Plextor has gone full bore with their latest CD-R/W drive! They've included every bit of Compact Disc writing technology they have and even turned some software that was typically only available in Europe, into a standard issue item! Dubbed the PlexWriter Premium, this drive boasts their fastest write speeds coupled with the fastest read speed available today. That's 52x RECORD and READ and 32x RE-WRITE! The features list on this drive is very long - and we'll do our best to explain everything as we go along. Some of the alphabet soup I'm about to pour you should be a little familiar because it's largely based on technologies Plextor has implemented in several of the other drives that we've reviewed here at ClubOC. However, there is also an extensive list of features that have been added to this drive exclusively.
● ATAPI (E-IDE) Interface
PlexTools Professional will now be shipped along with all units here in the United States! This is an incredibly useful utility and is required to control the following advanced features of the Plextor PlexWriter Premium.
● GigaRec - Allows High Capacity Storage on a
700MB disc. Increasing the maximum writing capacity by up to 40%
The front of the drive has been spared a large amount of gaudy decoration and is only ornamented with the PlexWriter logo and the single word "Premium" accented with a swish. The standard headphone jack with a volume knob reside on one side leaving the In Use LED, the Open/Close button and the emergency eject button to take up the right side. There is a small logo embossed next to the headphone jack reminding the proud owner that BurnProof technology is in place and working to make sure your recordings are safe.
Installation is only made complex by the jumper block located on the rear of the drive. It has the standard Cable Select/Slave/Master jumper settings along with one extra that controls the DMA interface of the unit. Leaving the jumper removed enables the factory default of Ultra DMA, while installing the jumper lowers the drive to Multiword DMA. Audio out connectors are available in either 4-pin analog or 2 pin digital. As always there is the ever-present/ever-needy IDE connector and a 4-pin Molex power connector.
As I mentioned before, the PlexTools software package has become a very integral part of the hardware package, controlling all of the advanced features such as SecuRec, GigaRec and PowerRec. PlexTools also has all of the basic features that you would expect for a CD mastering program, such as Audio and Data disc creation. Audio CDs can be played in tn the AudioCD Player or "ripped" with the DigitalAudio Extraction tool. The Multimedia Player tool is setup to play a wide variety of multimeida files depending upon which MCI devices are installed on your system. MP3, WAV, AVI, and MID files are just a few examples of the types of files Multimedia player will handle.
Areas that are highlighted in yellow at the bottom of the utilities list are diagnostic and CD quality test routines. PlexTools will recognize any Plextor drive that you have installed in your system when the program starts. However, not all drives have full functionality under PlexTools and most of the test and diagnostic tools only work on the PlexWriter Premium.
Even though Plextor has yet to manufacture a dedicated CD-ROM drive for the ATAPI world, they have made the specifications of their IDE CD-R/W drives very impressive. True to Plextor form is the Digital Audio Extraction rate shown here by Nero CD-SPEED. The Audio Benchmark CD was loaded into the PlexWriter Premium and given the Nero CD Speed Test. Since PlexTools Professional now accompanies the drive, enabling Speed Read is as simple as putting a checkmark in the box. Speed Read will be enabled for both the Audio and Data disc read tests.
Beginning the read at 23x and ending at 52x with an average of 39.43x. The read speed arch (top green line) is nice and solid with a very steady climb. DAE Quality was rated at 10 (no big surprise there.) Seek times are very impressive at: 70ms for Random, 78ms for 1/3 stroke and 124ms for full stroke seeks.
Data speed measurements were almost a mirror image. Seek times differed slightly with Random posting a better 67 milliseconds, 1/3 bore staying the same, and full sweep seek performance lowering a bit to 155 milliseconds. Burst rate of the drive increased 2 Megabytes/second to 18! Numbers like these make the drive more than worthy of being a primary dedicated reader, for folks not wanting to utilize two separate drives to read and write.
Writing performance and quality tests are built into the new PlexTools Professional. Here I used the provided 52x certified Verbatim CD-R and simply ran the Write Transfer Rate Test. The following chart shows the speed of the write and the position on the Disc, referred to in minutes.
For the record, the start speed was 22.98x, the maximum achieved speed was 52.81 with an average write speed of 39.79 At these speeds it won't take long to make a full 80 minute CD. Exactly how long would it take? To find out I loaded up Nero and created a full 80 minute CD.
How about that for fast! With 52x media you can have a full 80 minute CD burned in a just 2:40 of write time!
