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Appeared on: Friday, November 24, 2006
Plextor BD-R PX-B900A


1. Introduction

With the first Blu-ray drives appearing on the market, it was only fitting that perhaps the professionals manufacturer, Plextor, should launch a Blu-ray burner. Recent Plextor DVD burners had been very disappointing to say the least, from a manufacturer whom we have come to expect excellent quality, so it was going to be very interesting to see how the Blu-ray burner performed.

As with all the Blu-ray burners released so far, don't expect to see lightning fast speeds with the more traditional CD and DVD formats. Writing speeds on the Plextor BD drive are limited to 8X for DVD±R, 4X for DVD±R DL and 24X for CD-R. It also supports 5X DVD RAM writing. But the most important is the 2X writing and reading speed for BD-R and BD-RE formats for both SL and DL media.

In order to play HD content titles, a compatible HDCP monitor or HDMI TV set is required. While a number of graphics cards claim to be HD compatible, it is not always the case and there are still some issues involved. Certainly, the latest graphics drivers need to be downloaded from nVidia and ATI. Finally, region control has been implemented, similar to that used with DVD titles, so the correct region must be set.

 

 

The retail package includes:

Intervideo WinDVD BD Playback BD
WinDVD Playback DVD
VideoStudio Video Editing and Authoring
DVD MovieFactory Video Authoring and Burning
Burn. Now Burning
BD Discrecorder Capturing
Data-Add Packet Writing

Plextor has chosen to equip the drive with an IDE/ATAPI interface. S-ATA interfaces are expected, however, to be used in the majority of the BD drives in the future.

The drive was manufactured in September of 2006 in Japan, according to the label placed on the top side of it.


Click For Large Image

The drive is built around the Panasonic MN103S98HBA (shown below), an all in one chipset supporting all CD and DVD media formats, except for HD-DVD. The chip was released by Panasonic at the end of 2005.

Drive Info

Plextor PX-B900A was installed as a typical ATAPI drive and was recognized as "PLEXTOR BD_R PX-B900A".

Most of the latest Drive Information utilities fail to report a basic feature of the drive: BD-R DL (dual-layer) writing.


2. CD - DVD Reading

For our CD transfer rate tests, we used the Nero CD-Speed utility and a set of Pressed CDs. The drive can read CD media at a maximum speed of 32X.

Pressed CD -

Press for Larger Picture

US RW CD -

The following CD Speed graph shows the reading performance with US-RW media.

Press for Larger Picture

- AudioCD

In the CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test, the drive's average speed was 18X with a quality score of 100.


- 90mins Audio disc

- 99mins Audio disc

The drive cannot read 90 or 99 minute CD media.

- DVD Format

Now let's have a look at how the drive performs with DVD media. This time, a set of SL and DL DVD media was used. The drive is capable of reading at 8X maximum speed, both single and dual layer media.

DVD Pressed SL media -

8X reading speed was achieved with DVD-ROM Single Layer media.

PTP DVD-ROM -

The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially with the drive starting reading from the inner part of the disc, which is the beginning of each layer, progressing towards its outer range.

OTP DVD-ROM -

The first layer of an OTP dual layer DVD-ROM is read exactly the same way as the first layer of the PTP disc we tested previously. The difference here is the reading strategy of the second layer of the disc. The beginning of the second layer is located in the outer part of the disc, so the drive starts reading from the outer tracks and progresses towards the inner part of the disc.

8X reading speed with both PTP and OTP dual layer media .

- DVD Ripping speed:

Average - 6.127 kB/s (4.4x)
Maximum - 8.625 kB/s (6.2x)

- DVD-RAM

The drive can read read and write DVD-RAM media at 5X. For our test, we used a 5X DVD-RAM disc from Maxell, burned with the LG GSA-4120B. The disc was read without any problems.


3. CD Error Correction

In the following tests, we check the drive's behavior when reading scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total Num: 45401
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 814 Avg: -64.0 dB(A) Max: -9.2 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 33 Avg: 202.5 Samples Max: 3327 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 80.3 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

The total error count is extremely low at only 45,401. The maximum Error Loudness of -9.2 dB(A) is high and there were quite a few muted samples, but no skipped samples. The final test result score of 80.3 is extremely good.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total Num: 0
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 0 Avg: -174.0 dB(A) Max: -174.0 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 100.0 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

Of late, it has been a rare site to see a drive attain a perfect score with this test disc. Extremely good results with both the ABEX test discs.

