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Appeared on: Monday, February 18, 2002
PleXWriter PX-S88TU Vs TEAC CD-RW280PU

1. Portable storage at its maximum!

Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 1

Portable storage at its maximum!

- Introduction:

is something that many users and manufacturers have been waiting as a solution to the needs for a fast peripheral connection for personal computers. After the announcement of the USB 2.0, it was certain that many manufacturers would take advantage of the increased BUS speed, and would ship new models. TEAC was the first company to announce an external USB 2.0 recorder back in July of 2001 with the codename CD-RW280PU. Recently Plextor also introduced the PX-S88TU with the exact same specifications (8/8/24) as the TEAC drive. As it seems, the race for the best USB 2.0 external writer has just begun. Which of the two is worthy of this title? Is USB 2.0 a real solution for external recorders? Let's find out!

- What is USB Hi-Speed?

USB Hi-Speed is another name for USB 2.0. The official USB Promoter Group didn’t want the new USB 2.0 specification to be regarded as a completely new standard, which would confuse consumers. Therefore, USB 2.0 was named as USB Hi-Speed, and USB 1.1 got a new title as USB Basic Speed. The specification was released on April 2000. USB 2.0 was developed because of the needs for increased speed, much more than USB 1.1. USB 2.0 has a raw data rate at 480Mbps, and it is rated 40 times faster than its predecessor interface, USB 1.1, which tops at 12Mbps. With that increased speed, users can enjoy faster CD-RW drives than 4x writing, which was the limit for USB 1.1 hardware. :-)

USB 2.0 is backwards compatible, which means you can connect all previous USB devices to the new USB 2.0 interface. The maximum length of a USB 2.0 cable is 5m, which makes it an ideal solution for external portable recorders!

- USB 2.0 hardware:

Most current M/B only support the USB 1.1. In order to be able to test both TEAC and Plextor USB 2.0 writers, we used Adaptec's USB2connect 3100LP PCI card. The USB2connect 3100LP is a USB 2.0 host adapter for PCs and Macs that provides connectivity to USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 devices. "USB 2.0" is the fastest USB standard - capable of transferring data at up to 480Mbit/sec while maintaining backward-compatibility with current USB 1.1 devices.

The card has three external ports and one internal port for connecting USB 1.1/2.0 devices. The original retail package didn't include any drivers. Of course you could install the card but it would only work with USB 1.1 devices. Both WinME and Win2k don't support the USB 2.0 protocol. WinXP has native support.

The Adaptec USB2Connect PCI card!Adaptec finally released the long awaited USB 2.0 drivers in August of 2001 and therefore we were able to start our tests. The USB2connect also has a 10-foot (3m) USB 2.0 cable, 5 years of warranty and costs around $65. We did notice some problems with Abit KT7 Raid M/B and with the Adaptec's USB v1.0 drivers, blue screen :( , but it worked smoothly with Intel based PCs. Maybe a future driver revision will correct these problems.

- PC Setup:

Intel P3 866@950
QDI Synactix 2EP
Adaptec 3100LP USB 2.0 card
Adaptec's USB 2.0 v1.0 drivers
TEAC CD-R/W 280PU firmware v1.1A
PleXWriter PX-S88TU firmware v1.02 #TLA 102

2. The Plextor package

Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 2

- The package:

We tested the Plextor USA retail package which includes: the drive itself, 2 printed manuals (one for the drive and one for Plextor Manager 2000), a quick reference guide, 1 blank CD-R 74min disk (real manufacturer Taiyo Yuden), 1 Verbatim HS-RW blank CD-R/W disk, a USB 2.0 cable, an AC (110-240V) adapter, a power cord and an emergency stick.

The attached CDR software comes from Roxio (Ez CD Creator v5.02x/DirectCD v5.0x) and also includes the famous Plextor Manager 2000 v1.12. The CD also includes USB 2.0 drivers for Win98SE in case you need them. We must note that both the drive and the Plextor Manager printed manuals are VERY well done and you should read them before getting started with your new Plextor recorder :)

The Plextor PX-S88TU is packaged in a different way than the usual internal PleXWriter series. The drive was <sandwiched> inside an airtight plastic bag, which protects the drive from any possible damage due to bad transportation handling. Remember that the drive is very slim and an awkward fall could possibly damage it. So you are advised you to keep the plastic bag in a safe place for any future need.

