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Appeared on: Monday, February 18, 2002
PleXWriter PX-W1210A CD-RW


1. Buffer Underruns
PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 1

Introduction:
Plextor has a big history in producing top quality products. Their first CD-ROM was released back in 1990 (when the company's was still named "Texel Corporation"), and their first burner appeared in 1994. From 1994 till nowadays Plextor have produced many readers and writers, and many of them have made it to the bestseller lists.

Plextor once again smokes the competition and ships worlds first 10x CD-RW drive. Since Plextor drives uses OPU (Optical Pick-Up) and Decoder LSI chipsets from Sanyo, the latest model (PX-W1210A) includes the so-called "BURN-Proof" technology that eliminates buffer underruns errors. Plextor uses major components from various manufacturers but develops their own schematics, PCB, mechanism and firmware. In comparison to other CD-ROM manufacturers, they claim that they spend more engineering time and effort to integrate and support all the features of the components (high-speed reading, DAE speed and precision) in the firmware. This makes the difference in a Plextor drive. Even they use (some) components, which also used by their competitors, performance and features are in most cases higher.

How buffer underruns caused? (From Plextor's web-site)
One of the biggest problems encountered in recording CD's is when media become unusable during recording, something referred to as "buffer underrun". Such Buffer Underruns occur when the PC can't deliver data fast enough while recording. This can be caused by a too-slow PC, Multitasking, network or interface problems, etc. Therefore, from the start the CD Recorder must first load a certain quantity of data into the buffer.


This buffer then serves to bridge over minor interruptions in the data stream from the PC. Under normal conditions, the data buffer should always be capable of holding enough data to guarantee smooth recording. Buffer underruns occur when the content of the data buffer is smaller than the recording capacity of the CD Recorder:

Plextor's latest CD Recorder, the PlexWriter 12/10/32A, uses the most recent technological developments in order to prevent the above-mentioned "Buffer Underrun" problems. This technology is thus called BURN-Proof (Buffer UnderRunN proof).

How does BURN-Proof works?
When the CD Recorder starts recording, the status of the buffer is constantly checked. Shortly before a buffer underrun might occur (typically when the buffer falls below 10% of its maximum capacity), the CD Recorder will stop recording as of a specific location on the CD. The CD Recorder continues attempting to receive data from the PC and to refill the buffer. In the meantime, the BURN-Proof circuit determines where the last successful sector is written. Using the location of the last successful sector, the BURN-Proof circuit will position the Optical Pickup. As soon as the buffer has been refilled, the CD Recorder will start recording again.

According to the "Orange Book" specifications, the distance between the last successful sector and the new sector may not be more than 100 Ám:

The BURN-Proof technology in the PlexWriter 12/10/32A will ensure that the distance between the 2 sectors lies at around 40Ám (i.e. well within the limits set by the Orange Book), and in this way fully correct data is written to disc.


2. Installation
PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 2

Package:
The retail version that arrived at our offices included the drive (PX-W1210A), a manual (in 12 languages!), a CDR software package (CeQuadrat WinOnCD 3.7 + Packet CD + BackMeUp and PlexTools v1.05), 2 blank CDs (one recordable and one HS RW erasable), an audio cable and an IDE cable, all necessary things to get someone started right away. Notice that Plextor US has a much better downloadable manual in pdf format (which of course is only in English language.)

Front panel

Rear panel

Using the CDR Identifier we were able to determine the manufacturer (Ricoh) for the CDR media included but not for the HS RW media:

Plextor HS RW Media:

ATIP: 97m 27s 00f
Disc Manufacturer: Disc ID not allowed
Assumed Dye type:  Disc ID not allowed (Type 0)
Media type: CD-ReWritable
Recording Speeds:  min. unknown - max. 4X-8x
Nominal Capacity:  651.86MB (74m 12s 00f / LBA: 333750)

Plextor CDR Media:

ATIP: 97m 27s 66f
Disc Manufacturer: Ricoh Company Ltd.
Assumed Dye type:  Phthalocyanine (Type 6)
Media type: CD-Recordable
Recording Speeds:  min/max. unknown
Nominal Capacity:  651.86MB (74m 12s 00f / LBA: 333750)

However the latest Plextor's CDRINFO software recognized the HS RW disc and reported:

- Installation :
Installing the PleXWriter PX-W1210A was an easy process. We put it in the Secondary IDE Channel, as the master drive. During boot-up, the BIOS identified the drive as Plextor CD-R PX-W1210A. We then made some minor configuration changes to Windows ME. These were: disabling auto-insert notification and ensuring DMA was enabled. The supplied drive was manufactured in May 2000 and the onboard firmware revision was version 1.00. We updated the firmware with latest v1.07 which fixes various problems.