 

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

The CD-Check Test Disc is a very useful tool for evaluating the Sound Reproduction / Error correction capabilities of a CD player. The disc offers a signal combination with disc error patterns to rate the drive's abilities to read music and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a sequence of progressively more difficult tests. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

The tracks are reproduced through a software multimedia player (e.g. Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone is smooth, continuous without interruptions, skipping or looping. The higher the Check Level passed, the more reliable the sound reproduction of the tested drive.

Error Level
1
2
3
4
5
Plextor BD-R PX-B900A
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5

The drive achieved flawless reading with all 5 tracks.

- Summary

Overall, the drive appears to have excellent CD Error correction capabilities.


4. DVD Error Correction

In the following tests, we examined the DVD reading capabilities of the drive with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests, we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media comes from ALMEDIO.

- Single Layer media

ABEX TDR-821

This is a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with a 4.7GB capacity, and its surface has an artificial scratch of dimensions varying from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

The following transfer rate picture comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

 

ABEX TDR-825

This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM of 4.7GB capacity. The data structure of the disc is exactly the same as that of the TDR-821, with the difference that there are no scratches on it but instead, defective areas of dimensions ranging from 0.5 to 1.1 mm.

There are also fingerprints sized between 65 and 75 micrometers.

- Dual Layer media

ABEX TDR-841

This is an 8.5GB dual layer, single sided DVD-ROM disc with artificial scratches of dimensions ranging from 0.4 to 3.0mm, on both layers.

 

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the first includes defective areas and fingerprints.

The dimensions of the defective areas range from 0.5 to 1.1 mm and the fingerprints are sized from 65 to 75 micrometers.

ABEX TDV-541

The TDV-541 is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc, with a capacity of 8.5GB.The disc is based upon the TDV-540 series which is designed for inspection and adjustment of DVD-VIDEO players. The disc checks the layer switch operation from layer 0 to layer 1 and also includes test pictures and test signals for DVD sound files.

The current TDV-541 also checks the error correcting capabilities of the drive and includes scratches from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

There were no errors but the drive dropped speed down to 2X just after the layer switch.

ABEX TDV-545

The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc with a capacity of 8.5GB.

The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the data surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It also has 65 - 75 micrometer fingerprints.

- Summary

Overall, excellent error correction mechanism with DVD media. There were no errors with any of the media, although there was a sharp drop in speed with the TDV-541.


5. Burning/Reading Times

BD-R BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
2X MEI-(001) 2X 45:11 2X 44:42
2X TDKBLDRBA-(000) 2X 45:11 2X 44:43
2X VERBATIMa-(000) 2X 45:07 2X 44:42

BD-RE BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
2X TDKBLDWBA (000) 2X 45:11 2X 44:42
2X VERBATIM0 (000) 2X

45:11

2X 44:42


BD-R DL BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
2X TDKBLDRFA (000) 2X 90:11 2X 89:33

DVD+R BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
8X CMCMAG E01 (000) 8X 9:06 8X 9:38
4X OPTODISC OR4 (000) -X

error

- -
8X PRODISC R03 (003) 6X 10:18 8X 9:40
2X RICOHJPN R01 (002) 4X 14:55 8X 9:42
16X RICOHJPN R03 (004) 8X 9:07 8X 9:40
6X RITEKR03 (002) 6X 10:21 8X 9:41
8X YUDEN000 T02 (000) 8X 8:58 8X 9:40

DVD+R DL BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
4X MKM 003 (000) 4X 26:58 8X 17:29


DVD+RW BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
8X RICOHJPN W21 (001) 8X 9:10 8X 9:42

DVD-R BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
8X CMC MAG AE1 8X 9.06 8X 9:38
4X MAM4XG02 4X 15:23 8X 9:40
8X ProdiscF01 6X 10:20 8X 9:41
8X RITEKG05 8X 9:07 8X 9:41
4X SKC 4X 15:23 8X 9:41
8X TTG02 6X 10:20 8X 9:41
8X TYG02 8X 9:07 8X 9:43

