Panasonic 562 CD-ROM
by Alan Zisman (c)
1993. First published
in Our Computer Player, October 15, 1993
Panasonic 562 Double Speed CD-ROM player
GMS Datalink Intl. Corp.
8282 Sherbrooke Street
Vancouver V5X 4R6
Like everything else in the computer hardware world,
CD-ROMs are a moving
target. Last year's high-end technology becomes this year's
We've seen it in desktop computers, where the 486 chip
is now the entry-
level. And in notebooks where 486s and colour screens are suddenly
affordable, and seemingly everywhere... quicked than I can write
CD-ROM drives have been hampered by slow speed...
than hard drives. And for many multimedia applications, where you're
to pump large amounts of data from the CD-ROM disk, through the CPU,
the screen, this can become annoying. Try watching a video clip...
it's in a tiny on-screen window. Now how do you feel when the sound
action break up... pausing, and then racing to catch up, or worse yet,
out of sync?
Last year, NEC released a double-speed player. This
ran at standard
audio CDs (otherwise music would all sound like Alvin and the
but ran twice as fast for CD-ROMs. This doubled the data-transfer rate,
the multimedia standard of 150 kbs per second, to around 300 kb/sec.
result is dramatic... programs start up faster, and on-screen video
Other companies, notably Toshiba, and UAC/Texel
quickly came out with
speed models of their own. But consumers were forced to pay more for
enhancement... these drives could cost as much double the price of
single speed drives.
Japan's giant Matsushita, better known by its North
is changing that. It has released a number of double speed drives that
available at little more than the cost of a single speed model, just
I recently got a chance to look at their model 526.
This is an internal,
bus CD-ROM player, which carries a list price of $500 CDN, but is being
locally for around $350.
It installed quickly and easily into my computer. As
an internal model,
required an open 5 1/4" drive bay, which may not be available in some
cases. After a simple software installation, it started right up...
for a couple of minor glitches.
-- there is no indication on the interface card which
way to hook up
cable. Oh well, I thought... if it doesn't work, I can simply reverse
got it right the first time, but that's just luck.
-- the software came on a 3 1/2" disk only, and
insists on running on
B:, which is my 5 1/4" drive. Easy enough to copy onto a 360k floppy.
it work on a computer with a single floppy drive? Yes... in that case,
could insert the disk, type B:, and then install. Like the first minor
problem, this is not clearly spelled out in the brief documentation.
A good point, though, is that SoundBlaster owners can
run this drive
off their audio card, saving a slot.
The unit has an eject button, which smoothly slides
the CD-tray out.
t make use of disk caddies, those plastic see-through cases for the
some other units require. This has a good and a bad side. The caddies
expensive, and ideally you'd have one for each disk, to minimize
Still, in high-traffic settings, such as workplaces, schools, or
d rather have my disks protected in caddies, rather than risk
fingers gumming up the works.
As well, the player has a headphone jack and volume
control on the front,
standard audio RCA output jacks on the back. Simple and standard.
And that's about it... the unit performs as
advertised, with the promised
double-speed. All these units, regardless of manufacturer, provide
similar performance. As an AT-bus unit, you don't get the potential
of chaining multiple SCSI add-ins together in a single chain. On the
hand, you also don't have the potential hassles that many people still
to find, running SCSI on a PC.
Rumour has it that the competition is about to release
triple and even
quadruple speed CD-ROM players. As always, when these are released,
be at a premium price. For now, though, the Panasonic 562 is about
as good as
it gets, for the price.