The PX-S88TU ships NOW in Japan/USA and on early October in Europe at a price of $290. Plextor USA shop has a promotional offer for users who will buy the first PX-S88TU batches: A free travel case for the drive specially designed to fit and protect the drive and all its accessories. It is not clear yet if Plextor Europe will make available similar offer. The bare drive of course is the same as with the European version but the retail package has some important differences:

- Europe : 2 year warranty, USA : 1 year warranty
- Europe : 16-language manual
- European power cable
- Europe : on site collect and return service for defective drives
- Europe: Nero, USA: Ez CD Creator

The PlexWriter S88TU has a silver and blue casing and dimensions of 141x22x171mm (WxHxD). It weights around 500g and is really very attractive to the user's eye. On the top of the drive there is an open window through which you can see if there is an inserted CD, something that is both aesthetic and practical, since Plextor suggests that no CD should be inserted while carrying the drive.

On the rear of the drive there is the power connector and the USB 1.1/2.0 port. Note that the Plextor drive works only if both the USB cable and the AC adapter are attached to the drive:

On the front you will find the eject button, a power led (power on/disc access/writing), the loading tray, the emergency eject hole and the "PleXWriter", "HS-RW", "BPRec" logos:

On the right hand side you will find the headphone jack, volume control and power on/off switch.

The drive is based upon the internal mechanism of the PX-W88 and it supports: 2x, 4x, 8x (CLV) writing/re-writing (with USB 2.0), 2x, 4x (CLV) writing/re-writing (with USB 1.1), 6x reading (USB 1.1) and 24x reading (USB 2.0), 2MB of buffer and BURN-Proof. It is very interesting that the PX-S88TU also supports 8cm but when such disks are used the reading speed is dropped to 18xCAV and record speed at 4x.

- Installation:

The drive was installed with the included USB 2.0 cable on the Adaptec 3100DLP USB 2.0 card, at the same time in different USB 2.0 ports. After a reboot, the system adds a warning icon in the task bar, which shows the installed USB devices. In case you have to uninstall one device you must select it and just press stop.

Note tha tthe drive can be used with the USB 1.1 interface, but with a lower reading/writing performance (4/4/6) than with the USB 2.0.

The PleXWriter PX-S88TU was identified as "Plextor CD-R PX-S88T":

PleXWriter supports 8x writing, BURN-Proof, CD-Text and of course overburn. The PleXWriter PX-S88TU was an August 2001 model with firmware revision v1.02 installed. Note that Plextor strongly suggests that you only use the PX-S88TU in horizontal position and not in vertical since that will cause problems to the drive's mechanism.

3. Data Tests

Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 3

Data Tests

Test Method:
- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x: This was used to compare the drive's  I/O performance against other various CDR-W drives (see charts). We used a pressed CD containing PlexTools v1.08 for all tests.
- Nero CD Speed v0.84b was also used to check the drive's performance with pressed CDs. For that test, we also used the PlexTools v1.08 pressed CD.

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x results:

The PleXWriter PX-S88TU managed to overpass TEAC CD-RW280PU in the "Average Sequential I/O" test. The Plextor had 2704Kb/s and the TEAC 2637Kb/s. On the other hand the TEAC, due to its lower seek times, has a better "Average Random I/O" mark and higher "Same Sector I/O" performance. Both drives support up to 24x (CAV) reading speed, which is more than enough for an external portable CD-RW drive.

- Nero CD Speed v0.84 results: (Plextor S88TU CD Speed graphs)

Using Nero CD Speed 0.84, we confirmed the SCSI Mechanic results. The PleXWriter PX-S88TU is faster than TEAC CD-RW280PU. It starts reading faster and its ending speed is also higher than the TEAC. The PleXWriter PX-S88TU has an average of 18.51X, while the TEAC CD-RW280PU has 18.01X.

In the "Seek Times" test, the TEAC drive is faster than the Plextor drive, as expected. TEAC models usually have the lowest seek times, and from our tests this was confirmed once again. The random seek time for TEAC is 109ms, while for the PleXWriter it is 119ms.