Nero Burning Rom Select Device

We also installed PlexTools v1.05, since it offers some helpful information to the user and allow certain setting tweaks. With it you can change the drive's properties (spin-down time, speed selection, lock/unlock of the tray, etc.). Other useful features offered by PlexTools is the ability for data CD Copy and Digital Audio Extraction. You don't need any external program for quick and easy copying of CDs of any type. Finally, using this program, you can erase (quick/full) CD-RWs. The erase time for the Quick (1min) and for the Full erase mode (8min) are now erased due to HighSpeed RW standard.

- Test Machine #1:
ABIT BH6
Celeron 300A over clocked to 464 MHz
164 MB SDRAM PC 100
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
Asus 3400 TNT
MS WinME
Plextor UltraPlex 40max firmware v1.04
Plextor PleXWriter PX-W124TS firmware v1.04
Plextor PleXWriter PX-W1210A firmware v1.07
Sanyo CRD-BP2 firmware firmware v2.21
Sanyo CRD-BP900 firmware firmware v3.20


3. Data Tests: (Pressed CDs)
PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 3

Data Tests: (Pressed CDs)

Test Method:
- CD WinBench 99 v1.1. This was used to compare the PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W drive with various others drives (see charts).
- CD Speed 99 v0.66 was also used to check the drive performance with pressed CD's. For that test we used WinBench 99 v1.1 and PlexTools v1.04 original CD's.

- CD WinBench 99 v1.1 results

CD-Rom WInMark 99

CD Rom Access Time

CPU Utilization

CDRom Tranfer Rate

- CD Speed 99 v0.66 results:

PlexTools v1.04 results with CD Speed 99 v0.66

Verdict of data (pressedCDs) tests:
The PleXWriter PX-W1210A managed to outperform all previous drives we have tested until today. In the WinBench 99 test it got the best overall WinMark value! It reached a transfer rate of 4.66mb/s and 2.27mb/s on the outside and inside of the disc, which are very good compared to the previous tested models. It has a seek time of 150s which is exactly what specs report and the CPU usage is also low (5.52%) since it is UDMA compatible. It's average reading speed using WinBench 99 v1.1 was 24.13x (worse than PX-W124TS) and with PlexTools v1.04, a  good 24.98x (slightly higher than PX-W124TS). Overall the PX-W1210A has the best data reading performance from all IDE and SCSI drive we have ever tested (with 32x reading speed).


4. Data Tests: (74min CDs)

PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W Drive - Page 4

Data Tests: (74min CDs)

Test Method: CD Media 74min tests
We created a DataCD with Nero 5.0 using the Sanyo CRD-BP2 CDR-W drive. Several copies were created on different media types at 12x speed. This test was performed in order to test the compatibility with various CD media that have been written at 12x, how the PleXWriter PX-W1210A drive performs. CD Speed 99 v0.66 was used to measure the performance of the drive with the different media. Notice when you read the graphs, to check both the three tests results (start, end, average) since they give the most complete view of each media performance. Most users however, will prefer just to read only the average speed results. ;)

DataCD comparison (12x write speed)

As we can see the PleXWriter PX-W1210A does not have any problems reading various media, which are written at 12x except from the Fullmark brand. It reads with an average 20.78x speed.

Data Tests: (80min and RW CDs)

- 80min tests:

The graph above shows that the PX-W1210A performance is slight higher than the previous PX-W124TS model.

- RW tests:
The PX-W1210A has improved RW reading speed compared to PX-W124TS model:


5. CloneCD Tests

PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 5

CloneCD Tests

Procedure:
We used the latest CloneCD (v2.5.6.2) and 3 original CDs (Rally Masters, Euro2000 and Incoming) in order to test the reading time for both drives. We also tested the reading performance with the backups of the original CDs since the reading speed varies from original to backup media.

