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MSI CR52 CD Writer Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £28.00

Today CD writers are a commodity item that you get in pretty much every PC bar the very cheapest ones. The time it takes to write a full CD on a modern CD writer is down to a handful of minutes and the latest crop of drives have reached 52-speed. 52-speed equates to 150KB/sec times 52 producing a theoretical limit of 7.8MB per second. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to write this fast, as you need special high-speed media that has not been available until very recently.

I would however not run out and buy a new CD writer if I already owned a 40 or 48-speed drive already as you won’t gain much in terms of performance. However, what is more interesting on some of the latest drives is the ability to write to CD-RW media at 32-speed. This makes it viable to use CD-RW media for fast backups and for anyone that is using CD-RWs for drag and drop style storage this is a great step forward.

CD re-writeable media is something that hasn’t been immensely popular due to the relatively slow speeds. This has all changed now and to fill a CD-RW disc at 32-speed takes around three minutes which is more than acceptable. This also makes CD-RW media a viable alternative to use for MP3 CDs for example. Using CD-RW media you can drag and drop and delete tracks as required.

So where does this place the MSI CR52? Well, in a very good position as it’s rated at 52-speed for writing CD-Rs, 32-speed for writing CD-RW and 52-speed for reading CDs, which makes it one of the fastest CD writers around. But it does have something more on offer than your average CD writer in the form of its interchangeable fascias. These are easy to fit as MSI has devised a clever snap-on design.

MSI refers to the interchangeable fascias as ActivePanel and the supplied ActivePanels come in silver, beige with a blue flap and dark brown with gold trim. These are fairly strange colour combinations apart the silver one which would go well in an aluminium case. It’s a shame that the dark brown and gold ActivePanel wasn’t black, as it would have complemented the current crop of black cases. But these are minor points and it makes a nice change to get the option out of the box to select the look of your optical drive. This is also one of the major selling points of the CR52.

There is however a small snag with the ActivePanels. If you have a case with drive rails of some sort the CR52 might not fit flush against the front of the case since the the ActivePanel sits slightly proud of the drive. But as long as your case can use screws instead of mounting rails this is a non issue.

One other point worth noting is that due to the way the ActivePanel is fitted there is no headphone socket, nor any controls apart from the eject button. This is hardly an issue, but if you want front fascia controls you’ll have to look elsewhere.

It doesn’t stop there however as MSI offers a rich feature set with support for Mt Rainier, SuperLink buffer under run protection and a 2MB buffer, ABS (Anti-Bumping System) vibration protection, SoftBurn noise reduction, and MSI’s MiniForm short drive length. The final feature is the somewhat tackily named MSI Flash Eyes which is the LED behind the eject button on the drive that flashes in different colours and patterns depending on what you are doing. Reading a disc results in a blue LED flashing and in standby it stays lit. When you write a CD the LED changes to green to indicate this. The standard read speed of the drive is set to 40-speed, as this keeps noise and vibration down to a minimum, but by pressing and holding the eject button down for 3 seconds, you can increase it to 52-speed. This is reset when you eject the CD.

None of the features of the CR52 are uncommon in modern CD writers but MSI has included every possible feature you could want. The shortened drive length is especially handy if you’re building a small form factor PC as it gives you an extra centimetre or so of space behind the drive. This makes it easier to fit all your cables in the tight spaces found inside an SFF chassis.

There isn’t much in the box in terms of accessories, but you do get mounting screws, an audio cable and a copy of Nero with InCD, all of which is acceptable but hardly exhilarating. An IDE cable would have been a nice inclusion, but I presume that MSI is trying to keep the cost of the unit down.

In terms of performance, the CR52 is blisteringly fast but as I mentioned earlier, there is little reason to upgrade to a faster drive purely for the speed increase as you’ll only save around 20-30 seconds compared to a 40 or 48-speed drive. However burning a single 700MB file took a mere two minutes and 38 seconds, so if you have an older CD writer you’ll see vast improvements. The remaining tests where performed equally fast and writing a full CD-RW disc took a very reasonable three minutes and nine seconds.

So is the MSI CR52 worth buying? I would say yes, at least if you’re looking for a drive that you can colour match to your case without having to resort to a can of spray paint. The performance is impressive, while the price of £27.60 inc VAT makes it good value as well.


The MSI CR52 is a fast drive that has all the features you could want at a good price. This drive is ideal for those who want to colour coordinate their PC or if you want a bit more room inside your small form factor system.


Trusted Score

Score in detail

  • Value 8
  • Features 8

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