DVD-R DL BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
8X MKM 03RD30 4X 27:49 8X 17:30

DVD-RW BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
4X MCC 01RW4X 4X 15:13 8X 9:42
6X MKM 01RW6X01 6X 10:07 8X 9:42
6X RITEKW06 6X 10:08 8X 9:38
DVD-RAM BURNING RESULTS
Media Speed Manufacturer ID Burned Speed Burning Time (mins:secs) Reading Speed Reading Time (mins:secs)
3X MXL8 3 Did not complete 3X 18:19
5X MXL16 5X Did not complete 5X 11:00


6. TY Professional Ultra

Writing strategy - 12-24x Z-CLV (19.65 Average)
Writing time - 4:43 mins

Reading strategy - 15-34x -CAV (25.41 Average)
Reading time - 3:18

Writing Quality - Clover Systems

About Clover Systems

The Clover Systems CDX Compact Disc Analyzer is a tool to quantitatively measure the quality of a CD. It will analyze CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-I, CD-R, Photo-CD, Enhanced CD and CD-RW discs at 4X, 8X, 24X, 32X or 40X speed. It effectively measures disc quality by examining the quantity and severity of CIRC errors generated during playback. It also provides the capability to measure signal parameters related to pit geometry, such as asymmetry and reflectivity. Together, all these bits of information provide a thorough analysis of disc quality. The Clover Systems Analyzers can also perform various format-checking tests on data discs, and do bit-for-bit data comparison on all types of CDs. All tests are carried out at the speed of 4X.

CIRC error correction uses two principles to detect and correct errors. The first is redundancy (extra information is added, which gives an extra chance to read the disc), and the second is interleaving (data is distributed over a relatively large physical area). The CIRC error correction used in CD players uses two stages of error correction, the well known C1 and C2, with de-interleaving of the data between the stages.

The error type E11 means one bad symbol was corrected in the C1 stage. E21means two bad symbols were corrected in the C1 stage. E31 means that there were three or more bad symbols at the C1 stage. This block is uncorrectable at the C1 stage, and is passed to the C2 stage. Respectively, E12 means one bad symbol was corrected in the C2 stage and E22 means two bad symbols were corrected in the C2 stage. E32 means that there were three or more bad symbols in one block at the C2 stage, and therefore this error is not correctable.

BLER (Block Error Rate) is defined as the number of data blocks per second that contain detectable errors, at the input of the C1 decoder. Since this is the most general measurement of the quality of a disc, you will find BLER graphs for all media tested below. If you click on the images you can see a more detailed table, indicating error levels. The Red Book specification (IEC 908) calls for a maximum BLER of 220 per second averaged over ten seconds. Discs with higher BLER are likely to produce uncorrectable errors. Al low BLER shows that the system as a whole is performing well, and the pit geometry is good. However, BLER only tells us how many errors were generated per second, and it does not tell us anything about the severity of those errors.


7. HISPACE 80min CD-R

Writing strategy - 8x CLV (8.02 Average)
Writing time - 10:33 mins

Reading strategy - 14-34x -CAV (25.39 Average)
Reading time - 3:18

Writing Quality - Clover Systems


8. Fujifilm 80min CD-R

Writing strategy - 12-24x Z-CLV (19.58 Average)
Writing time - 4:44 mins

Reading strategy - 15-33x -CAV (25.26 Average)
Reading time - 3:20

Writing Quality - Clover Systems


9. Ritek 74min CD-R

Writing strategy - 16x CLV (15.62 Average)
Writing time - 5:13 mins

Of course, it is obvious that the writing strategy is the Z-CLV and not CLV as Nero CDSpeed reports.

