Plextor PlexWriter 16/10/40A CD Writer

Set your engines for warp speed, Scotty, Plextor has done it again. The PlexWriter 16/10/40A burns CDs so fast they are done almost before you begin.
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Set your engines for warp speed, Scotty, Plextor has done it again. The PlexWriter 16/10/40A burns CDs so fast they are done almost before you begin.
Product PointsApplications: Studio CD recording, archiving audio and data

Key Features: PlextorManger 2000, Roxio Easy CD Creator and Direct CD for ripping and making audio CDs and data CDs; uses EIDE interface; minimum requirements: Pentium MMX 200 MHz with Windows 95, 98, 2000 or NT 4.0

Price: $309

Contact: Plextor USA at 408-980-1838 Web Site

Plus

+ Easy installation

+ Useful software utilities

+ Records CD-Rs at 16x, CD-RWs at 10x

+ Plays CD-ROMs at 40x max

+ Burn-Proof technology

Minus

- None

The Score: A great unit for burning CDs on your computer at the fastest speed that the CD media will currently support.
Features

Well, okay - not quite that fast, but the PlexWriter ($309) burns CD-Rs at a blazing 16x, and CD-RWs at 10x, and plays CD-ROMs at a maximum of 40x.

Installation was a breeze. I did not even need the manual to install the EIDE device and the Plextor MVP 2000, or the Roxio Easy CD Creator and Direct CD utilities that came with the unit.

How much better does it perform than earlier models? To find out, I ran a series of tests between my older PlexWriter 8/20 and the new 16/10/40A.

In use

First I opened Roxio's Easy CD Creator and put together 631 MB of files for a data CD. The 16/10/40A burned the CD-R in 5:35 minutes, vs. 9:59 for the 8/20. I also burned the same combination of files on a CD-RW and it clocked in at a very respectable 8:15 - faster than the 8x CD-R.

I then took an hour-long audio CD and used Plextor's DiscDupe utility to copy it. The 16/10/40A clocked in at 4:42 vs. 8:29 for the 8/20. In each case, the difference between a 16x and an 8x writer is not quite double, but very close.

In the past, CDs could be ruined by buffer underruns when the speed of the CD writer exceeded the ability of the source to keep up with it. This could be caused by fragmented hard drives, other programs sapping the computer's resources, etc. The burn-proof technology senses when the buffer is running low and stops the burn, noting where in the track the burn stopped. It then waits until the buffer is again full and restarts the burn at that point.

To put the burn-proof technology to the test, I once again started burning the 631 MB data file using Roxio's Easy CD Creator. After the burn began, I opened Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge 4.5 software and started loading the very same WAV file that the 16/10/40A was attempting to copy to CD.

The buffer indicator in the Easy CD Creator dropped from 100 to 1 percent. "Aha!" I thought. "That will bring the 16/10/40A to its knees."

But the PlexWriter chugged on at the 1 percent buffer level as long as Sound Forge continued to load the file. The time required to complete the burn nearly doubled to 8:29, but the burn went to completion and when I tested the resultant CD, it was fine.

Plextor includes software utilities for burning audio and data CDs, duplicating CDs, capturing audio and creating a jukebox playlist from a variety of files including WAV, MP3, WMA and CDA files. As an added bonus, the Plextor AudioFS makes all tracks on audio CDs appear as WAV files on Windows systems allowing them to be directly extracted into digital editing programs without a conversion utility.

Summary

Speed is not Plextor's only asset. As with previous products, the 16/10/40A is easy to use, dependable and rugged. Plextor's software utilities are versatile and user friendly. The firmware can be easily updated by accessing the manufacturer's Web site.

Two caveats, however: The burnproof technology only works with software designed to support it, and some third-party software may not support the 16/10/40A at all until the software developer has added the necessary driver(s).