So everything is turning into everything else. Mobile phones into cameras, cameras into video recorders, PCs into TVs and TVs into PCs. In fact, almost every type of technology now does something beyond its core capability. Yes people, convergence really is upon us. And here to further demonstrate this fact is Gigabyte; soon to release a product that shows us even the humble DVD-ROM drive is not immune to the increasing demand for multi-functionality.
Now looking at the Gigabyte M1600A I have no doubt what is going through your head: car stereo, car stereo, car stereo. Yes, that is what I thought too, and itâ€™s obvious that with the M1600A, Gigabyte has gone for some retro early 80s Knight Rider cool. True, itâ€™s a strange sight to see such a device poking out of your PC case - and the flip front does poke out about half an inch - but itâ€™s not an unpleasant one, and it certainly has an element of the â€œwowâ€ factor about it.
Just like a car stereo too, pressing a button at the top left of the device allows the facia to swing down, automatically opening the drive door behind it. The drive is capable of 16-speed DVD read and 24-speed CD-ROM read, but this unit does not write. This could be seen as a shortcoming, but Gigabyte has obviously positioned the M1600A to go alongside your burner and not to replace it. Besides, the drive itself is actually the most uninteresting part of the whole package, though throughout preliminary testing it was both fast and quiet, whether playing DVDs or ripping CDs and you should be safe in the knowledge it will let no one down with its performance.
Beyond the drive itself, however, is where the real interest lies. What Gigabyte has designed is a self powered drive that can play DVDs, CDs and MP3 CDs without switching the computer on. Of course, there is little point in playing a movie when your graphics card and monitor are off, but there is a built in FM radio for good measure and the whole thing can be controlled by the supplied remote control.
In practice, how Gigabyte has powered the drive is by linking it to a card that mounts in a PCI slot and provides a slot for a 12V AC adaptor. Also on the back of the card is an FM aerial connector and two audio ports to which you must connect your speakers, while an internal cable hooks up to your soundcard. All of this is relatively straight forward and in use, it works very well.
So with the PC turned off, what you have is effectively an advanced Hi-Fi and this is where the LCD on the front of the drive becomes important. Thankfully, the display is large enough to support the two fixed level indicators as well as scroll good sized text across along the bottom and it seems that almost everything you do is greeted by one scrolling message or another.