Curious about GigaRec I took a standard multi-speed (32x rated) 80 minute CD and headed into the GigaRec page of PlexTools. In its purest sense, GigaRec is mostly like an Overburning allowance. Although Plextor isn't giving up any information relating to GigaRec working specifics, the CD-Rom creator tool asks "If you would like to continue with the overburning?" It's easy to draw speculation as to the how's and why's of this technology, but I'll leave well enough alone as this is the first attempt I've seen by a hardware vendor to openly support the dark-art of overburning. Keep in mind that with the GigaRec tool you have to use the CD-Rom creation tool inside Plextools.
The end result with GigaRec was an outstanding! A newly mastered CD with 983MB of data that was readable from 2 different CD-ROM drives, and a known to be picky Toshiba DVD drive. The best part of the GigaRec tool is that it also works on Audio discs. I made an Audio CD that was able to be read from my home stereo and my two car CD players! The audio CD was loaded with 112 minutes of music, which can add a great deal more value to your compilation CDs, great for those long road trips.
The software Package that accompanies the drive is the standard titles that Plextor ships with almost all of its writers; Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 Limited, PhotoSuite 5 SE, and RetroSpect Backup Trial-edition. The inclusion of PlexTools, while greatly welcomed, is almost mandatory considering all the extra features of the drive. At the time of this review, 12 June 2003 - the supplied version of PlexTools is outdated by a more recent version available at Plextor for download. Also, since Roxio has released version 6 of their popular Easy CD Creator series, it would be great if Plextor could get distribution rights for that software package as well.
The drive itself is simply amazing! Writing and Re-Writing speeds are very speedy and don't hog up all your available CPU power while mastering CDs. Also in standard Plextor style, the disc loading tray has been painted in a rough black-matte finish to help reduce 'laser splash' during high speed burns. The only real bad part about the whole deal is the price. While other 52x burners on the market may only set you back about $75, this one (in all of its retail package glory) will cost $105. This $30 price hike does com with some bonuses, such as the very famous Plextor Service/Support. Firmware updates and software upgrades are very easy to find and download from the Plextor homepage. Also, as a very welcomed bonus, the PlexWriter Premium was able to produce workable back-ups of SafeDisc 2 protected titles.
When Plextor sent a delegation to showcase their
PlexWriter 48x24x48x CD-RW drive last year, an executive candidly told us that
the company would probably never launch a 52x24x52x model. Well, he was pretty
honest at that time because Plextor definitely didn't launch such a model.
Instead, a 52x32x52x PlexWriter was unveiled at CeBIT in Europe earlier
this year. The PlexWriter 48x24x48x certainly didn't impress us with its
lacklustre performance when we had a go at it last year. So Plextor was rather
adamant that we should take a look at their newest baby, which they confidently
claimed to be one of the best CD-RW drive ever designed by them.
So what's the deal with this new PlexWriter 52x32x52x? To
begin with, this new CD-RW comes with a sleuth of technologies never seen before
in a CD-RW drive. These include :-
Other notable features include SilentMode, which
enables users to vary tray load/unload speed, spin up/down speed and write/read
speeds. Then there's Q-Check as well, an ability that checks and graphs the
results of a written disc quality - such as C1/C2 errors, track and focus errors,
and beta/jitter errors. Similar to the first two technologies mentioned, these
features are only available through PlexTools Professional. We believed that
technologies such as GigaRec and SecuRec will appeal mostly to professionals and
large corporate firms - where security, reliability and storage are always of
Anyway, let's take a look at the
drive's physical aspects before we move on. At a glance, we can see that Plextor
still maintained its unmistakable front-bezel design. Ejecting the tray out and
we can also see that the PlexWriter Premium uses a black CD-holder tray - a
hardware feature which Plextor claims to minimize jitter and reduces C1 error
rates. Another notable improvement here is the drive's buffer memory. Where the
previous model comes with a built-in 4MB buffer, the new Premium drive comes
packed with a whopping 8MB buffer (Ed: eat your heart out, Samsung!).
Our Test Unit
Our review unit was essentially a complete engineering
sample with a firmware version 0.DF, so we weren't able to check out what sort
of bundles the local retail set will feature. But according to Plextor, the
local retail units will be similar to international sets, and will include the
PlexWriter Premium drive, a blank CD-R and CD-RW discs each, Nero Burning ROM,
and PlexTools Professional. We're not sure what sort of media they've planned to
include, but given Plextor's past record, it's safe to assume that they should
be of the latest speed available - i.e. a 52x CD-R, and either a 24x or a 32x
Nero CD Speed
Our first test begin with the CD-ROM read/access speed
benchmarking using Nero CD Speed. The benchmark will also help gather seek time
results based on different access patterns using various types of medias. Using
a commercially-pressed CD, an Audio CD, a CD-R and a CD-RW disc as the four
common medium for this benchmark, we will know where the drive stands in terms
of its ability to read each different type of media.