- PSX Pressed Media

For this test we used the PSX game 'NBA Jam Extreme' and we ripped the image to HD with CloneCD. We measured the reading times for both tested drives. Plextor is the winner here with only 122secs, while the TEAC needs 28 more seconds to complete the image:

- CDR Media: (Plextor S88TU CD Speed graphs)

With CDR media, both drives performed better than with the pressed test disc. The PleXWriter still holds the first place, with 18.53X and TEAC loses with 18,39X.

4. RW reading tests
Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 4

RW reading tests

- Nero CD Speed v0.84 Test: (Plextor S88TU CD Speed graphs)

For the RW tests, we used TDK's HS-RW media. The TEAC CD-RW280PU has its reading speed locked to 8x (CLV) with HS-RW media, while PleXWriter goes from 7X-10X and is actually slower:

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure:
We used CloneCD (v3.0.8.2) and 5 original CDs - Euro 2000 (SafeDisc 1), No One Lives For Ever (SafeDisc 2), Rally Masters (LaserLock 1), Desperados (LaserLock 2) and V-Rally 2 Expert (SecuROM 2) - in order to test the reading performance of the PleXWriter PX-S88TU and TEAC CD-RW280PU. We also tested its reading performance with backups of the original CDs, since the reading speed varies between the original and the backup media. The following pictures show reading/writing capabilities for both drives:

- SafeDisc 1/2 Results:

The PleXWriter PX-S88TU is a great performer with SD1 protected CDs. The drive needs only 3.3mins to finish the task and skips errors very fast. The TEAC CD-RW280PU skips errors very slowly and needs 48mins to end the task.

With SafeDisc v2.0 protected CDs, the PleXWriter PX-S88TU showed a strange behaviour. With our normal test disc (NOLF), the drive needed over one hour to make the image. The bad news was that the drive kept reporting bad sectors than the actual ones (which ended at 10041). We made another test with "Max Payne" original CD, and this time the drive needed only 4mins to make the image but again reported more bad sectors than the actual ones. With backup CD, the drive didn't show any problem. The TEAC CD-RW280PU continues to skip error slowly and needs 45mins to end the task.

LaserLock 1/2 Results:

In the LaserLock protected CDs test, the TEAC CD-RW280PU is faster than the PleXWriter, at least with the original CD. With the backup CD, the PleXWriter outperforms the TEAC with ease. Remember that LaserLock errors are very hard for any drive to skip.

With LaserLock 2 protected CDs, the TEAC seems faster, again with the original CD. PleXWriter gets its revenge and ends first with the backup CD.

SecuROM Results

Both drives can read SubChannel Data from Data/Audio tracks without any problems. The TEAC CD-RW280PU is a lot faster than PleXWriter with both pressed/backup CDs.

5. DAE Tests

Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 5

DAE Tests

Test Method:
We used CD DAE 99 v0.21 beta and EAC v0.9 prebeta 11 software in order to check the DAE performance of both drives with various AudioCDs (both pressed and CDR). The posted DAE results are the average of both applications, but the CPU usage was only taken from CD DAE 99, since EAC occupies the system a lot more. As a last note, we used the "BURST" reading mode of EAC. We made a full CD Rip starting from the first to the last track of the CD. The Average DAE reported speed along with the CPU Usage is displayed in the test graphs.

- DAE features:
The PleXWriter PX-S88TU does support "Caching", "Accurate Stream" and "C2 error info".

- Pressed AudioCD results: (Plextor S88TU CD Speed graphs)
The PleXWriter PX-S88TU supports up to 24x (CAV) DAE with both pressed and CDR media. On the TEAC CD-RW280PU DAE speed is locked at 8x (CLV), and therefore it cannot really compete against the PleXWriter:

As we can see, the PleXWriter easily wins with 13.3X average DAE speed. As we said earlier, the DAE speed of the TEAC drive is locked at 8X and stays away from the top.

