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Are all CDís created equal?
How about all those cheap CD discs?

Dale Swafford is a tight olí codger who tries never to pay full price for anything for his computer. See you at the next CD/DVD Burner Study Group meeting. E-mail Burning questions to Dale.


So, you opened the Sunday paper and noticed the BestBuy weekly sale book had 50 blank data CD-R discs for 99 cents (after rebate). Or another offer of 100 CD-R discs for $10. (after rebate). The uninformed reaction is, must be something wrong with them. Bad thinking!

Can you say ďloss leader?Ē In order to sell their great electronics stuff, they have to get you in the store. To do that, almost all big stores will offer a limited number of fast moving items at a below cost or no profit price after you submit for and receive a rebate. The thinking is simple. They will have the use of your rebate money for two months interest free, they have an opportunity for their salespeople to sell you something else, or that greatest of all games, bait and switch.

But the big payoff is, most folks are too lazy to submit the required paperwork for the rebate. And on occasion, a rebate request will get ďlost in the mailĒ. So, follow the rebate instructions to the letter and make a copy of everything to keep in your suspense file, especially the followup phone number or email site.

Do not try to followup with the store where you bought the item. They have assigned that task to a subcontractor that is listed on the rebate forms and has a followup contact. Usually takes about two months to get your rebate check. A small hassle means big savings. I know, I average about $300 a year on rebates and havenít been stung yet. My wife takes care of it for us, and she is really good at it.

The next concern is ó they must be inferior or bad quality. Letís look at the quality issue. How do you determine the quality of a blank CD disc? Price? Since when has price ever been an indicator of quality of anything to do with a computer? Demand and spin drive prices for computer stuff. You want a hard and fast quality indicator for blank CD discs? Good luck. The only test I know that even approaches being objective, is the BLER (block error rating) test and that is only meaningful when tied to a specific burner. Go to CDRLabs and look at a real test of a new burner. Part of the test is to write different types of CDs on numerous different makes of CDs. Then check the burned CD with the original to see how many blocks were not copied exactly in a finite time period. Remember that rating is only applicable to that disc in that burner.

So is there a difference between the two-cent disc and the $1.50 long term storage disc? Probably is. A real quality indicator is the purity of the polycarbinate. The less impurities in the plastic, the less diffusion of the laser beam, and everything else being equal, the better, more accurate the write to the pits in the dye layer. Also, the quality of the dye should play a part in an accurate write. There is about ten different types of dye used in CD-Rs. Unfortunately, every disc maker considers his blend a proprietary secret though he does have to list the type of dye in the ATIP of every disc made, as well as the company name (which hardly ever is the same as the brand name you buy). You can check to see who made the disc and the type of dye used with the Nero Info Tool and check the certified burn speed of the disc with the LiteOn Smart-Burn Media Check. Currently, there is no purity or dye quality indexes that I have been able to find.

Bottom line ó I buy the cheapest CD-Rs I can find. The two-cent disc has an AT&T logo on it, I guess to give you a feeling of quality. I really like them. They are made by CMC or Prodisc, Taiwan companies that makes about 45% of the billions of discs sold every year. They are certified for 40X burning, but Smart-Burn says they are good to 48X, not that I can burn at that speed anyway. That should mean the quality control is a little tighter for size and balance. So, if you feel better about spending 30 cents or a dollar for a CD-R, go to it and do it. Only donít look at the ATIP to compare data with the sale disc, you just might find itís the same. It just came in a different box or spindle, with the packagerís name on it. As Dennis says, that's only my opinion and I could be wrong.


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