Nero CD Speed (CPU Usage)
Nero CD Speed (Seek Times)
On pressed commercial CDs such as the Warcraft III and our
audio CD, the Plextor Premium drive literally breezed through the benchmarks -
performing remarkably well in the Read and CPU Usage tests. In fact, the results
in these part of the tests now ranked the Plextor writer as one of the fastest
CD-reader, as well as the least CPU dependent drive in the market. On the other
hand, this drive seems to be pretty fussy with copied media such as CD-R and
CD-RW types, where it produced very high (the lower the better here) seek times
and CPU usage scores.
Ziff-Davis Media CD Winbench 99
Unlike Nero CD Speed, CD Winbench 99 is a synthetic
benchmark that measures the performance of a PC's CD-ROM subsystem - which
includes the CD-ROM drive, controller, and driver. In this case, we pitted the
Plextor Premium drive against the Lite-On 52x24x52x, as well as its predecessor
- the Plextor PlexWriter 48x24x48x drive. Vying the Premium against the Lite-On
is only natural, since the latter is currently one of the fastest CD-read writer
around. And pitting it with the Plextor 48x24x48x drive would be interesting, as
we'll know the performance gap between these two similarly made drives.
After the benchmark was completed, we can very well see that the Lite-On drive was the runaway winner here. Why so? Well, the reason is simple. CD Winbench run in a way such that it reboots the system before it starts the benchmarking runs. So even if we had enabled SpeedRead, the two Plextor drives would have reverted back to its default 40x read speed when our test system rebooted. Hence the scores between the two Plextor drives are similar here - simply because they were reading at 40x. So our conclusion is that CD Winbench doesn't really paint the full picture of what the Plextor drives can do at 52x read. But it's an interesting result here nonetheless, as it shows the Plextor Premium's default 40x performance - which wasn't too shabby at all. In addition, its seek time of about 63ms was an impressive one, even though the drive was only reading at 40x speed.
Nero CD DAE Results
Plextor drives are famed for their fast digital audio
extraction speeds. So over here, we'll put the Premium drive's DAE capabilities
to the test and see just how it performs under Nero CD DAE. The drive comes with
a maximum ripping speed of 52x, but like what we have experienced in the
previous page, SpeedRead have to be engaged first. Otherwise it'll just rip
tracks at its default 40x speed.
We'd expected the Premium to stay true to Plextor's proud
tradition as fast DAE drives, and were proven right. In the results above, we
can see that the drive is able to rip our CD at an average speed of 34.4x with
no errors present. As we've mentioned many times, a drive can only rip at its
stated maximum speed in the last few tracks of a CD - and here in this case, the
PlexWriter did it pretty near its 52x mark - 51.4x to be exact.
Nero CD Speed (Advanced DAE)
With the Advanced DAE test where a 40x Hitachi-dye media
was used, the score came to 36.94x with no errors and a Quality Score of 100.0.
The results here come quite close to what we have witnessed in the CD DAE tests
as well. We can also see that the drive was able to read the Leadin/Leadout area
of a CD, as well as CD-Text and Subchannel Data. Also note that we had to enable
SpeedRead here before running the benchmark.
Overall, the Plextor Premium drive's digital audio
extraction abilities are noteworthy. Be it ripping tracks from a pressed-CD or a
CD-R media, the Plextor sports some very remarkable improvement over its
48x24x48x predecessor, and the results above does prove that the Premium drive
is very much a fast audio CD ripper.
Nero Burning ROM Results
In this page, we'll conduct the last test with Nero Burning ROM v126.96.36.199a. We grabbed the same variety of CD-R media used in our previous 52x-write CD-RW articles and gave this Plextor Premium drive our usual test run. The results were then compared alongside the Lite-On 52x24x52x and the AOpen 52x24x52x. All tests were performed with PoweRec disabled where possible, and by using a similar file sized at 648MB.
Given past Plextor drives' reputation for being media
fussy when it comes to writing, we'd never expected it to perform fast anyway.
But we were pretty encouraged by what we had seen here. The Premium may not be
the fastest CD-RW drive to beat, but Plextor have at least made the CD-RW drive
to be as media-friendly as possible. And as we can see from the above results,
the Plextor drive was able to write at 52x with all the media we threw at it -
saved for the Quentin 48x media, where PoweRec had to be switched on for a
smooth writing process.
Ol' King Cole Returns
We love this new Plextor Premium drive to bits, there's no
doubt about that. Excellent read and Digital Audio Extraction performance have
always been a hallmark of Plextor, and the Premium drive continues that proud
tradition in our benchmarks. On the other hand, Plextor's drives have been known
to be very fussy with the type of media used. But with the new Premium, Plextor
seems to have done some significant media compatibility improvements into its
Rating : 5 out of 5 Stars
Copyright © 2002