The era of CD-ROM drives is rapidly drawing to a close. Many manufacturers have ceased production of CD-ROM drives, particularly ATAPI models, to concentrate instead on producing CD writers and DVD-ROM drives, although first-rate drives made by companies such as Hitachi, Panasonic, and Toshiba are likely to remain in limited distribution for some time. Most of the ATAPI CD-ROM drives still being produced are third-rate products made by Pacific Rim manufacturers, and should be avoided. DVD-ROM drives read CDs, so for most systems a DVD-ROM drive and/or a CD-RW drive is a better and more flexible choice than a CD-ROM drive. One stronghold of CD-ROM drives remains, however, because the best CD-ROM drives provide superior speed and quality for digital audio extraction and duplicating CDs. Here are the CD-ROM drives we recommend:
None. For entry-level systems and undemanding applications, use an ATAPI DVD-ROM drive. For mainstream systems, install an ATAPI DVD-ROM drive and an ATAPI CD-RW drive, or a combination ATAPI DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. See Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 for more information.
Plextor UltraPleX 40X. Plextor makes the best SCSI CD-ROM drives, bar none. In addition to being the fastest drives available, Plextor drives are built like tanks and provide faster and higher-quality DAE than any other drives we know of. The PX-40TSi UltraPleX 40max supports 20 MB/s burst-mode UltraSCSI transfers, provides true 24X DAE with bit-by-bit accuracy, and is a superb source drive for duplicating CDs. The Plextor PX-40TSUWi UltraPleX 40X Wide drive is the same drive, but with a Wide UltraSCSI (40 MB/s) interface. Both of these models are available in external versions at a slightly higher price. If extracting high-quality digital audio quickly or duplicating CDs perfectly is important to you, it's worth installing a SCSI host adapter and a Plextor SCSI CD-ROM drive (http://www.plextor.com).
For updated recommendations, visit: http://www.hardwareguys.com/picks/cdrom.html.