Reading strategy - 11-25x -CAV (18.99 Average)
Reading time - 4:08

Writing Quality - Clover Systems


10. Memorex 2x BD-R

Media Info -

Click for largerImage

Writing - 2x in 45:11

Click for largerImage

Reading - 2X in 44:42

Click for largerImage


11. TDK 2x BD-R

Media Info -

Click for largerImage

Writing - 2X in 45:11

Click for largerImage

Reading - 2X in 44:43

Click for largerImage


12. Verbatim 2x BD-R

Media Info -

Click for largerImage

Writing - 2X in 45:07

Click for largerImage

Reading - 2X in 44:42

Click for largerImage


13. TDK 2x BD-RE

Media Info -

Click for largerImage

Writing - 2X in 45:11

Click for largerImage

Reading - 2X in 44:42

Click for large rImage


14. Verbatim 2x BD-RE

Media Info -

Click for large rImage

Writing - 2X in 45:11

Click for large rImage

Reading - 2X in 44:42

Click for larger Image


15. TDK 2x BD-R DL

Media Info -

Click for larger Image

Writing - 2X in 90:11

Reading - 2X in 89:33

Click for larger Image


16. The DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x

The DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x

The DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x is one of the cornerstones in DVD quality control equipment, and is truly unique in the industry. It allows checking of replicated DVDs with single and dual layer structure (DVD-5, DVD-9, DVD-10, DVD-14, DVD-18) and written DVD recordable, at 1X and 2X speed. It is based on the Pulstec Reference Pickup and Drive, developed in close co-operation with Pulstec and according to the standards of the DVD Forum.

In short, the device's features include:

An explanation of the various parameters the DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x offers is available here.


17. CMCMAG E01 (000) DVD+R

Media Info -

Click For larger Image

Writing - 8X in 9:06

Click For larger Image

Reading - 8X in 9:38

Click For larger Image

DaTARIUS Scans -

Click For Larger Image


18. OPTODISC 0R4 (000) DVD+R

Media Info -

Strangely, this media could not be accessed. It is correctly recognised, but that's as far as it goes.


19. PRODISC R03 (003) DVD+R

Media Info -

Writing - 6X in 10:18

Click For larger Image

Reading - 8X in 9:40

DaTARIUS Scans -

Click For Larger Image


20. RICOHJPN R01 (002) DVD+R

Media Info -

Writing - 4X in 14:55

Reading - 8X in 9:42

DaTARIUS Scans -

Click For Larger Image


21. RICOHJPN R03 (004) DVD+R

Media Info -

Writing - 8X in 9:07

Reading - 8X in 9:40

DaTARIUS Scans -

Click For Larger Image


22. RITEKR03 (002) DVD+R

Media Info -

Writing - 6X in 10:21

Reading - 8x in 9:41

DataRIUS Scans -

Click For Larger Image


23. YUDEN000 T02 (000) DVD+R

Media Info -

Writing - 8X in 8:58

Reading - 8X in 9:40

DaTARIUS Scans -

Click For Larger Image


24. MKM 003 (000) DVD+R DL

Media Info -

Writing - 4X in 26:58

Reading - 8X in 17:29

DaTARIUS Scans -

 

 

Click For Larger Image


25. RICOHJPN W21 (001) DVD+R

Media Info -

Writing - 8X in 9:10

Reading - 8X in 9:42

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000

About Almedio AEC-1000

The AEC-1000 consists of a DVD Drive and the "ALChecker" error measurement application which can check the written data quality. The application is capable of 1X CLV measurement as well as 4X CLV on DVD-Video/ROM and finalized DVD+R/-R media.

There are three measurement modes:

The checking status is shown graphically in real time while you can save the error graph at the end of the test. The reported errors are the PI and the UncPO. In the case of PI, it counts the number of rows corrected by the PI error correction in each group of eight consecutive ECC blocks. In the case of UncPO, it counts the number of ECC blocks in which more than one byte is uncorrectable in eight consecutive ECC blocks. For our quality scans, we set for 1X CLV and Fine Mode which is the slowest and with the safest results. Also, we chose to measure all the media burned at the maximum available writing speed.


