In our recently published DVD-ROM comparison between Toshiba's SD-M1212 and Pioneer's DVD-303S, we covered many of the issues that are questioned when buyers seek to purchase a DVD-ROM drive for their computer. To summarize, DVD-ROM drives today are most commonly used as CD-ROM drives and DVD-Video players. DVD-Videos play back at only 1X speeds, so the extra speeds offered by drives such as Pioneer's 16X are only realized if you spend a lot of time searching and scanning in your movies. The added speed also helps in computer software applications on DVD-ROM, but at present the titles are quite few and far between.
So, in examining Pioneer's new 16X ATAPI DVD-ROM drive, much of our focus will be on its CD-ROM performance. Presently, though, we have no other 40X ATAPI drives with which to compare, so for this article we chose to include two 48X ATAPI and two 40X SCSI drives from our database. This will give an idea of where the DVD-115 falls in terms of its CD-ROM performance.
When judging the Pioneer as a DVD reader, though, we currently have two drives with which to compare it. As we build up our database, more appropriate comparisons will become available. Don't forget, you can use the database to create your own comparisons!
Let us now examine the DVD-115's specifications and environmental characteristics. Pioneer indicates a rated access time of 80ms for the DVD-115, along with a fairly large 512kb buffer and a standard one-year warranty. Our test unit arrived with firmware revision 108. A check of Pioneer's driver/firmware page prior to testing indicated no firmware updates for the DVD-115 or its slot-loading sibling, the DVD-105S. However, their spec sheet indicates the slot-loading model includes a digital audio output. Our tray-loading evaluation unit has only a standard 4-pin analog audio out. We're not sure of the reasoning behind this...the slot-loader is a love-it-or-hate-it option, so folks who want the digital audio connector, but don't care of a slot-loading drive may be forced to look elsewhere.
When it comes to acoustics, the DVD-115 is not lacking. It's far from the loudest optical drives we've tested, yet still can get fairly noisy during full-rpm operation. Seeks, however, are low and muted. After extended operation during stress testing, the Pioneer got quite warm to the touch. It never got too hot to keep our hand on, but did come close to approaching this plateau. Although we've yet to come across an optical drive that we felt required additional cooling for reliable performance, if you're one who's worked hard to keep your system temperature cool, you may want to consider what the heat output of the DVD-115 might do to your overall case temperature.
Finally, we found the average street price for the DVD-115 to be in the $150-$160 range, about $50 higher than previous-generation ATAPI DVD-ROM drives, and equal to Pioneer's own SCSI 6X DVD-ROM drive
Now then, how does the Pioneer perform as a CD reader? We are about to find out!