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Plextor PX-W1610TA - CD-ROM Performance Results

  March 6, 2001 Author: Tim Zakharov  

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

CD Read Tests

Note: Recently it was revealed on another site that on the back of Plextor's latest drives, UDMA33 operation can be enabled by shunting a pair of pins marked "reserved." Leery of this procedure, we asked Plextor about it. Their response: the reserved pins are used for a variety of in-house tests. These tests are done purely for Plextor's internal research and development. Often the purpose of the reserved pins can change between different drive models; sometimes even between different revisions of the same drive model. Therefore Plextor cannot provide support for any end-user experimentation with the reserved pins.

In the end, we chose not conduct any tests with the pins shunted. Two reasons:

First, on a theoretical level the only tangible difference between UDMA33 and DMA2 is an increased transfer rate ceiling. Since the PX-W1610TA is not capable of sustaining speeds higher than 6 MB/sec, the 16.6 MB/sec ceiling that DMA2 offers is more than enough for optimal performance. Any CPU utilization differences reported by other sites border on insignificant at best - both modes offer low CPU utilization so long as DMA transfers are enabled in the operating system.

Second, Plextor's statement that the function of the reserved pins can change renders any testing pointless in our opinion.

Low-Level Measurements

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We use Ziff-Davis' venerable CD Winbench 99 to measure random access times and sustained transfer rates.

The Plextor averages 147 ms in our access time test. Not only is this slower than spec, it's the slowest result in our comparison. How does this affect upcoming benchmarks that place emphasis on speedy access time measures? We'll find out shortly.

In the sustained transfer rate test, the Plextor starts at 20X on the inside tracks and finishes at 41X by the outer edge of the disc. Both are a bit faster than Plextor specifies, enabling the PX-W1610TA to race ahead of all comparison drives.

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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

The PX-W1610TA averages a disappointing 1070 KB/sec, keeping it near the bottom of our comparison. The reason becomes clear when we examine the individual scores. While disc 1 averages 1250 KB/sec, discs 2 and 3 average 1175 KB/sec and disc 4 averages only 681 KB/sec. Numerous retests show consistency in these figures, even with our 2nd evaluation sample. There is something about disc 4 that the Plextor does not like, as it spins down frequently during testing, eventually giving up and remaining at reduced RPMs for the remainder of the test.

How much emphasis should be placed on this? The PX-W1610TA might benefit from some tweaking to its error correction/speed reduction algorithms, but performance with most discs (3 out of 4 in this test) is adequate.

File and Disc Copy

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Our file copy test emphasizes sequential transfer rates since it copies a single, 634 MB file. Again we have read issues, this time when the drive reaches the outer edge of our CDTach98 disc. Both drives repeatedly spin down near the outer edge, completing the test at vastly reduced RPMs and slow copy times of 4:29. When we duplicate our CDTach98 test disc to CD-R and test with the copy, there are no spindowns: average copy times hover around 2:31. We return to our previous hypothesis - perhaps a firmware adjustment related to pressed CDs, error correction and speed reduction might fix this issue.

The disc copy test introduces random accesses, due to the multiple files and folders on our test CD. Fortunately, there are no spindown issues here. The PX-W1610TA averages 3:28, easily the fastest in our comparison. Clearly, when the Plextor maintains spindle speed, its read performance is at or near the top.

Digital Audio Extraction

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We measure DAE with two programs: CDSpeed99 and CDDAE99. CDSpeed99 is more of 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 your hard drive.

The fast, clean CDSpeed 99 extraction rates are impressive. The Plextor sets records for a CD-RW: 18X minimum, 39X maximum, and 30X average DAE! Even when extracting from scratched CDs, maximum extraction rates are maintained. CDSpeed gives the drive a perfect 10 for extraction quality, and support for accurate streaming is detected. Informal tests with a 76-minute CD-DA show the Plextor reaching 42X at the outer edge of this oversized disc.

Results are similar with CDDAE99. Extraction rates average just under 28X with zero errors detected. With verification disabled, our 65:23 test disc extracts in about 2:20. Overall, the PX-W1610TA to offers the highest levels of DAE speed and accuracy of the burners we've tested.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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.

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In CD-R read tests, sustained transfers are identical to pressed CD reads: 20X-41X. Interestingly, the Plextor's access time with CD-Rs is only 133 ms - significantly lower than our pressed CD measurements. There are no compatibility issues with the various brands and speeds of CD-R media we use. These include 16X Verbatim, 12X Imation, and 12X TDK.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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The PX-W1610TA slows down when reading CD-RWs: our tests show minimum read speeds of 16X and maximum reads of 33X at the outer edge. Average access times remain lower than with pressed CDs, a 134 ms average. There are no problems reading from a variety of brands: Verbatim 4X, as well as high-speed CD-RWs from Verbatim, TDK, Sony, and Memorex.

Overall, the Plextor's read performance results are mixed. While the drive's DAE is unparalleled, and performance/compatibility with CD-R and CD-RW media is good, spindown issues in some of our tests lead us to believe that the drive's firmware is too quick to reduce speeds when encountering difficult-to-read areas on certain pressed CDs.

Let's take a look at write and rewrite capabilities of Plextor's newest offering.

 Write/ReWrite Performance Results...


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