. But we also used some of the better 52X CD-Rs on the market. Burn times on 700 megabyte CD-Rs were under 2 1/2 minutes. If using 32X or 48X CD-Rs, you'll be limited to those burn speeds.

The Samsung requires a 400 Mhz Pentium II running Windows 98 or later with 128 megabytes of RAM.

Information: 800-726-7864 or www.samsungusa.com.

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