Plextor's PX-708A DVD±RW

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Product: Plextor PX-708A DVD±RW
Provided By: Plextor

Introduction:
 
It's been almost 4 months since I've had a new DVD burner on the bench. There have been a lot of changes and improvements in the DVD Recordable industry in this short time. Lately, I've had the chance to work with Plextor's latest offering to the Internal DVD±RW game, the PX-708A. This is one heck uv 'a drive, and I'm attempting to give you the lowdown in a complete review. The coolest thing about this drive is definitely it's 8X DVD+R Write speed, but I won't stop there. We'll take a look at pretty much everything, then draw few conclusions.
 
Plextor has been making "Professional" quality optical drives for quite a few years. Not only have they won many awards in the hardware community, they have also won the loyalty of almost everyone who has used a Plextor product. With this look at the PX-708A DVD±RW, we'll see if this loyalty is well-founded, or should be placed in something else. This review is not a comparison or a roundup, it's simply an in-depth look at this product as it is. Here goes. . .
 
Here is a pic to get you started.
 
Plextor has livened up their packaging with this drive release. They've dropped the darker box and went with something a little more attractive. (You know a geek when, he finds product boxes attractive.) You can barely see the drives ratings: 8X DVD+R, 4X DVD-R & DVD+RW, 2X DVD-RW, and 12X DVD Read.
 

Specs & Features:

 

What review would be complete without the specs ripped from the manufacturer's web site? Behold, the specs, as reported by Plextor. The full list of specs can be downloaded in a PDF here.

  • 8X (DVD+R only) 8.1-10.8 MB/sec
    4X (DVD+/-R,+RW only) - 5.4 MB/sec
    2.4X (DVD+R/RW only) - 3.24 MB/sec
    2X (DVD-R/RW only) - 2.7 MB/sec
    5X-12X (DVD read only) - 6.75-16.2 MB/sec
    3X-8X (DVD read only) - 4.05-10.8 MB/sec
    2X-5X (DVD read only) - 2.8-6.75 MB/sec (Playing DVD-Video)
    2X (DVD read only) - 2.7 MB/sec
    40X (CD write only) - 3-6 MB/sec
    32X (CD write only) - 3-4.8 MB/sec
    24X (CD rewrite only) - 3-3.6 MB/sec
    17X-40X (CD read only) - 2.71-6.0 MB/sec (Mode 1, Mode 2 Form 1 and CD-R)
    16X (CD write only) - 2.4 MB/sec (CD-R)
    14X-32X (CD read only) - 2.17-4.8 MB/sec (Mode 1, Mode 2 Form 1, CD-DA and CD-R)
    10X (CD read only) - 1.5 MB/sec (Mode 1, Mode 2 Form 1, CD-DA and CD-R)
    10X (CD rewrite only) - 1.5 MB/sec
    8X (CD read/write) - 1.2 MB/sec (Mode 2 Form 2 read only)
    4X (CD write/rewrite/read) - 600 KB/sec
  • Burst Read/Write 33 MB/sec (Ultra DMA Mode 2), 16.6 MB/sec (PIO Mode 4/DMA Mode 2)
  • Typical CD Random Access <100 ms Typical DVD Random Access <150 ms
    Buffer 2 MB
 

Here is Plextor's "Feature List":

  • 8-in-1 Combo drive: 8X DVD+R, 4X DVD-R, 4X DVD+RW, 2X DVD-RW, 12X DVD-ROM, 40X CD-R, 24X CD-RW AND 40X CD-ROM
  • Lossless linking technology enables users to perform basic editing tasks directly on the DVD disc.
  • Buffer Under Run Proof technology prevents buffer under run errors.
  • PoweRec technology is a sophisticated write strategy providing superior quality recording at maximum speed for your chosen media.
  • Support DVD+RW background format.
  • Support DVD+VR format.
  • Horizontal or vertical mounting orientation.
  • Black CD tray minimizes jitter.
  • OS Support - Windows® 98SE/Me/2000/XPâ„¢
  • One-year full warranty. (parts and labor)
  • Unlimited toll-free tech support.
 
Anyhoo, head on over to the next page to take a look at what comes in the box.


The Drive:
 
The box arrived slightly banged up, and about a month late (thanks to UPS), but the drive seemed to be in alright. A quick inspection of all the goodies showed no damage. So, let's take a look at it.
 