- CDR AudioCD Results: (Plextor S88TU CD Speed graphs)

Both drives performed with CDR media as with pressed CDs:

- EAC Secure Extract Ripping mode:

After many requests from numerous visitors we have added the EAC's secure extract ripping mode results, which ensures maximum produced WAV quality. Note that for each drive we used the build-in detection function:

Tested Drives
Average DAE Speed (X)
PleXWriter PX-S88TU

The TEAC CD-RW280PU was much faster than PleXWriter PX-S88TU, mainly cause it doesn't "caching" data. During the DAE process EAC reported many sync errors, however the final CRC for all tracks were ok. The PleXWriter drive keeps it's speed under 3X, at the Secure mode.

- Advanced DAE Quality

Both drives performed excellently in the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test. Both drives produced 0 data/sync errors and got a perfect score (100). The PleXWriter managed to make 1:34:59 h (ouch) to finish the task and produced lot of noise during the test:

- Bad CDR Media results:

Despite the fact that Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test stretches a drive's mechanism to the max, we decided to do real life tests with a scratched disc. The disc was dirty, and with some light scratches, enough to cause problems to most of the tested drives. We used CD DAE 99 software to rip the whole disc (756539616 sectors) and the results were very interesting:

Average Speed (X)
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
PleXWriter PX-S88TU

As the tests proved, the TEAC CD-RW280PU shows a better behaviour with scratched CDs than the PleXWriter, which managed to produce 86458 read errors. The TEAC managed to produce zero (0) errors and gave a perfect output.

- Ripping 90 and 99min CDs:

The PleXWriter PX-S88TU can read 90min CDs without any problems, but doesn't recognize 99min CDs well.

6. CDR Tests
Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 6

CDR Tests

Both drives support 8x (CLV) writing with USB 2.0 interface. When connected to USB 1.1 the writing speed drops at 4x (CLV). In addition, both drives support anti-buffer underrun technologies - TEAC supports "JustLink", and PleXWriter "BURN-Proof". We tested both drives with Nero v5.5.2.4, CloneCD v3.0.8.2 and Padus DJ v3.50.799 software. For the CDR tests we used: Creation 74min (12x), Taiyo Yuden 74 & 80min (24x), Mitsui 74min (24 & 16x) and Verbatim/TDK 74min HS-RW media.

- CD-R Tests

We created a "DataCD" job with data slightly higher than 74mins (74:03:65). We burned the same job with both drives, using the same media:

The TEAC CD-RW280PU was faster than PleXWriter PX-S88TU with all tested media. The TEAC needs 598min to finish the task, while the PleXWriter needs 13 more secs. It seems that PleXWriter OPC lasts longer, but as we will see it gives better quality produced CDs, mostly with lower quality media. The CPU Usage is very low for both recorders! No more 100% CPU Usage, when using USB 2.0 recorders.

- 80min CDs

Following the same procedure as in the previous test, we created a DataCD with data lower than 80min (79:49:50). The TEAC drive doesn't support overburning and we used the same media for all burns. The TEAC CD-RW280PU is faster, with only 5secs ahead:

- Writing Quality Tests

We used low quality media written at 8x, with both drives. The results are posted in the following table:

* Creation 74min 12x

Creation 74min - 12x - serial: 1B-11401-15:49
ATIP: 97m 27s 19f
Disc Manufacturer: Plasmon Data Systems, Ltd.
Assumed Dye type: Phthalocyanine (Type 9)
Media type: CD-Recordable
Nominal Capacity: 654.49MB (74m 30s 00f / LBA: 335100)
Disc subtype: Medium Type B, low Beta category (B-)
Target writing power: 5

8x writing speed (AudioCD)
Average Burning Time (secs)
PleXWriter PX-S88TU

The PleXWriter produced CDs of better quality, when using low quality media from "Creation". The drive produced 6.7, while the TEAC has 7.5 C1 error rate. The TEAC however is 32secs faster than the PleXWriter with the specific media.

When using high quality media (such as Taiyo Yuden 80min 24x), both drives produced CDs of equal quality (0.2 C1 average error rate). The following graph comes from the Creation 74min 12x media:

Click To Enlarge!

- Overburning Tests:
The TEAC CD-RW280PU doesn't support overburning and as for PleXWriter PX-S88TU it seems to go only up to 89minutes.

- CD-Text Results:
We created several AudioCDs with CD-Text enabled. Both drives can write/read CD-Text without any problems.

