It really sounds like you got 2 lemons! It's possible, considering that when you purchase ANYTHING from Best Buy and the like...that the drive does get knocked around. When I returned my first drive...I searched the shelves for a box that wasn't dented. There were two out of 10 drives on the shelf. These guys at Best Buy and the like don't give a &^%$ about what they do to the materials when they are stocking the shelves. I even asked for the Manager of the store and showed him what the boxes on the shelf looked like. They throw this stuff around. You can imagine what slamming the box around can do to the drive itself. Misaligning the lasers, etc. However...you are having the same exact problem on two different drives...the odds are slim that both were damaged in the same way. To put into a second system and have the same exact problem is puzzling. Once I got my second drive...everything was much better. I can burn at 48X. ..depending on the media I am using. If you get a chance...go to http://www.cdspeed2000.com/
and get the latest version. Try all different types of media and see what CD speed says. You never know.