A review of the Panasonic DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive for CF-30 Toughbooks

Page content



This review is for the Panasonic CF-VDR302U DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive that was designed for use in the CF-30 model Toughbook computers. It retails for @ $250 and adds DVD/CD functionality that I think Panasonic should have already made standard equipment on the CF-30’s, especially considering the already high price tag. Even so, if you are in need of a DVD/CD drive for your Toughbook, this is a pretty good option. It is designed to work with both Windows XP and Vista, though I have only used it on machines with XP.

In a nutshell, this drive will let you play DVD movies or read DVD discs, plus it will read or burn CD’s and CD-RW’s. It is not a DVD burner. For what it costs, you’d think it ought to be able to burn DVD’s, but it does not. It will at least still read DVD-RW discs, though it does not support version 1.1 DVD-RW.

Installation (5 out of 5)

Installing the drive is simply plug and play. First, you will need to remove the large plastic stopper inside the drive bay on the left side of the CF-30, then just push this combo drive in place. For your convenience, it features a little pull-out handle to make removal easier. If the computer is already running and you insert this drive, it takes a few seconds to immediately recognize it. If you stick the drive in and then turn the PC on, it doesn’t even show that it recognizes new hardware – it just works. No need to reboot, either. Since I had to install a hundred of these things, I was very pleased by the simple installation.

Performance (3 out of 5)

When you press the button to eject the tray, it just pops out maybe half an inch, then you have a little handle to let you slide the tray out. I have found it best to slide the tray completely out when inserting a CD or DVD, and that’s because it’s easy to catch the disc on the edge of the metal lip inside the drive. It’s a little annoying, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

As far as performance goes, this drive works well but it is pretty noisy. It makes that occasional electronic grinding sound when reading a disc, and it spins up pretty loudly. I suppose it is no worse than any other laptop DVD/CD drive, but it is especially noticeable on the CF-30 since the Toughbook already runs dead quiet. DVD’s will play within a few seconds of loading, and the 2 MB of cache memory help it run a little more efficiently, especially when burning CD’s.

Overall (4 out of 5)

In the end, I think these are pretty decent DVD/CD-RW combo drives, though I also think they are overpriced. I don’t see anything about them that appears to be ruggedized, so the high costs aren’t really justified. I guess since Panasonic has the market cornered on the Toughbooks, they can charge you whatever they want for the internal drives. Your only other option would be to get a cheaper external drive that connects via USB, but that’s not really helpful for field work.

Technical Specifications

  • Read speeds: DVD-ROW (8x), CD-ROM (24x Max)
  • Writing speeds: CD-R (4x-24x), CD-RW (4x)
  • Cache Memory: 2 Megabytes
  • Buffer Underrun Error Prevention: Supported
  • Power Saving: Yes (after 30 seconds)