I was quite happy to see that this drive has a volume control and a headphone jack on the front. Granted, most people will never use these to listen to a CD, but my personal opinion is that a drive looks cheap without it. Also on the front is the DVD-ReWritable, DVD R/RW, Compact Disk UltraSpeed, and Plextor model number and logo. Kind'a gives you the feeling of NASCAR doesn't it?
 
 
The back of the drive holds the usual connectors. From left to right: Digital Audio (SPIDF) connector, Analog Audio connector, Jump Block, IDE, and power connector. Nothing unusual or funky.
 
 

Here's a quick look at the label. It's been made a little while. Gotta' love the fact that BCC is listed on every drive they make!!

 
 
The Bundle:
 
Well, you've seen a bit of the drive itself, but for a suggested retail of $400 CAD, it should come with more than just the drive. Here's a shot of what's in the box. Plextor does include a blank DVD+R that will burn at 8X, as well as an IDE cable, screws, emergency eject tool, a quick start guide, a great manual, and some software. I was a bit disappointed to discover that it doesn't include Plextools. Instead it included the ageing Plextor Manager. More on that below.
 
 
The software disk that comes with this drive is in fact a DVD-ROM. It contains a fair bit of software to get you going. You get Easy CD&DVD Creator 6, Abobe's PhoteSuite 5 SE, and Roxio DVD Max (aka Cyberlink PowerDVD 4). Also included, but not listed on the main installer is the Plextor Manager 2000, and a download to a 30 day trial of Retrospect Backup. Nice little bundle.
 
 
Here are some shots of the utilities/goodies that come with Plextor Manager.
 
(Plextor's Audio Player)
 
(Plextor's Audio Capture / CD Ripper)
 
(Settings Tab in Plextor Manager)
 
(More Plextor Manager Goodies)
 
That pretty much sums up the drive, the bundle and the software. One last thing we have to do before we head on over to the testing, is to take a look at the bench setup and testing information. On with the show!!


Test Setup:
 

This is a breakdown of the test setup used in this review.

  • ASUS A7N8X Deluxe Rev 2
  • AMD XP 2600+ (Barton)
  • 2 - 512MB OCZ PC3200 Rev.2 Cas 2
  • 60GB Western Digital JB 7200rpm IDE 0 - Master
  • 40GB Maxtor Diamond Max Plus 7200rpm IDE 0 - Slave
  • Plextor Premium 52x32x52x IDE 1 - Master
  • Plextor PX-708A DVD±RW IDE 1 - Slave
  • 2 - WD1200JD SATA drives in RAID 0
  • Sapphire Atlantis 9800 Pro
  • Audigy 2
  • GVC Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000)
  • Trendnet 22Mb Wireless Ethernet
  • Windows XP SP1 with all available updates
  • nForce 2.25 drivers
  • Nero CDSpeed 2.10
  • 1.03 Firmware (drive shipped with 1.02)
 
Testing Methods:
 

Things have changed a bit as far as DVD/CD testing goes around here. With the advent of Nero's CDSpeed 2.10, it allows you to create data discs, instead of just simulate how they burn. When a Data Disc is created (F9), it actually writes the disc full of data and writes a lead in and lead out. The results are 100% accurate and each disc is filled to capacity with data. Because the discs are completely full, the burn times of the tests may appear to be a few seconds slower than what other reviews are reporting. Their burn times will likely be accurate as well, but they aren't necessarily writing the disc to it's capacity. Please keep in mind that the Nero CDSpeed screenshots on the following pages are not simulations - they show how the drive is actually burning the data to the blank media.

 
Media Compatibility:
 

Here is a breakdown of PX-708A's media compatibility according to PoweRec. Many thanks to BlankMedia for supplying me with a bunch of different media for this review. (If you place an order or 50 pieces or more, and say that you heard of them through BensCustomCases, they won't charge GST!)