26. CMC MAG AE1 DVD-R

Media Info -

Click For Larger image

Writing - 8X in 9:06

Reading - 8X in 9:38

DaTARIUS Scans -


27. MAM4XG02 DVD-R 4x@4x

Media Info -

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000

Writing - 4X in 15:23

Reading - 8X in 9:40

DaTARIUS Scans -


28. PRODISCF01 DVD-R

Media Info -

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000

Writing - 6X in 10:20

Reading - 8X in 9:41

DaTARIUS Scans -


29. RITEGK05 DVD-R

Media Info -

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000

Writing - 8X in 9:07

Reading - 8X in 9:41

DaTARIUS Scans -


30. SKC DVD-R

Media Info -

Click For Larger Image

Writing - 4X in 15:23

Reading - 8X in 9:41

DaTARIUS Scans -


31. TTG02 DVD-R

Media Info -

Click For Larger View

Writing - 6X in 10:20

Reading - 8X in 9:41

DaTARIUS Scans -


32. TYG02 DVD-R

Media Info -

Writing - 8X in 9:07

Reading - 8X in 9:43

DaTARIUS Scans -


33. MKM03RD30 DVD-R DL

Media Info -

Writing - 4X in 27:49

Reading - 8X in 17:30

DaTARIUS Scans -

 

 

Click For Larger Image


34. MCC 01RW4X DVD-RW

Media Info -

Writing - 4X in 15:13

Reading - 8X in 9:42

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000


35. MKM 01RW6X01 DVD-RW

Media Info -

Writing - 6X in 10:07

Reading - 8X in 9:42

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000


36. RITEKW06 DVD-RW

Media Info -

Writing - 6X in 10:08

Reading - 8X in 9:38

Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000


37. MXL8 DVD-RAM

Media Info -

Writing - 3X

Despite repeated attempts, the writing process always failed near the end.

Reading - 3X in 18:19


38. MXL16 DVD-RAM

Media Info -

Writing - 5X

Again, despite our repeated efforts, the drive simply could not complete the writing process, failing near the end.

Reading - 5X in 11:00


39. Conclusion

Plextor has traditionally been the drive manufacturer prefered by most professionals and not without reason. Plextor has always produced drives of quality, although their last efforts have fallen well short of the mark. So it was with great interest that we put the BD-R PX-B900A through its paces.

It is by no means a fast drive with the more traditional CD and DVD media in either writing or reading. But then, this seems to be the case with all the new Blu-ray drives being released. The BD-R PX-B900A is based on the Panasonic MN103S98HBA which is an all in one CD, DVD and Blu-ray controller chip.While writing speeds aren't the fastest on the market ( 8X for DVD±R and 4X for DVD±R DL), they are nonetheless quite adequate for the needs of most users. The drive however is a Blu-ray drive and in that department, it supports 2X reading and writing speeds for BD-R and BD-RE (SL and DL) media.

In our suite of tests, the drive in the main produced very good results. It proved a very capable reader with both CD and DVD defective media. In fact, it is one of the best drives in error correction that we have seen in a long time. With burning CD and DVD media, it provided very good quality, probably in part due to the fact that burning was done at lower speeds. What was noticable was how steady the drive was. Even the writing and reading times are almost exactly the same for any particaular speed, regardless of the media brand. For example, if we look at burning times with DVD-R media, at 8X speed it took 8:06, 8:06 and 8:07 mins with three different brands. The reading times for the same format range from 9:38 to 9:43 mins for 7 different brands. That's consistency. And the CD-DVD Speed graphs are all excellent. The DaTARIUS Scans did pick up some errors, but in the main, quality was very good.

Blu-ray media was also excellent in both writing and reading. We had absolutely no problems there at all. The drive is also among the few currently available capable of writing on dual-layer BD-R media. Unfortunately, we were unable to test any titles with the drive, since as yet, no releases have been frothcoming in the European region. But the drive is only one link in the chain of devices required to play a HD title. In order to play HD content titles, a compatible HDCP monitor or HDMI TV set is required as well as an appropriate graphics card (HDCP) and the latest Nvidia or ATI drivers. But there have been problems getting everything to work together at this early stage. Not all the available graphics cards are HDCP-ready, no matter what the VGA manufacturers claim. It is hoped, that as the whole process matures, compatibility issues will be ironed out.

What is also intersting is the fact that currently, you may experience full HD playback of movies through the RGB interface (analogue) of your graphic card. But these tests will follow in our next reviews.

All in all, this appears to be a return to the quality drives we have come to expect form Plextor.



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