Results:
a) SafeDisc Results:
Euro 2000 (Total: 257982 sectors - 10141 bad sectors) - Reading Speed: Max

Drive

Firmware

CD

Fast Skip Error - O retries - Software Correction

Fast Skip Error - O retries - Hardware Correction

Intelligent Bad Sector Scanner

"Intelligent Bad Sector Scanner" + Best "Fast Skip Error" result

PleXWriter PX-W1210A

v1.00

Original

2:35 min

56:37 min

 4:02 min

Backup

3:40 min

1:02:20 h

4:45 min

PleXWriter PX-W124TS

v1.04

Original

2:37 min

55:52 min

1:00:28 h

5:35 min

Backup

14:46 min

1:00:38 h

1:05:27 h

5:06 min

b) LaserLock Results:Rally Masters (Total: 321528 sectors - 6317 bad sectors) - Reading Speed: Max

Drive

Firmware

CD

Fast Skip Error - O retries - Software Correction

Fast Skip Error - O retries - Hardware Correction

Intelligent Bad Sector Scanner

"Intelligent Bad Sector Scanner" + Best "Fast Skip Error" result

PleXWriter PX-W1210A

v1.00

Original

Forget it

Forget it

1:14:52 h

52:21 min

Backup

3:38 min

15:56 min

3:05 min

PleXWriter PX-W124TS

v1.04

Original

Forget it

47:03 min

46:11 min

Backup

3:40 min

16:55 min

6:24 min

c) SecuROM Results: Incoming (Total: 241898 sectors) - Reading Speed: Max

Drive

Firmware

CD

Reading SubChannel Data

PleXWriter PX-W1210A

v1.00

Original

3:55 min

Backup

3:53 min

PleXWriter PX-W124TS

v1.04

Original

4:32 min

Backup

4:33 min

Verdict of CloneCD Tests:
The PX-W1210A is a very good reader for SafeDisc and SecuROM protected CDs. It's performance it also improved over PX-W124TS . However it's not a good choice for LaserLock protected CDs when using it as a reader for the original CD. However with the backuped LaserLock CDs things are not the same, since it reads then really faster. Overall we could say it won't let you down when the time for making your favourite backups comes ;)


6. DAE Tests (Audio pressed CDs):
PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 6

DAE Tests (Audio pressed CDs):

Test Method:
We used CD DAE 99 v0.2with AudioCDs in order to check DAE performance of the PX-W1210A drive and we compared it with the PX-W124TS model.

- CD DAE 99 v0.2 results:
The PleXWriter's PX-W1210A DAE performance, with pressed CD's, was very good and outperformed PX-W124TS  by 11.37%. This is natural since PX-W1210A has max 24x when PX-W124TS has only 20x max DAE speed. Both drives produce accurate wavs without any clicks or pops inside.

DAE Tests (CD media)

Test Method:
We made several copies using Feurio v1.36b at 12x (using the Sanyo CRD-BP2 CDR-W drive) in order to check the DAE performance of the drive. We measured ripping speeds with CD DAE 99 v0.2 and compared it with other CD-ROM's.

CD DAE 99 v0.2 results:

- FujiFilm 74min AudioCD:
No surprises here as again the IDE model beat the SCSI one...:

Maxell media-DAE results

Verdict of DAE Results:
We all know Plextor drives as the kings of DAE ripping speed. The new PX-W1210A has maximum 24x DAE ripping speed that reaches the DAE speed of the PX-40TS model. Pretty impressive speed for CDR-W drive. A comparison between PX-W1210A and  PX-W124TS is not fair because  PX-W124TS has only 20x max DAE speed. But since no SCSI version of the 12/10/32 engine is out we decided to compare it with the previous SCSI model. The tests showed that the PX-W1210A model has an average 16.8x ripping speed using CD DAE 99 v0.2. At the same time the CPU Usage is high (34%) but expected since it is an IDE drive.


