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Plextor PX-712A DVD Burner

If you’re looking for a DVD burner that does it all and does it all well, look no further than the Plextor PX-712A. It easily meets expectations in all categories, but it does cost a bit more than the average DVD/CD burner. Read this review to find out if the extra cost is worth it.

[review_ad]Introduction


Over the past few years, Plextor has become a name that is synonymous with high-quality and high-performance optical storage drives. Plextor seems to try to always be in the lead or at least tied for the lead in the CD and DVD burner speed races. Regardless of where the company stands in the performance races, Plextor always provides a rich set of features with its drives. With features like PoweRec, which optimizes laser power and writing speed based on the media in the drive, and buffer underrun proof technology, which helps prevent the drive from making the dreaded CD coaster, Plextor offers optical storage devices that provide a lot of worry-free operation.

In the vein of Plextor’s desire to be the speed king, the company recently released the PX-712A multi-format DVD/CD burner. The PX-712A will write to DVD+R media at up to 12X and DVD-R media at up to 8X. Of course, it will also write to DVD+RW (4X), DVD-RW (4X), CD-R (48X), and CD-RW (24X), and read DVD-ROM (16X) and CD-ROM (48X) media. Those are all impressive numbers. Gone are the days of paltry CD read and write speeds for the DVD burner. This drive excels in all categories! It also has something that is not often found on optical drives – an 8 MB buffer.

Plextor is not only interested in trying to lead the speed and features races, they also seem to want to be leaders in adopting new interfaces. To that end, Plextor is offering the PX-712SA, which is the same as the PX-712A except that the IDE interface is replaced with the svelte SATA interface. Although this drive does not appear to be readily available yet, I really want to give Plextor props for even bringing this product to market. I hope it is a continuing trend that we see a lot more of in the coming months. It’s not too easy to eliminate the fat IDE cables from the PC realm with just SATA hard drives; we need SATA optical drives as well. It will be a good day when the SATA interface is as ubiquitous as the IDE interface is today. Although I’m very excited to be reviewing the PX-712A, it would have been a bit more exciting to get to look at one of the world’s first SATA optical drives. I have high expectations for the PX-712A, though, so the pressure is on for this drive to perform very well.


Specifications & Features

Specifications:

Interface IDE
DVD+R Write Speeds 12X, 8X – PCAV
6X, 4X, 2X – CLV
DVD+RW Write Speeds 4X, 2.4X – CLV
DVD-R Write Speeds 8X – PCAV
6X, 4X, 2X – CLV
DVD-RW Write Speeds 4X, 2X, 1X – CLV
DVD Read Speeds Up to 16X
CD-R Write Speeds 48X, 32X – PCAV
8X, 4X – CLV
CD-RW Write Speeds 24X – PCAV
10X, 4X – CLV
CD Read Speeds Up to 48X
Data Buffer 8 MB
Access Times DVD: 150 ms
CD: 100 ms

Here’s what Nero InfoTool tells us about this drive:

Features:

Here’s a run down of the features, as described in the Installation and User’s Manual:

  • High speed transfers: “Supports Ultra DMA33, DMA Mode 2, and PIO Mode 4.”
  • PoweRec: “Plextor Optimized Writing Error Reduction Control adjusts laser power and writing speed so they’re at the optimum settings for that particular disc. You can enable and disable PoweRec.”
  • VariRec: “Lets you change the write strategy to record at highest quality on different types of discs. Also provides user adjustment of the recording power above or below a default level. This adjustment lets you customize the optimum laser power to your own needs.”
  • Silent Mode: “Unique technology that sets the drive for super-silent operation. By controlling access speed, read/write speed, and tray opening and closing speed, you reduce drive noise to a whisper.”
  • Black tray: “Reduces the effect of optical distortion by absorbing reflection from the laser beam, enhancing read quality.”
  • Self-test diagnostics: “The PX-712A has a self-test diagnostic function for easy troubleshooting.”
  • Lossless Linking for DVD+R/RW: “Allows DVD+RW discs to be edited and still play on DVD-ROM players.”
  • Zero Link for DVD-R/RW: “Has 0 byte gap between sessions so the discs are compatible with all players. This allows DVD-RW discs to be edited and still play on DVD-ROM players.”
  • Buffer Underrun Proof Technology: “Eliminates buffer underrun errors, so you can safely use your computer for other tasks while you’re writing to a CD-R or CD-RW disc.”
  • GigaRec: “Variable capacity recording that lets you change CD-R disc capacity over a range from 60 to 130 percent of the rated value. You can get much more data onto a CD. Or decrease the disc capacity while gaining improved audio quality.”
  • SecuRec: “Security protection that lets you make your CDs readable only by persons with the correct password.”
  • Overburn: “Another way of burning more information onto a CD – audio up to 99 minutes 59 seconds in length, or a data disc up to 875 megabytes in capacity.”

Package Contents:

We are looking at a retail boxed sample of the PX-712A, so, of course, Plextor includes a few other things in the package to help get you started:

  • 40-pin IDE ribbon cable
  • One piece of approved DVD+R media
  • 4 mounting screws
  • Extra jumper
  • Emergency eject tool
  • Plextor software installation disc:
    • PlexTools Professional
    • Roxio Easy CD and DVD Creator 6 Basic DVD Edition
    • Roxio DVD Max
    • PhotoSuite 5 SE
    • Dantz Retrospect 6.5 (30-day trial)
  • PX-712 Installation and Users Manual


Installation

Installing the PX-712A was as simple and straightforward as it should be. If you’ve installed anything in a PC before, then you know what I’m talking about. However, if working in a PC intimidates you or you don’t think it’s for you, Plextor’s manual should be able to eliminate your trepidation and get you through this simple task.

