DVD-ROM Performance Results
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Looking at the numbers, the DVD-304S appears to be a huge underperformer in DVD transfer rates. Speeds at the end of our test DVD (Twister) only reach 6.6X-well under its 10X rating. However, a look at the transfer rate graph shows a CAV(constant angular velocity) line beginning at 4X and heading towards 10X before inexplicably topping out at 8X, beginning a descent, and finally leveling off at just under 7X. We tested with a few more DVD-Video discs, and also with a newly acquired data DVD disc (the game Lightbringer), but this same basic pattern persisted. So the recorded numbers are a bit deceptive, as the maximum transfer rate actually broke 8X-still 20% below its rated maximum.
Cpu utilization at 1X as recorded by DVDSpeed99 checks in at 10%. For reference, Toshiba's SD-M1401 got 9% and the two ATAPI drives in our comparison get 6-7%.
Subjective Playback Observations
In watching portions of two movies (Twister and The Matrix), we found no quality issues during playback. Remember, DVD movies play at 1X, so just about any modern DVD-ROM drive will do a good job playing movies, provided it is installed in a system with decent cpu speeds (greater than 300mhz) and sufficient memory (at least 64MB, preferably 128MB). Systems with hardware-based DVD decoders can get away with slower cpu speeds.