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Artec DHI-G40

  April 11, 2001 Author: Tim Zakharov  
Special thanks go to Artronix Technology, Inc. for providing our evaluation unit.

Introduction

Artronix Technology, Inc. (Artec) is the U.S.-based organization for Taiwanese corporation Ultima Electronics, established in 1983. Known mostly for their scanners, Artec recently started expansion into CD-ROM, CD-RW, and DVD-ROM drives.

We recently received their 16X DVD-ROM drive, which, according to Artec, is based on Sony technology. This marks the first non-Pioneer 16X DVD drive that StorageReview.com has examined. How does it compare to the firmly established competition? Before we find out, let's take a look at the specifications.

Specifications

Specifications according to Artec's manual/website:

  • CD read speeds of 40X max
  • DVD read speeds of 16X max
  • Digital audio extraction speeds not specified
  • 512 KB buffer
  • <100 ms average random access time
  • ATA-33 interface
For more information on drive specifications, click here to see Artec's online product page.

The retail box contents include:

  • The drive
  • Audio cable
  • 4 screws
  • InterVideo WinDVD 2000 movie playback software
Goodies are sparse for a retail package. Notably missing are a drive manual and an IDE cable. The closest we get to a manual is a 4x6 sheet of paper with system requirements and software installation instructions. The side of the box has a drive installation diagram.

The rest of the drive's vitals: Artec has perhaps the largest LED we've ever seen on an optical drive - about as big around as the tip of a pencil eraser. In addition, there's a standard headphone jack and single eject button on the drive face. The rear of the unit houses both analog and digital audio outputs as well as typical master/slave/cable select jumper settings and a 40-pin IDE connector.

The drive arrived with firmware revision 1.05. No newer revisions are currently available.

Artec advertises quiet operation and "good vibration resistance." They're right. This drive is noticeably quieter than Pioneer's 16X DVD offerings, both during CD reads and DVD playback. Noise levels are typical of an average 32X CD-ROM. The drive also stays relatively cool during extended use. Yes, it gets warm, but again, it's a noticeable step down from heat levels produced by the competition.

Current online pricing is not yet available - a search of Pricewatch and PriceGrabber does not show this drive for sale anywhere. Artec cites an MSRP of $129, though with direct competitors selling their product for $75 and less on Pricewatch, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Artec come in at similar or lower price points once resellers begin carrying them. Our contact at Artec tells us they recently received their first shipment of these drives, so they should be available from retailers soon.

Let's move on to the performance tests. First, lets go over CD reading abilities.

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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CD Winbench 99 measures random access times and sustained transfer rates.

The Artec starts off at 3067 KB/sec at the inner edge of our test CD, maxing out at 6290 KB/sec by the outer edge. These measures are slightly better than Artec's specs. Only Pioneer's over-achieving trio does better.

Access times come in at 80 ms - considerably swifter than the <100 ms spec and trailing only Toshiba's SD-M1401. Do speedy access times help in CD Winmark and copy tests?

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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CD Winbench 99's CD-ROM Winmark runs through a timed script of accesses ripped from a variety of popular software programs. The score here represents an average from four different test discs obtained from Ziff-Davis. This allows testing each drive's ability to read from a range of discs pressed with identical data.

The Artec records an amazing 1710 KB/sec average with very little variation between the four test discs. This leads to a 6% advantage over the next-fastest DVD drive: Pioneer's DVD-305S. In fact, this is the 2nd fastest Winmark score that SR's ever measured. Only Toshiba's 48X CD-ROM can top it.

File and Disc Copy

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This file copy test emphasizes sequential transfer rates by copying a single, 634 MB file. The three Pioneers lead the field because of their 44X max (measured) transfer rates. The Artec keeps up with the 40X Toshiba. Both trail the Pioneers by 12%.

The disc copy test introduces random accesses due to the multiple files and folders on the test CD. Again, the Artec keeps pace with the Toshiba, while the Pioneers maintain an 8% lead here.

Digital Audio Extraction

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SR measures DAE through two programs: CDSpeed99 and CDDAE99. CDSpeed99 represents a low-level measurement of DAE capabilities, while CDDAE99 is an actual audio ripping program that converts audio tracks on CD-DAs to .wav files on a hard drive.

