This article is from the Macintosh hardware FAQ, by Elliotte Rusty Harold firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
There are three features you should look for in a CD-ROM drive. First
and most importantly you want at least a double-speed drive. If cost
is your only concern single speed drives are available for less than
one hundred dollars, but they're painfully slow for most applications.
You'll also sacrifice many other bells and whistles. Triple-speed drives
ar available for less than $200 from many sources and may be useful if
you mainly retrieve text, graphics and other data files from CDs.
However most multimedia applications and games designed to be run
from a CD are optimized to work best at double-speed and will gain
little if any advantage from a triple-speed drive. Quadruple speed
drives are also available for $200 and up. Most manufacturers and
software vendors are jumping straight to the quadruple speed format
and will skip the triple speed drives completely. Thus for maximum
compatibility with future applications (and for some more speed now)
consider spending the extra money for a quad-speed drive. Sextuple
speed drives are also available, but like the triple speed drives this
format will probably be an interim format unsupported by most
publishers. Further down the road the next big jump will probably be
to either 20-speed drives or to quad speed drives that can also write
CDs or both. However these won't become real consumer-priced items
until at least summer 1996 so by all means buy a CD-ROM drive now if
you haven't already.
Secondly the drive should be "multi-session, PhotoCD compatible."
Some drives on the market advertised as "PhotoCD compatible" but can
only read the first set of photos on a PhotoCD.
Finally you want a drive with excellent audio capabilities including
playback of audio CD's and digital copying of audio CD's to your hard
disk. That last capability is the kicker. It's available out of the
box only with the various versions of the Apple CD-300 and CD-600,
but FWB's CD-ROM Toolkit adds support for digital audio extraction on
drives based around the following mechanisms: the Chinon 535, Compaq
CR-503BCQ, NEC CDR 400, 500, 501 and 900, Sony CDU-55S, 561, 561SUNCD,
75S, 76S and 920S, Plextor PX-43CH, 45CH, 43CS, 45CS, 63CS and 65CS,
the Toshiba 3301, 3401, 3501, 3601, 4100, 4101, the Yamaha CDR-100
and possibly others.