7. CDR Tests

PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 7

CDR Tests

We mostly tested the PleXWriter PX-W1210A on it's capabilities to write CD's in different write speeds (4x, 8x, 12x)  and rewrite them with the new HS RW format.

- Recorder properties: (Screenshot from Feurio v1.50)

Feurio Device Info

As we can see the PleXWriter PX-W1210A supports ALL current CDR/W writing modes. We think it's the first time this happens. What does this mean for you? Simple things. You can burn in whatever way you want to! From writing/overburning data CDs in 12x, to backing up CD's with CloneCD (using DAO-RAW), and making backups of your important documents with the fastest 10x HS RW writing speed and the ability to complete above tasks without facing buffer underrun problems (since the drive is equipment with "BURN-Proof" anti-coaster technology). We don't believe that you must have any other "burning" needs...(Maybe desire the SCSI version of the drive?)

Let's head over to the CDR tests now:

Procedure:
We tested the PX-W1210A with the latest software which supports it and with several media:

- Software used: Nero v5.0.1.3 /  Padus DJ v2.00.419 / CloneCD v2.5.5.2 / Feurio v1.36b
- Media: Princo 74 & 80min / Ricoh Platinum 74 & 80min / Mitsui Gold & SG / TDK / Verbatim / Plextor 4x-10x RW / DataBank 4x-8x RW

CDR-R Tests:
The PleXWriter came with WinOnCD v3.7.564 standard version. We installed it, but for the most tests we used the Nero v5.0.1.3. This version of WinOnCD (v3.7.564 Plextor version) supports the BURN-Proof feature of the drive but only after a reg entry (which is located in the WinOnCD folder), which is named "BurnProof-off.reg" and "BurnProof-on.reg". So you will need to run the "BurnProof-on.reg" file in order to enable "BURN-Proof". However even after running the reg entry there is no clue ,in WinOnCD, that the "BURN-Proof" feature is enabled. After that we started burning various CD's with different writing speeds with various modes (DAO, SAO, TAO). We post the results from a DataCD (74:06:54-652mb):

Burning Speed

Total time (including lead-in and lead-out)

CPU usage

12x

6:51min

16.5%

8x

10:18min

9.2%

4x

19:33min

4.75%

Next we tested the overburning capabilities of the PX-W1210A, creating 2 overburned CDs (74 & 80min). PX-W1210A burned them without any problem and the good news are that the new PleXWriter don't have the same bug as did the previous burners. It can read without any problems the overburned data from an overburned CD. In our tests (using CD Check utility) it read the 2 overburned CD and at the same time the PX-W124TS failed to read several files from the 2 CDs. Another welcomed  improvement over the past.

After that we tried to make several AudioCDs (including CD-Text) from mp3 files. No problems here too. We noticed that the CPU usage in this task was about 50% but that's natural since Nero decodes Mp3 on the fly. We tested the output CDs with Plextor's CD-Text compatible CD player and they appeared to be ok. Next we tried copying several CDs with Padus DJ v2.00.419. Even though it claims that it supports the "BURN-Proof" feature, it is not working in real life, and our tests resulted in several coasters. Otherwise DiscJuggler worked nice together with PX-W1210A.

The CloneCD v2.5.5.2 supports the drive AND the "BURN-Proof" technology (in real life too..). This mean that the drive supports "DAO-RAW" feature and with CloneCD you will able to backup most of your favourite CDs. However as in all Plextor CDR-W drive no simulation is supported. But this is not a real problem since we never had to do simulation burn with CloneCD (with drives who supports this feature):

The PleXWriter worked very good in all of our CDR tests. Making CDs in 12x write speed is very fast and with the additional help of "BURN-Proof" technology makes it much safer.

BURN-Proof Tests :
Are there such tests? Yes, but they are not really "CD related". We used the same method which was used in the Sanyo's BURN-Proof drives. That means:

1) Loading tons of programs while burning. Drive cpu utilization to 200%, if both soft/hardware are REALLY BURN-Proof enabled, we should have no problems out of this.
2) Stopping the burning (just press Ctrl+Alt+Del for 10sec) and unfreezing the PC. If the burning continues we are in a good way.
3) Test the quality of the produced CD. (Make an AudioCD and do step 2 from the 20%-30% total time. Then check the cd with CD Speed's CD quality mode).