Also, I upgraded the firmware from version 1.00 to 1.01, and it was easy and finished without a hitch. Plextor makes it a very simple and worry-free process.



Performance


In order to see if this drive lives up to my expectations and its specifiations, I decided to complete a variety of read and write tests with various media. I used Nero’s CD-DVD Speed 3.0 for most of the read and write speed tests. However, I also wanted to get a feel for how long it would take to burn the same data to three different types of media at the PX-712A’s maximum speeds for each disc. To accomplish this I used the CD/DVD burning software that comes with the PX-712A, Roxio’s Easy CD and DVD Creator 6, and burned 4.33 gigabytes of data onto a DVD+R, DVD-R, and DVD+RW. I used the following media for the read and write tests:

  • Plextor (Taiyo Yuden) 8X DVD+R recommended by Plextor and recognized by the drive to write at 12X
  • Memorex 8X DVD-R
  • Memorex 4X DVD+RW
  • TDK 48X CD-R
  • Mallrats DVD (stamped)

Test System Configuration:

  • AMD Athlon 64 3200+
  • Gigabyte GA-K8VNXP (BIOS version F4) (review)
  • Corsair TWINX1024-3200LLPRO (review)
  • Gigabyte Radeon 9800XT (review)
  • Hitachi Deskstar 7K250 80GB Serial ATA 7200RPM Hard Drive w/8MB Buffer
  • Windows XP (32-bit) with Service Pack 1
  • Chipset Driver – 4.48

Write Tests

12X DVD+R

Since this drive can write DVD+R media at 12X, I was most excited to see how it performed in this test. An average write speed over 10X is impressive, and it allows for writing an entire disc in just over six minutes. The Nero CD-DVD Speed result is consistent with my own DVD burn test using Roxio, in which the PX-712A burned 4.33 gigabytes of data in 6 minutes 34 seconds.

8X DVD-R

The average speed for DVD-R writing is quite a bit less than that of DVD+R writing, but considering that his drive can write DVD-R media at a maximum of 8X, an average write speed of 7.87X is outstanding. As you can see, the DVD-R writing starts at 6X and quickly ramps up to 8X. This allows the drive to write the same 4.33 GB of data using Roxio in 8 minutes 32 seconds.

4X DVD+RW

Obviously, DVD+RW performance at 4X is going to be much slower than either of the previous tests; however, this is basically as fast as it gets right now for re-writable DVDs. Being able to re-write 4.38 GB of data in under 15 minutes is a convenience anyone should be happy to have. Again, I used Roxio to burn the same 4.33 GB of data, and this time it completed in 14 minutes 48 seconds.

48X CD-R

When it comes to CD writing, the Plextor PX-712A delivers even more great performance, with an average write speed just over 36X. The PX-712A will allow you to write an entire 700 megabyte CD in under three minutes! It’s great to see a DVD burner that can write CDs as fast as many of the fastest CD writers out there.

Read Tests

DVD+R

DVD-R

DVD+RW

Dual-layer stamped DVD (Mallrats)

I had to turn on the SpeedRead feature so that the PX-712A would read a stamped DVD at higher than 2X CLV. Plextor makes 2X the default speed for reading CSS-protected stamped DVDs to reduce drive noise, since 2X is plenty fast and hearing a whirring drive is usually the last thing you want to hear when watching a movie.

The PX-712A is undeniably consistent when it comes to read speeds. Each of the media I ran through the read test was read at a constant angular velocity starting at about 5X and ending up just over 12X. Also, it is good to see that the drive’s access times are under or near the specified 150 ms for DVD media.

Conclusion


I believe that Plextor strives to deliver great performance and great features in its optical drives, and the PX-712A is their current flagship product that does just that. This is one of the all-round fastest drives available on the market today. With it, you can burn a 12X DVD+R in about six and a half minutes and burn a complete 80 minute CD in under three minutes.

It is also a feature-packed drive that should be able to meet most anyone’s needs. With the PlexTools software and features like PoweRec and VariRec, the PX-712A provides a lot of easy-to-access tweaks to make this drive do what the user wants. The PX-712A also features an 8 megabyte data buffer and a solid software bundle. The only feature it seems to be missing is the ability to write to dual-layer DVD+R media. However, that is still a blossoming technology that has not been widely adopted yet, so I cannot fault Plextor for not including it as a feature of this drive.

All of these features and performance do come at a price, though. If you are shopping for drives with similar specs, the PX-712A is likely to be among the most expensive. You should be able to pick one of these up from an e-tailer for around $160. Is the extra money worth the Plextor name and the other niceties this drive offers? Probably, but that’s up to you to decide.

Pros:

  • Great write performance on all tested media
  • Great read performance on all tested media
  • Features allow some good tweaks to add to the PX-712A experience
  • Good bundle (if you’re a Roxio fan)
  • 8MB Buffer

Cons:

  • The 8MB Buffer could just add cost and not much or any of a performance gain
  • More expensive than most drives

For its great performance and features, I am awarding the Plextor PX-712A a score of 9 out of 10 and the Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.


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