Pioneer New Media Technologies, Inc., founded in 1993, has been one of the premier manufacturers of DVD-ROM drives over the past few years. Their first DVD drives, SCSI and ATAPI 1X units, began shipping in early 1997, around the same time competitor Toshiba entered the DVD-ROM market. At present, Toshiba and Pioneer are still the two main forces in the manufacture DVD-ROMs. Case in point: the DVD-304S has only a single direct competitor, the Toshiba SD-M1401. What does set this unit apart from Toshiba, though, is the slot-loading mechanism, a feature Pioneer has been offering on their optical units for quite awhile now.
Obtaining a spec sheet for the DVD-304S was no easy task. At present, only Pioneer's Australian site has a DVD-304S spec sheet posted (presumably because the drive is so new). This 10X DVD reader/40X CD reader has a specified random access time of 80ms with CDs (100ms for DVDs), comes with 512kb of buffer, and includes only an analog CD audio-out. The drive is protected by a 1-year warranty. Our review sample came with firmware revision 1.03; our searches of both the Australian and American sites could not find any newer revisions.
When it comes to heat and noise, our DVD-304S evaluation unit trails Toshiba's model slightly. Noise levels during full-rpm operation were about average for a 40X reader, while the drive did heat up appreciably during our stress testing. Neither are cause for concern in our opinion, but we did appreciate the additional silence offered in Toshiba's unit. As availability of the DVD-304S increases, we expect prices to drop from the $155 average we gleened from the few vendor sites where the unit was offered.
Come with us now as we examine how Pioneer's latest performs as a CD reader!