I know it wasn’t more than a couple of months ago that I read the Taiwanese manufacturers of CD burners and media were leery about going above 48X. And now Asus has released a 52X burner. There’s a very favorable review here.
So now the fastest write speeds have reached parity with the fastest read speeds, which means burning a 650-meg disc (with this drive, at least) takes two and a half minutes. Rewrite speeds are at 24X, which doesn’t sound as impressive, but is very nice.

Not everyone needs this drive. I burn CDs rarely enough that I’m perfectly happy with my 20X unit (in fact, I’ve still got a quarter-spindle of CDs that will only burn at 12X). Personally, I’m more interested in rewrite speeds than in write speeds these days, since most of the stuff I burn is stuff like Linux CDs with a shelf life measured in months. In two years I won’t give a rip about Debian 2.2 or 3.0, so it’s nice to be able to erase and reuse old discs rather than keeping them around, taking up space.

But people’s needs vary. I’m sure some people are very excited about this drive.

Since I keep drives until they either die or are too slow for me use them and keep my sanity anymore (I have a Sony 2X unit and a Yamaha 20x10x40x unit, both in working order, which should tell you something), I’m definitely going to wait for a 52x52x52x unit. Maybe the industry will surprise us with a 56X write speed, but they’re not going to get much higher. At these speeds, the CDs are spinning at 27,500 RPM–nearly twice the speed of the very fastest hard drives on the market. I’ve read about the theoretical possibility of discs shattering at 50x+ speeds, though I’ve never actually seen that. I have seen discs crack though, which is irritating–even more so if you don’t have a backup copy.

I think this market is about to stabilize.