Founded in 1990, Plextor Corporation has been developing and manufacturing SCSI optical products for many years (recently they've expanded into the ATAPI forum as well). During this time they have developed a reputation among many circles as the premiere manufacturer of CD-ROM, CD-R and CD-RW drives. Their latest SCSI burner, StorageReview.com's first CD-RW review, stands ready to be held up to our unflinching light of scrutiny. Such astounding reputation tends to bring forth skepticism from critics, and we at StorageReview.com are of no exception. Does Plextor's finest live up to expectations, or is their unparalleled reputation just a bunch of hype? Let's try and find out.
What does Plextor bring to the table? The PX-W124TSi writes at a maximum of 12X, rewrites at up to 4X, and reads CDs at 14X-32X CAV speeds according to Plextor's specifications. Plextor claims random accesses of 160ms and the drive features a 4MB buffer and a 1-year warranty including unlimited toll-free tech support. For full specifications, please click here. Our test unit was flashed to firmware revision 1.06 for testing. For those who've been hoping to exploit the digital CD input on their Soundblaster Live!, Plextor has built an SPDIF connector into the drive's jumper block. This non-standard implementation can be easily missed and we would've preferred to see it next to the analog audio out as most everyone else does it. While peeking at the jumper block, one will notice a cooling fan unit built into the back of the drive. Although we're not sure how useful this is, its presence may serve to calm owner concerns, as well as aid in keeping the unit cool. Finally, the 12/4/32 has a total of four front-panel LEDs! These show whether a disc is in the drive, when the disc is being read, when a disc is being written at low speed, and when a disc is being written at high speed.
Getting beyond the drive itself, Plextor's retail package contains an enormous amount of amenities. Included are:
- Plextor's own software suite, Plextor Manager 2000
- Adaptec's Easy CD Creator and DirectCD CD-mastering and writing software
- CD Res-Q imaging software
- Full user manual of each of the above programs
- One blank CD-R and one blank CD-RW disc
- An accessory bag with extra jumpers and an emergency eject pin
- Quick install guide and warranty registration card
Briefly, the Plextor Manager 2000 software suite consists of MVP 2000 (a fully-featured CD-DA and A/V player), DiscDupe 2000 (a bit-by-bit CD duplicator), and Audio Capture 2000 (CD audio extraction software). Also included in Plextor's software suite are enhanced Drive Properties, which add two additional tabs when selecting the properties section of your Plextor drive. We were particularly impressed with this, as information such as drive model, serial number, firmware, buffer, disc format, type and # of tracks, etc. become easily accessible. In addition, it is possible to manually set the drive's read speed and also to control the spindown time. The catch? It only works on Plextor drives. It should be noted that Plextor is the only optical drive manufacturer to make their own software suite in-house. We found PM2000 to be highly useful, though I had problems applying the latest 1.07 patch to my personal Win2k system (we don't install manufacturer-specific software into our optical testbed). I stuck with version 1.05 without issue and a Plextor engineer has been working diligently with me trying to duplicate what appears to be a very rare problem specific to some software and/or hardware configuration in my personal system.
Let's now see how the drive performs in our battery of read and write tests!