  • Arita 4X DVD+R @ 8X
  • Memorex 4X DVD+R @ 8X
  • Ritek 2.4X DVD+RW @ 2.4X
  • Fuji 4X DVD-R @ 4X
  • Ritek 4X DVD-R @ 4X
  • Unknown 4X DVD-R @ 4X
  • Ritek 2X DVD-RW @ 2X
  • Gigastore 40X CD-R @ 40X
  • Mitsubishi 48X CD-R @ 40X

I was quite curious how hard it would be to find DVD+R media that would burn at 8X. Not hard at all. Between Blankmedia (Arita) and Futureshop (Memorex), you should be set.

 
Before we get on to a few CD tests, we'll take a look at a shot from Nero Info Tool.
 
This drive supports all read/write functions available except for DVD-RAM. Very nifty. You can also see that it supports a tonne of write modes. Pretty much the All-In-Wonder of the Optical Drive market.
 
Now that we understand a little more about the drive, we'll head on over at take a look at how it handles everyday CD tasks such as reading, writing, and ripping audio.


CD Read Tests:
 
The Plextor PX-708A is rated at having 40X CD Read capability. I fired up CD Speed, stuck in a full Data Disk that I created earlier, and let 'er rip. The drive easily topped over 40X, and finished reading the disk with an average of 31.4X. It reached it's 40X rated speed at the 66 minute mark. Not bad at all. The seek times and CPU utilization are very good for a DVD drive.
 
 
The next disk that we'll read is an Audio CDR that I made. It is a 77 minute + CD, and surprisingly, it is read slightly faster than the Data CD in the previous test. Seek time, and CPU utilization are again very respectable.
 
 
According to Nero CD Speed, the drive reads CD Audio accurately. For this next test, we'll take a closer look and see just how fast and good the drive actually is using a Digital Audio Extractor. As you can see in the pic below. It's results line up exactly with Nero CD Speed. The DAE finishes at a blistering 41.4X with no errors. The Audio CD that I used for this test is getting a little scratched up - not bad mind you, but it is scratched. I'm very impressed with the DAE capability of this drive. I hadn't expected a DVD Writer to fly though this test without any problems at all.
 
 
This next test shows how well the drive can read scratched and dirty disks. For this test, I've always used a backup CD-R of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. It is getting quite scratched up and has fingerprints on it. Incredibly, the PX-708A flew through this test, reading the disk perfectly without even slowing down. I've had other drives choke on this test. So far so good.
 
 
CD Write Tests:
 
As I mentioned before, things have changed a bit as far as testing goes. I used to use Nero CD Speed to show a simulated burn, then do the actual burning with Nero, and show the burn time. I now use Nero CD Speed to actually create the data disk, and skip the simulation. The following screenshot will show the full 700MB burn - including Lead In and Lead Out.
 
 
With a complete burn taking less that 3:00 minutes, the PX-708A is no slouch when it comes to handling CD's. Overall, I'm extremely impressed with it's CD performance. Honestly though, I'm sure you want to see how it works with DVD's. After all, it is a DVD BURNER!!


DVD Read Tests:
 
Finally we're on the the good stuff. For these first batch of tests, I made Data DVD's with Nero CD Speed that created full disks. I then read these disks back using Nero CD Speed to analyze the read.
 
This first test shows how the drive handles a Data DVD+R disk. I must admit, these are pretty decent times for a DVD Burner. All results are well within acceptable parameters.
 
This next test is of the same data, but this time it is read from a DVD-R. The drive struggles a little bit at the end of the disk, and the seek times and CPU usage are a little elevated. Strange that a DVD+R takes less horsepower to read.
 
This screenshot shows the drives performance when reading from a DVD+RW. Again, the seek times, and CPU usage are a little high for my liking. I rebooted and ran this test again on a different OS (I dual boot WinXP and Win2K) and the test yielded the same result.
 
This screenshot shows the same data, but this time as read from a DVD-RW. Interestingly enough, the CPU usage has dropped, although the Full Seek time is very high.
 
To test this drives ability to reach it's 12x rated speed on a DVD-ROM, I had to do some scrounging. I finally came up with the PC Gamer DVD Ed. DVD-ROM. By the time I found it, it had been well used and abused. I took my trust epoxy CD/DVD repair kit and went to work. I got most of the scratches out of it, but there are still a few along the outside edge. As this test well shows. This drive would have no problem hitting 12x DVD read on a disk that was in decent shape. . . unfortunately my DVD-ROM disk was not.
 
