Plextor initially became very well known for producing high quality SCSI drives that could read and copy audio very easily. However, all of the time, their price was higher than the competition.
Nowdays many companies have flooded the market with all sorts of ATAPI drives, for all tastes. LiteOn was not one of my favourites, in fact nobody cared to import such drives in my country (Greece) in the past. The things changed, however with the adoption of LiteOn drives inside Sony products. Now you can have a decent return policy and a warranty that is covered by a more "reliable" brandname.
All this are said because you talked so much about warranty and aftersales support.
I would like to raise another issue, important for me, it is the hardware issue. By averaging opinions on various forums, I see that Plextor yet maintains a "high quality" mark, leaving all drives behind. Regardless of the amount of disagreement I'll receive in your replies, I must say that this quality issue is just another marketing myth, that has been left in our consciousness from the past days. And I'll try to give you some clues to start thinking about.
Remember, when was it the last time you saw a CDR(W) drive die due to PUH inability to operate, or due to mechanics failure? Whenever I go visit my old workplace, I still see lots of yamahas 100 or 400 that still manage to do their job, my yamaha 4416 has copied 1000s of CDs and still wants more, I even get working reports from drives I considered inferior, such as the philips 2610 or the HP 7001 :) Yeap, they are all there, working, and will shake their tail at you when you toss them a blank cdr :)
I want to say that from the mechanical or the electronic point of view, I see no problem. The only thing that now matters to me is the firmware.
As you see, plextors are historically proven good audio readers/writers. I could not disagree on the reading part because I had been using 7 12x drives in a SCSI tower and know they are fine readers. It is the firmware that makes this drive a "good reader", giving it the ability to perform extensive error correction at high speed? Is it the firmware again that makes the LiteOn lightning fast when it comes to reading/DAO and sluggish when they encounter a problem on the disk? Is it the firmware that can turn your drive from a 40x unit to a 48x unit and give you MtRainier support?
So, IMHO, this is where the actual war is taking place.
I won't stand on the myth that plextors are the finest writers. This is crap. You are writing sectors of bytes and subchannel info, you are not performing critical pick up head adjustments on your expensive turntable.. Just like that simple. I recognize on Plextor it had motivated evolution by being among the pioneers of adopting large buffers and burnproof technologies. Nowdays, however, all drives take precautions against the notorious buffer underrun and this can no more be an argument for "plextor being the king of the writers".
So, what is left for plextor? Higher grade of plastic? Two year warranty against the 1 year warranty others offer? Just tell me.
Do not think I hate Plextors or that I like liteons. I'm a cold judge that focuses on the features-to-price ratio. So, I consider a modern plextor a good drive but overpriced for its money and I consider liteon a cheap drive that however does an excellent job.
(And all these have no relation to my personal preference, for the type of work I do, my flavour is Yamaha)
Gimme all your beer..