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Plextor 24x10x40a CD-RW
A few months back I purchased my first CD burner, which was the Plextor PlexWriter 16/10/40A. At the time, it was my best choice for quality and value. I always wanted a Plextor drive and that was my chance to get it. Plextor has been a name among names in the CD recorder industry, and is pretty much synonymous with quality. Just my luck though, a month after I purchased it, the prices dropped and the new 24X burners came on the market. Enter the Plextor PlexWriter 24/10/40A. It's based on the drive from Sanyo, so it has all the features you would expect with that extra Plextor style. Gone are the days that you have to wait more than 5 minutes to burn a CD. With the new 24X burn speed, you can burn a 74 Min. CD in about 3 minutes. You can get the 24X drive for about $150 and the 16X for around $130. Is $20 more worth the extra 2 minutes of speed? Well, you don't just get more speed, you get a few other extra upgrades that make $20 worth it. Plextor was generous enough to provide us with a review unit to do this review. Let's see what this baby has to offer...
Specifications And Features
The feature list for this drive speaks for itself. The obvious of course is the 24X recording speed. However, despite that it is not a true 24X drive because it uses something called Z-CLV (Zone Constant Linear Velocity). I'll explain what that exactly that is shortly. Not only does it support a wide variety of CD formats as well as read/write speeds, it also has the ever popular BURN-proof technology and PoweRec II to ensure the highest quality write. BURN-proof is, as always, there to prevent those nasty buffer underrun errors which can turn CDs to coasters. Even though I can't imagine having one of those with a 3 minute window of error. So you can sit back and relax and watch DVDs, TV, listen to music, chat, surf, or whatever you want to do... It has a larger buffer than its predecessor, having 4 MB instead of 2. So you can rest assured that your CD will be written with as high of a success rate as possible. This drive supports Ultra DMA Mode 2 for double the transfer rate of regular DMA mode 2. You get your standard Plextor Manager 2000 and Roxio Easy CD Creator 5. For those running Windows XP, like me, you have to make sure to update the Roxio software and DO NOT install the Plextor Manager software since it's not compatible with XP. It's not like most of us use the Plextor Manager software anyway... but for those that do, it won't work with XP. All you burner freaks out there will probably use other things like DiscJuggler or Nero, etc. As with any Plextor drive, it is widely supported by the CD recording software currently on the market. Everything else is basically like its 16X predecessor.
What the Z-CLV method does is basically break up the CD into several zones and write at a constant speed in those zones. So the recorder is not really recording at 24X the entire time, but at different speeds depending on the zone. The speeds for each zone are determined by numerous amounts of testing. This method works with PoweRec II and BURN-proof to ensure reliability. Although it would be nice if the recorder actually recorded at 24X the entire time, this strategy provides more reliability I guess. The graph below shows how everything is broken up and what speed is used.
One thing that always amazes me is all the acronyms that get created when new technology comes out. PoweRec stands for Plextor Optimised Writing Error Reduction Control. What does that mean? Well what PoweRec does is it determines the optimum recording speed depending on the quality of the CD recordable media you are using. The flow chart below (from the Plextor Site) basically shows the write process with the PoweRec II built in. You'll probably also notice that it's broken up into the zones in the Z-CLV method. The recorder can opt to increase the recording speed depending on the write quality of the current media. The quality in a particular zone will determine the speed for the next zone. So what you basically have is assurance that even though you're using those cheap CD-Rs you just bought, the drive is still optimized to handle them. Although you might not be so thrilled that you can only write at 16X on certain CD-R media, it's better this way so that you won't get as many errors.
BURN-proof technology has been present on Plextor drives for some time now and has become quite popular since its inception. If you are already familiar with this, just move on the next section. BURN-proof or Buffer Underrun Proof is basically a method to eliminate buffer underrun errors that would otherwise cause you to lose a CD. These errors happen when the information being transferred onto the CD is not being relayed to the recorder fast enough causing the buffer to run out and thus recording to stop as well. If BURN-proof were not present, the CD would be wasted and recovery probably wouldn't be possible. BURN-proof allows the recorder to stop recording and still keeps its place on the CD to resume when the buffer is full again. So you don't have to worry about multi-tasking and doing other things on the computer while burning a CD.
First Impression and Installation
Having reviewed the 16X PlexWriter, the 24X did not have the same impact the first one did. The box and packaging are pretty much identical to the 16X version. Even the drives are identical with only the 24/10/40A label being different. As always, the retail drive I received came with all the trimmings, the documentation, the software CD, mounting screws, an IDE cable, a CD-R and CD-RW. Installing the drive wasn't as easy this time because I already had 3 other drives in my computer, which include a 48X Mistumi drive, a Plextor PlexWriter 16/10/40A, and a Pioneer 16X DVD drive. The built in drive rails made installation a snap. Adding that extra drive meant stretching some IDE cables a little since my Antec SX1030B was a little tall. Luckily the IDE cable that came with the drive was long enough to reach everything, and there were enough power connectors to get everything juiced up. After messing around with the wires and making sure everything was in properly I powered the up the system. First problem, 2 of the 4 drives weren't being recognized. I shut everything down and then checked again. The problem turned out to be the jumpers. Silly me didn't set one of the drives to slave like I should have. For a minute there I thought I broke the IDE connector on the motherboard because I was stretching the cable really tight. It was pretty satisfying to see all the drive bays in the case actually being used up. Windows XP started up as always and installed everything necessary. I then installed the Roxio software. To make it compatible with XP, I had to download an update from the Roxio site. I also checked on the Plextor site to see if there were any firmware upgrades to the drives I had. After downloading the updates and installing them, I was ready to test.