- CloneCD Tests:

CloneCD v3.0.8.2 reports that the TEAC drive supports only SAO-RAW writing mode, while the PleXWriter supports only RAW-DAO. CloneCD recognizes that both drives have anti-buffer underrun protection. The TEAC supports simulation with "JustLink" enabled, while the PleXWriter doesn't. According to our tests, TEAC can backup only SD1, LaserLock1/2 and PleXWriter SafeDisc 1, LaserLock 1/2 and SecuROM 2 protected CDs.

- SD2 Support:
For the SD2 tests we used the "No One Lives For Ever", "Emperor Battle for Dune" and "Max Payne" CD titles. We used both drives as readers/writers. The produced backups didn't play in the same or other drives. Therefore both drives cannot produce SD2 working backups.

- 8cm mini CDs:
Both drives support 8cm CDs. We are not so sure if business cards are supported. With 8cm CDs the PlexWriter lowers its writing speed to 4x and reading speed down to 18x (CAV).

- Buffer Underrun tests:
Both drives support anti-buffer underrun protection. The PleXWriter PX-S88TU has got the "BURN-Proof" certificate from the BURN-Proof center, which ensures that the drive will produce the highest quality CDs, when BURN-Proof is activated. The TEAC CD-RW280PU supports "JustLink" anti-buffer underrun technology, which eliminates coasters from buffer underruns. Both drives worked without any problems when buffer underrun was attempted from our side. When you press ctrl+alt+del the drive will start blinking and when you un-freeze the PC writing is resumed :-)

7. RW Writing Tests

Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 7

RW Writing Tests

We used Nero for writing CDs in maximum RW writing speed (8X) with both drives in 10x HS-RW media. The TEAC leads the re-writing race:

The TEAC drive needs 598 secs to finish the task, and the PleXWriter 11more seconds. The average CPU Usage is a bit higher for the TEAC (7%). The erase time seems low for both drives.

- Packet Writing Tests:
We used Ahead InCD v2.26 for all Packet Writing tests. We used TDK HS-RW media and we formatted it. The formatted disc revealed 530mbs of free space. We copied a 403 MB file (403.147 kbs) from a Hard Disk (on the same PC as the writers) to the formatted RW media-using explorer (we dragged and dropped) and we completed the test twice to eliminate possible time measurement faults and user errors:

Both TEAC and Plextor drives have the same exact writing performance at packet writing mode. The TEAC has 5.7X and the Plextor 5.71X. The TEAC drive seems to perform slightly better in the reading part with 5.59X, while PleXWriter has 5.19X.

8. PleXWriter PX-S88TU Conclusion

TEAC CD-RW280PU vs. Plextor PX-S88TU - Page 8

PleXWriter PX-S88TU Conclusion

Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- Elegant design
- Supports USB 1.1/2.0 interfaces
- "BURN-Proof" anti-coaster technology
- Very good tray design
- Very good data reading performance with both CDR/pressed media
- Very good DAE speed
- Produces better quality CDs (when using low quality media)
- Supports DAO-RAW
- Supports overburning (up to 89minutes)
- Supports reading/writing of SubChannel Data
- Supports CD-Text (reading/writing)
- Low CPU Usage while operating
- Weights 500gr

- Higher recording times than TEAC CD-RW280PU
- DAE quality is not perfect with scratched CDs
- Failed to backup SD2 protected CDs
- Loud noise when executing Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE!
- Higher price than competition ($285)

After the end of our roundup, one thing was in our minds. How dramatically technology changes for the sake of end users. USB 2.0 solves, at last, the previously limited 4/4/6 CD-RW solutions and gives the users a fast and very easy way to backup their important data. Both the tested CD-RW drives will make their users happy, and it would be nice to see even faster portable solutions in the future.

Even if TEAC and the PleXWriter share the same writing/re-writing/reading speeds (8/8/24) the final results show some interesting differences. Each drive has its own positive and negative points, which should be studied carefully by the possible buyer. Our Japanese visitors are lucky to have the choice between both recorders, but for the rest of the world the PleXWriter PX-S88TU is the only way to go. Now if you keep asking for the best, that small window on the top does make the difference ;-)

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