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Panasonic unveils 12x CD-ROM changer.

Panasonic Computer Peripheral Company (PCPC) has announced that it has increased the speed of its Big 5 internal five-disc CD-ROM changer to 12x speed. According to the company, the new 12x Big 5 is the fastest and highest-capacity half-height changer on the market. Two versions, each of which is designed to fit in a standard drive bay, are available: an EIDE model and a SCSI-2 model.

Aimed at the growing number of multimedia computer users who access multiple CD-ROMs, the 12x Big 5 lets users load and access up to five discs with an average data transfer rate of 12x, the company claims. The new changer includes software for automatic disc switching and management, allowing users to access data from multiple CD-ROMs, such as databases, encyclopedias, and business applications. Previous versions of the Big 5 have won several awards, including PC Computing's 1996 MVP, PC Magazine's Editors' Choice (1/7/97), and PC World's "5 Star" rating (4/97).

"The 12x Big 5 gives users a new level of convenience and a speed that rivals even the best single disc drives," said John Gawa, division manager, PCPC Multimedia Systems Division. "Users can now have five CD-ROMs available at the click of a mouse and switch easily between spreadsheet, presentation, database, audio CDs, and game applications."

For simple disc management, Panasonic's Disc Director software is included with each drive. Disc Director detects when a disc has been inserted or removed and displays a CD-ROM as an icon, making it easy for users to keep track of discs. The software's automatic disc-switching feature recognizes when one disc is finished and immediately seeks the next. Also, using the AutoPlay feature, users can click on an icon to switch CDs in 5 seconds or less.

The 12x Big 5 also includes SmartCD Manager from Smart Storage, a handy Windows 95 taskbar software utility that allows the user to simply click on the SmartCD icon on the Windows taskbar to select the desired disc. SmartCD Manager also supports disc management. Audio CDs and data discs with cryptic volume names can be easily relabeled with names meaningful to the end user.

"With an increasing number of applications requiring the CD-ROM to be loaded to run the application, this product has broad appeal," said Tim Meyerhoff, product manager, PCPC Multimedia Systems Division. "The Big 5 can significantly reduce frustration by making the CD freely accessible at all times."

For audio playback, a user-friendly CD player interface turns the changer into a true CD jukebox. Using the interface, users can program individual to play random or programmed selections from all five discs.

Discs are inserted into the Big 5 using the same familiar loading procedure as a single-disc CD-ROM drive. A tiny window with five horizontal slots displays the disc in use. By pressing one of the five buttons on the face of the unit, a user can easily eject a specific disc. Users who want to tap Window 95's Auto Run feature can use the changer's quick-load capability in which, by pressing and holding one of the external buttons, a disc is automatically loaded and launched.

The drive has an average data transfer rate of 1.8 MB/second, 130-ms access speed, and a 128-KB buffer for smooth video playback and fast access to data. The changer plugs into the system's secondary EIDE controller. The Big 5 is compatible with CD Audio, Video CD (requires MPEG board or software, not included), and Photo CD Multisession formats. In addition, it supports DOS 5.0 and up and Windows 95, NT4.0, and 3.x.

Available for $279, the 12x Big 5 (model SQ-TC512x) includes cables, software, and mounting screws. The SCSI-2 version (model SQ-TC512F) is $389. A 10x version (model SQ-TC510N) has been available since November 1996; a 4x version (model SQ-TC500N) has been available since May 1996. Panasonic backs both changers with a 2-year limited warranty, 24-hour/ 7-day automated technical support (live technical support 9 a.m.-7 p.m. EST), and an exchange program.

Source: Panasonic Communications & Systems Company, Secaucus, NJ, 800/742-8086, 201/348-7000; http://
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Title Annotation:Big 5 internal CD-ROM changer
Publication:Information Today
Date:Jul 1, 1997
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