These next few test are of DVD Video disks. The first next two screenshots are of the DVD "The Princess Bride." It is a single layer DVD that is a little over 4.2GB. This DVD has been well used, and also has some scratches in the middle of the disk. Here is the first shot with "SpeedRead" disabled. When disabled, SpeedRead limits the drive to read Video disks at 2x. It keeps it nice and quiet for watching movies.
 
This shot here is of the same DVD-Video with SpeedRead enabled. This is enabled by pressing and holding the eject button (with no disk in the drive) for about 3-5 seconds. The LED on the drive will flash three times, then when you let go of the button the tray ejects, and ta-da! SpeedRead enabled. It is reset to default when you eject the disk or power off your computer. Scratches on the disk drop the speed, but the drive tops out over 12x on a video disk! Smokin'!!
 
The last of the read tests wind up with these two screenshots. It's the "Behind Enemy Lines." It a dual-layer DVD-Video, and the first shot shows SpeedRead disabled.
 
SpeedRead is enabled in this test, and the drive is able to read the dual-layer DVD at almost 8x. Not bad at all. A vast improvement over Plextor's PX-504A which in it's own right was a great drive - this one's just better!
 
DVD Write Tests:
 
Enough of the reading, let's get on with the Burning! We'll start off with a DVD-RW. This is probably the media most likely NOT to be used on this drive as it burns DVD-RW's the slowest. It finished a 4.38GB burn in just under 30 minutes.
 
Next up DVD+RW. While this drive is rated to burn DVD+RW's at 4x, I was unable to acquire any 4x or compatible media for this review. You'll have to be happy with a shot of 2.4x. An improvement in write time of over 5 minutes compared to the DVD-RW.
 
Now we'll take a look at a DVD-R 4x burn. It is quite an improvement over 2x, or 2.4x with the disk finished in under 15 minutes. Keep in mind that these tests are not simulations - they are the real thing. Not a bad showing of speed, but really, if you buy this burner, I'm sure that you'll want to do most of your burning at 8x on a DVD+R right?
 
This last burn test, shows the drive at is super 8x speed. It starts out at 6x with the disk making about 9,000 rpm's. At about the 700MB mark the drive changes speeds, and continues burning at 8x the rest of the DVD. This yields some pretty impressive burn times. Just under 8:00 minutes for a completely full 4.38GB DVD is incredible!! Way to go Plextor!
 
Now that you've seen how this drive performs in almost every conceivable situation, let's head on over and finish up with some conclusions.


Conclusion:
 

Plextor has done it again. They are the first to market with an 8x DVD writer, and amazingly they pull this off on 4x media. Burning a 4.3+GB DVD in under 8 minutes is something that really must be experienced to be appreciated. Plextor has also made major improvements on other DVD read features. The ability to read DVD+R/RW, and DVD-R/RW @ 8x is a huge improvement over other drives that can only read these disks at 5-6x. The drive also is incredibly fast when it comes to CD reading and writing; it's a 40/24/40 CDRW drive as well.

 
Let's take a look at some Pros and Cons for perspective.
 
Pros:
 
  • First drive to market with 8x DVD burning.
  • Fast CD Reading/Writing.
  • Excellent DAE.
  • Reads scratched and dirty CD's very well.
  • Excellent media capability. I had no problems finding media that burned at 8x.
  • Makes perfect backup of copy protected CD's/DVD's. (Safedisk 2.91&SecuROM)
  • Dual Format is "Future proof"
 
Cons:
 
  • High seek times and cpu usage on a few tests.
 
All in all, you could not ask for a better drive. This drive backs up copy protected CD/DVD disks. It is excellent for Digital Audio Extraction. It is a screaming fast DVD Writer, and burns CD's at 40x - a first for a DVD Burner. If you're building a SFF PC, and only have room for one optical drive, I'd pick this one. If you are looking to get into DVD Authoring, I'd recommend the PX-708A. If you were a picky kind of person and wanted the absolute best product available, I'd have to point you to the PX-708A from Plextor. Excellent product.
 
I had to modify my "Top Pick" award, because "Top" doesn't really explain it all. The Plextor PX-708A is the first product ever to receive the BCC Ãœber Pick Award.
 
 
If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please head on over and post them here.
 
Many thanks to Plextor for sending up the drive, and to Blankmedia for the stack 'o blanks used in this review!