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Pioneer DVD-305S - CD-ROM Performance Results

  December 27, 2000 Author: Tim Zakharov  

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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In our sustained transfer rate (STR) test, the DVD-305S starts off at nearly 22X on the inner tracks, continuing on to finish at over 44X by the outer edge of our test CD. This is 11% faster than specifications. Notice how similar the results are to Pioneer's DVD-115. However, these results are 8% faster than its predecessor, the DVD-304S, and 10% faster than its main competitor, Toshiba's SD-M1401.

Average random access times come in at just over 87 ms, about 8% slower than Pioneer specifies. Comparatively, the Toshiba's 75 ms result is significantly faster. Again, notice how similar this result is to the DVD-115. Will this trend continue? Let's find out.

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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In the CD-ROM Winmark test, quick access times generally play a strong role in high scores. The 305S' score of 1618 is the best we've measured for a DVD drive by a tiny margin and the 3rd best score we've ever measured. Competitor Toshiba is over 20% slower in this test. The DVD-115 trails by 1.5%, while the 304S is 10% back. A trend appears to be forming.

File and Disc Copy

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Our file copy test, which involves copying a single 634 MB file to HDD, is STR-intensive, since by definition no random accesses can occur in a single file transfer. The DVD-305S completes this copy in 2:18, again right about equal to the DVD-115. The DVD-304S trails here by 12%, while the SD-M1401 lags by 10%.

Our disc copy test is more representative of typical CD copies, as our test disc holds a variety of files within folders. This means that random access speeds will contribute to overall performance in this test. The DVD-305S completes this test in 2:46, which puts it 9% ahead of the SD-M1401. Continuing our comparison with the DVD-115, we again have results nearly equal between the two Pioneers. The previous-generation 304S trails the 305S by 7% here.

Digital Audio Extraction

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You may recall in both our DVD-115 and DVD-304S reviews, we encountered an odd problem with audio extraction. When extracting an entire audio CD in one session, DAE speeds pulled away from the 12X CLV (constant linear velocity) specification. Instead, we measured CAV (constant angular velocity) extraction rates. The actual problem involved the drive suddenly spinning down mid-extraction, causing a pronounced dip in the graph. What this created was an audible "pop" in the extracted audio that corresponded with where the dip in the graph occurred.

Briefly, when CLV is implemented, the drive varies rpm to keep the transfer rate constant across the CD- rotation speeds are higher when reading from the inside of a CD, and gradually reduce as reads move toward the outer edge. As such, more strain is put on the drive motor when CLV is used. When CAV is implemented, however, the drive's spindle motor spins the disc at a constant rpm, which leads to a varied transfer rate: At the innermost tracks of the disc, transfer rates are slower; as the drive's pickup moves towards the outer edge of the CD, transfer rates increase.

Our DVD-305S evaluation sample shows extraction rates nearly identical to what we've seen in the DVD-115. Unfortunately, we also were able to duplicate the popping sound and correlate it with the dip in the graph. To illustrate, click here to listen to the affected area, then click here to hear what it ought to sound like. The dip and resulting "pop" consistently occurred at about the 24th minute of our test CD-DA, but the dip varied in location when different audio CDs were used. For example, we inserted a brand new CD-DA that was shorter than our test disc (51 minutes vs. 65 minutes) and the dip occurred at the 20-minute mark.

It appears as if there may be either a firmware or spindle motor problem. The fact that similar problems were uncovered with two other Pioneer models eliminates the possibility of a damaged drive. If it's a firmware problem, perhaps the instructions to switch to CLV are not being sent to the motor when one sets up to extract an entire audio CD in a single session. If it's a motor problem, perhaps the motors have some defect that prevents them from gradually reducing rpm in conjunction with the pickup moving outward along the disc. Perhaps the issue lies somewhere in between or elsewhere entirely.

It should be emphasized that this issue was only producible when we attempted to extract an entire audio CD in one session. The problem was not producible when extracting single audio tracks. In such scenarios, extraction rates stayed in the 12X range, even when extracting the final tracks near the outer edge of the CD-DA (where CAV extraction rates would normally shine). This suggests that instructions are being given by the firmware to extract at 12X CLV when extracting individual tracks, but are being ignored or interfered with somehow when all tracks on the CD are selected to extract in one session.

How serious this issue is depends largely on how seriously one takes their audio extraction, as well as how one goes about it. This problem will only affect those who rip entire audio CDs to HDD. If this sounds like you, you may well be affected by this issue. Even then, the problem is limited to a single "pop" at roughly the 20-24th minute inside of each audio CD. Otherwise, you likely will not notice any quality issues. CDSpeed99 and CDDAE99 both claimed perfect extraction, and our informal listening of various tracks uncovered no other quality issues besides the one noted above.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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Pioneer's DVD-305S reads our 12X TDK CD-R at speeds identical to pressed CD reads. This keeps the 305S at the top of the list compared to the competition. There were no compatibility issues with reading our 12X Imation 80-minute CD-R.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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In our review of the DVD-304S we encountered a serious issue with reading CD-RW media. Basically, as long as sequential reads were done, there were no problems. But as soon as random accesses were thrown into the mix, we'd immediately get read errors and blue screens from Windows. We are happy to report that this problem is not present in the DVD-305S. Transfer rates with our Verbatim CD-RW test disc were 16X at the innermost tracks, increasing to 32X at the outer tracks. Again, we have results nearly identical to Pioneer's DVD-115. The 305S was able to read 4X CD-RWs from Verbatim, Memorex and Sony without problem, as well as our high speed CD-RW from TDK. In all cases read speeds were 32X CAV.

By now we've gathered enough evidence to hypothesize that Pioneer's DVD-305S and DVD-115 share some internal parts and perhaps some firmware algorithms as well. In just about every read test we use, the two drives yield performance figures nearly identical to one another. How will they compare in our DVD tests? Follow along as we continue our testing.

 DVD-ROM Performance Results...


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