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Pioneer DVD-304S


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Pioneer DVD-304S - CD-ROM Performance Results

  September 7, 2000 Author: Tim Zakharov  

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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Looking at the sequential transfer rate (STR) numbers, we see the DVD-304S falls right in line with the other 40X readers, with 19.9X speeds at the inner tracks and 41X speeds at the outer tracks.

Interestingly, all three Pioneer drives in our comparison have specified random access times of 80ms, and all three produce measured results between 87 and 88ms. The DVD-304S comes in fourth place in our comparison, at 87.2ms. Let's see how this affects our CD-ROM Winmark results.

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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Despite identical specifications in both transfer rates and access times, Pioneer's DVD-304S finishes 8% behind its ATAPI brother in the CD-ROM Winmark test. Remember, though, the DVD-115 weighs in at 9-10% faster in measured transfer rates. With nearly identical measured access times, the 8% Winmark margin is most likely attributed to faster transfer abilities.

A comparison with the Pioneer's direct competition shows the DVD-304S finishing 11% ahead of Toshiba's SD-M1401 in this test, despite a disadvantage in measured access times. While the Toshiba's scores varied significantly between the four test CDs, the DVD-304S recorded very similar scores across the four discs, showing perhaps better consistency when faced with a variety of CDs.

Next, we test the DVD-304S in our own file and disc copy tests.

File and Disc Copy

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In our file copy test, which is purely sequential in nature, the DVD-304S is the slowest of the 40X units (remember, the DVD-115 is actually a 44X reader, hence its quicker times). Only the two 32X drives finish slower in our comparison. However, with differences of less than 3% between the SD-M1401 and DVD-304S, it's nearly a toss-up.

In the disc copy test, which includes random accesses in addition to sequential transfers, we see the DVD-304S move up in the ranks, 11.6 seconds behind its ATAPI brother. This time it is the DVD-304S that is less than 3% faster than the SD-M1401, despite slower measured access times. Again, the results are so close as to be considered a wash.

Let's now move to digital audio extraction results.

Digital Audio Extraction

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You may recall in our review of the Pioneer DVD-115 that not only were measured extraction speeds higher than the specified 12X CLV (constant linear velocity), but there were potential quality issues as well. In our first review of a Pioneer drive, however, the DVD-303S did not stray from its 12X CLV-rated extraction rates. Unfortunately, the DVD-304S appears to take more after its older ATAPI brother than its SCSI sibling. Once again, despite impressive single-session extraction rates (extracting individual tracks kept the DAE at 12X CLV), we encountered dips in the extraction rate graph that corresponded to quality issues in the extracted files. Where the two dips in the graph appear, we found very faint pops and clicks. In fact, they were faint enough that we had to confirm with back-to-back comparisons with the original. We even recruited another set of ears to help determine just how noticeable the pops were. The verdict? Noticeable, but just barely, and not a big deal. However, those who take their audio extraction seriously may beg to differ.

It should be emphasized that this phenomenon only occurred when extracting a CD-DA in its entirety, at full speed. According to our testing, those who extract individual tracks at a time, or who duplicate audio CDs on the fly should not encounter any problems because extraction rates will not stray beyond 12X in these scenarios.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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As has typified the vast majority of our optical reviews thus far, the DVD-304S had no issues with CD-R media, even copying the entire contents of our 80 minute, 701MB test CD-R to hard disk with no problems. Read speeds were identical to its pressed CD performance. Access times were measured at less than 79ms, actually under Pioneer's 80ms spec and significantly better than its pressed CD results.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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However, we came across a serious issue with reading CD-RWs that was not apparent at first. Our transfer rate test completed successfully and at speeds higher than we'd ever seen before with CD-RW media-41X! Essentially, this drive read all media thrown at it at its maximum-rated speeds; quite impressive indeed. Once we'd begun access time testing, however, we discovered a serious issue. The testbed would crash to a blue screen proclaiming read errors every time we attempted to run the access time test. We tried two other brands of CD-RW media with the same result. We tried copying files from our CD-RW discs to our hard drive and got the same crashes. Clearly, sequential reads worked fine (as evidenced by the transfer rate graph), but once random accesses were attempted, the problem would manifest itself.

Communications with Pioneer led to their suggestion that the drive might be defective. However, as of press time, we've been unable to get a second unit from them for comparison. Based on the available evidence, though, we'd be surprised if our review unit was in fact defective. Consider that the problem appears to be isolated to random accesses, but only with CD-RW media. Random accesses perform normally with pressed CDs, CD-DAs, CD-Rs, DVD-Videos, and data DVDs. Although the possibility remains that our unit had some sort of defect, we wouldn't be surprised if this was an issue fixable through a firmware update. One way or the other, we hope to be able to find a definitive answer to this problem shortly.

Come with us now as we see how the DVD-304S performs with DVD media.

 DVD-ROM Performance Results...


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