In CDSpeed99, the Artec displays DAE potential of 9X-20X CAV. Across the entire CD-DA, this averages out to 15.4X - quite impressive for a DVD drive. Only the DVD-116 with its 16X CLV performance is better. Keep in mind that with the DVD-116, on-the-fly burning can be done at 12X and possibly even 16X, while the Artec limits burning to 8X speeds when feeding a burner due to its lower minimum extraction rate. CDSpeed99 reports perfect extraction quality as well as support for accurate streaming.

With CDDAE99, we move from the potential to the actual. The Artec extracts our entire 65-minute audio disc in 4:26. That comes out to a 14.7X average - a bit under the 15.4X average reported by CDSpeed99, but still impressive for a DVD drive. As with CDSpeed99, CDDAE99 reports perfect extraction quality with our slightly scratched test CD.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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To test each drive's ability to read from a variety of CD-R and -RW media, we duplicate our pressed test CD to these discs and measure low-level performance with them.

With CD-Rs, the Artec maintains its pressed CD performance. There are no issues reading from TDK, Imation or Verbatim media. The drive reaches 43X at the outer edge of a 700 MB CD-R. Access times improve slightly to 76 ms.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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With nearly all optical drives, poor CD-RW media reflectivity slows read speeds down. Artec's drive is no exception: -RW read performance degrades to 10X-20X CAV. This is in the same range as the Toshiba, but well behind the Pioneers. At least the Artec maintains excellent access times with an 82 ms average. We had no problems reading from low and high-speed media from Sony, Verbatim, Memorex and TDK.

DVD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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DVDSpeed99 measures sustained transfer rates and CPU utilization a 1X.

You may recall that in our Pioneer DVD-116 review we added a data DVD to our benchmarking arsenal since some of the Pioneers do not read DVD Video discs as fast as data DVDs. With the Artec, the situation reverses somewhat. When testing with a DVD Video ("Twister"), the Artec yields consistently clean transfer rates ranging from a minimum of 6.3X to a high of 14.2X. Its 10.7X average is 25% faster than Pioneer's 16X drives. We'd like to note that Artec's engineers measure nearly identical maximum speeds for this drive, so it appears it can't quite hit 16X.

However, the Artec can't turn in smooth transfer rates on data DVDs. Our attempts with three scratch-free 4+ GB single-layer DVDs consistently yield jagged transfer rates starting from about the middle of the disc outward (see the screenshot for an example). In the end, there's an average transfer rate of 9.8X, about 8% slower than what the drive can do with our DVD Video disc. Maximum transfer rates, despite the dips in the graph, appear to have a similar potential to what we measure with the DVD Video disc. However, in the end the erratic transfer rate pulls down the average speed and the Pioneer bests the Artec by 7% in this comparison.

With both data and movie DVDs, the benchmark software reports 6% CPU usage at 1X (1350 KB/sec) speeds. This is typical of other ATAPI DVD-ROMs tested in the past.

Subjective Playback Observations

No playback quality issues arose during intense portions of two movies (Twister and The Matrix). Remember, DVD movies play at 1X (1350 KB/sec), so any modern DVD-ROM drive should do a good job provided it is installed in a system with decent CPU speeds (greater than 300 Mhz) and sufficient memory (at least 64 MB, preferably 128 MB). Systems with hardware-based DVD decoders can often get away with slower CPU speeds. Video card and decoding hardware/software typically play a much greater role in playback performance than the drive itself.

Conclusion

Newcomer Artec appears to have gotten things right with their 16X DVD. The drive offers a combination of quick and quiet performance while reading CDs. In addition, DVD-ROM performance trails Pioneer's 16X drives only slightly when reading from data DVDs, and actually outdoes the Pioneers when reading DVD Video discs. Finally, the Artec offers above-average speeds and excellent quality when extracting digital audio.

The negatives are limited to slow read speeds with CD-RW media and jumpy performance when reading data DVDs. While the Artec trails the Pioneer DVD-116 in most performance tests, the differences between the two drives are small. Since there's no street price for this drive yet, it remains to be seen if it will be a better value than the Pioneer.

Overall, our recommendation of this unit hinges on what it sells for on the street. If pricing is comparable to the Pioneer's $75 street price, this drive makes an excellent alternative to the DVD-116 for those looking for quieter operation along with nearly equal performance.


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