Now let's see just how much better this drive actually is compared to its 16X predecessor. The these synthetic benches I used CD Speed 99 and SiSoft Sandra. First lets check out how they did in the CD Speed 99 tests. The read times are similar but the 24X drive just barely beats the 16X. The seek times are similar as well but the 16X has a better 1/3 seek time. The random seek time is pretty much up to spec with what is advertised. Not sure how much of a difference that will make in the real world but I guess every little bit counts. The CPU usage is definitely an improvement over the 16X drive. This is probably due to the fact that the 24X drive is using Ultra DMA mode 2 (UDMA/33). The read results are pretty much what you would expect them to be. They are both 40X max drives so they should have similar scores at least. Since the 24X is a newer model, improvements were most likely made to increase performance, even if it is just slightly. Will you notice the difference? Most likely not especially on faster systems since it is pretty small. However, if you're a nerd like me where every little bit counts, then yea it will make a difference.
The write scores are an interesting story. As you can see the 24X drive doesn't actually write everything at 24X, but within a range from 16 to 24X. Writing at slower speeds at first then the rest at 24X. This is due to the Z-CLV method mentioned earlier. The above picture indicates the drive is using P-CAV, but that's probably because the version of CD Speed 99 I used didn't properly identify the Z-CLV method. The average speed is actually not really the 24X that you might have thought. Even then, it's still an improvement over the 16X drive. This translates to about 3 minutes of writing time for an entire 74 min CD. When I burned my first CD on the drive, I went out to get something to drink, talked a little with my friend and when I came back it was done. That was definitely a satisfying feeling to burn something that fast without worrying about it messing up. With the older burners my friends had, they used to have to stop everything they were doing and let the computer sit there until it was over. It's good to not have to worry about that.
As most everyone knows Sandra scores can be a bit flaky. These scores pretty much match what I got last time for the Plextor 16X drive. You can see a slight increase in speed from the 24X drive. Again, for read speeds, the difference is small enough that you can probably disregard it. The big improvement is the use of UDMA/33, which adds speed and lower CPU utilization. The last test is the real world test of burning a CD using the Roxio software. This test consisted of recording a 650 MB file using each drive. The 16X as always burns within 5 minutes, while the 24X burns within 3 minutes. The difference is noticeable. Oh and if you are wondering, I haven't been able to burn 2 CDs at once. Although I'm not sure if it's really possible or not, every time I try it says recording device in use etc. So probably not.
Is It A Worthy Ugrade?
To tell you the truth, I don't see that much of a difference to warrant spending that much cash on essentially 2 minutes faster write times for CD-Rs. That is if you already have a 16X Plextor drive. Writing to CD-RWs will probably not have much improvement in performance. The performance increase and new features is not enough for me to upgrade. The feature set is essentially the same. If you have the 16X version already, that should be enough to satisfy your burning desires (pun intended). It's not going to be worth it to upgrade from 16X to 24X, when all you're really gaining is speed. The speed difference isn't that significant. The new Roxio software bundled with the 24X drive is another incentive, but then again you can purchase that on your own. Now if you don't have a burner just yet or have a really crappy one, then getting the 24X over the 16X isn't such a bad idea. The 24X will definitely write faster and since it's a new model, over-all improvements to the product have probably been implemented. So you get what you pay for. You might as well get a 24X because later on if you had gotten the 16X, you'll probably regret it. It's not that much more expensive either.
At the moment, you can get a PlexWriter 24/10/40 for $150 and even less. That is a lot better than what I paid for my 16X, but then again, that was when the 16X drive was still popular and I really really wanted it. The prices have dropped significantly enough that you should probably take advantage and buy one of the 24Xs if you don't already own a burner. OEM also sell for even cheaper. 3 minutes for burning a CD with BURN-proof is definitely good enough for me so I didn't feel like waiting for the next evolution in CD-R technology. Of course, you pay a premium to get the Plextor name. I forget which companies use the Sanyo drive too, but if you want the features but aren't willing to pay for the Plextor quality name, you can get one of those other drives out there in the market place.
Pros & Cons
This 24X burner is as good as they come. It has all the features you would expect from a 24X drive plus the quality you would expect from Plextor. The fast 24X recording speed isn't the only thing this drive has. It includes features like PoweRec-II and BURN-proof to ensure not only fast recording but high reliability as well. The lowered price tag have made this drive a nice buy for the average consumer. This drive holds true to the Plextor name, which is what you would expect. Let me tell you that it's pretty amazing to be able to burn a full CD in 3 minutes. Back in the day, I thought 10 minutes was great. I can't wait until burners come out that let you burn within seconds. Although perfection is hard to achieve, the PlexWriter 24/10/40A definitely comes close. It's not perfect and could use some slight improvements, such as better seek time and faster ReWrite speed. Until much faster and better CD recording drives are released, this is probably your best choice at the moment. The drive met and pretty much exceeds my expectations. Rest assured that you won't be disappointed with this drive. With the holiday season just around the corner, I'm sure this drive will be a popular item on many people's wish list. Lastly, I would like to thank Plextor for providing us with a review unit to make this possible.
Re-Printed From SLCentral