DVD-ROM Performance Results
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When we tested the 10X-rated DVD-304S, we found that transfer rates topped out at just over 8X, and then reduced over the final 1 GB of our test DVD. However, if one looks at the numbers without examining the graph, this gives the impression that the drive is capable of less than 7X DVD. In reality, the average overall transfer rate, 6.5X, was only about 15% slower than expected-not the 30% difference one would presume just by looking at the results at the outer edge. The DVD-305S does much better in our measures, with average overall transfer rates of over 7.1X. A look at the transfer rate graph shows that, while there's still a bit of a dip at the end of the graph, it's far less pronounced than it was on the 304S. We now see speeds over 9X being achieved. To check ourselves, we tested informally with a few other DVDs and found some that would not show this dip at the outer edge. These discs finished at about 9.6X and averaged in the area of 7.3X. This confirms that the 305S is performing very close to specifications. As far as we're concerned, the DVD issue we found in the 304S is now gone.
Granted, this discussion only matters to those who actually use their DVD drives for reading application DVDs (games, encyclopedia software, etc). DVD movies still play back at only 1X, so if all you will use your drive for is watching movies, don't place much emphasis on getting the fastest DVD read speeds around, as they will be wasted. Previous generation 4-8X units will do just fine and cost much less if you can find them still being sold.
CPU utilization at 1X as measured by DVDSpeed99 was right at 9%. This is equal to what we measured for Toshiba's SD-M1401 and 1% better than the 304S.
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 300 Mhz) and sufficient memory (at least 64 MB, preferably 128 MB). Systems with hardware-based DVD decoders can get away with slower CPU speeds.