The PX-W1210A of course completed the above tasks without any hickups. This guarantees you a burn without any coasters due to buffer underrun. We will still have problems with power cut. Hopefully Sanyo will do something about this issue soon. Maybe a "BURN-Proof version 2.0" ;)

Verdict of CDR Results:
The PleXWriter PX-W1210A supports all possible writing modes you can think of: DAO-RAW+Overburn+BURN-Proof+CD-TExt..You name it, it's included. Those are the best news that the power user can think of, a burner that supports every possible option, and does so with a charm.


8. CDR-W Tests

PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 8

CDR-W Tests

We almost forgot it! The PleXWriter PX-W1210A is the first CDR-W drive that supports the new HighSpeed RW recording standard. What does this mean? Simply...10x RW recording speed! The HS RW recording can be done only with HS RW media. The PX-W1210A retail package includes such media (manufactured from Ricoh). The possible re-write speeds are 4x, 8x and 10x. Of course the PX-W1210A can write the normal 4x RW media at only 4x write speed. Notice that some older cd-drives (mostly those that reads up to 16x) cannot read HS RW media! No official compatibility list exists yet, so for now it's going to be a "trial & error" case.

We tried the HS RW media in both PX-W124TS and CRD-BP2, and both drives refused to write the media (error message: write protected!). The HS RW media can be read by most current drives without any problem. However there are cases in which it will be needed a firmware update for reading HS RW media. Yamaha has already released such firmware updates for their CDR-W drives.

We used Nero 5.0.1.3 for writing CDs in 10x RW writing speed. However the first time we couldn't use the 10x RW writing speed since Nero stopped working. After contacting Ahead we found out  that the installed HotBurn ASPI layer caused the problems, and after removing it all were back to normal. We faced some problems with 1.00 firmware but with those seems to be gone with the latest 1.02 firmware update..The HS RW writing seems very attractive. We think it will be the breakpoint for RW media, now it's not only reliable & cheap backup solution, but also FAST! Below are some results from various RW writing speeds:

Burning Speed

Total time (including lead-in and lead-out)

CPU usage

10x

8:20min

13%

8x

10:05min

8.5%

4x

19:40min

4.60%

What about erasing time?
The new PleXWriter supposed to erase HS RW media in one (1) min for quick and in eight (8) minutes for the full erase mode. Below are the erase times that the PlexTools 1.05 reported:

Writing speeds

10x

8x

4x

Quick Erase

1:25 min

0:40 min

0:59 min

Full Erase

9:14 min

8.44 min

19:47 min

We mailed Plextor asking for their comment about those results. They insisted that something was wrong in our PC (possible software conflict) since the quick erase time for them took only 45sec. We tried the very same tests again, this time on a different PC without any installed CDR Software (except PacketCD). We used the PlexTools and Padus DJ 2.00.419 to measure the erase time. All tests were done using the exact same content in all the times we repeated the test:

Writing speeds

10x

8x

4x

Plextools

Padus DJ

Plextools

Padus DJ

Plextools

Padus DJ

Quick Erase

1:21 min

1:00 min

0:35 min

0:55 min

0:45 min

1:33 min

Full Erase

8:25 min

8:54 min

8:18 min

9:04 min

8:08 min

8:12 min

Those results also shown several differences in the erase time of the same HS RW media written at various speeds...

What about HS Packet Writing?
The HS RW recording standard supports packet writing at high speeds (4x-10x). For that purpose  the PX-W1210A comes with PacketCD v3.00.209 from Cequadrat, that supports this feature. Even though we don't appreciate packet writing very much, we decided to install PacketCD in the existing WinME setup (despite the bad experience we had during previous attempts). Thankfully, things went ok this time and we had WinOnCD, PacketCD, Nero, CloneCD and Feurio working all together just fine (well, almost). Feurio however detected the installation of WinOnCD and prompted an warning message saying that if a malfunction occurs we should erase the WinOnCD VXD drives that are located in the /Windows/System/IOBUSYS directory.

We also faced another problem after installing the WinOnCD and PacketCD software. Both programs couldn't find any SCSI card. A quick search in CeQuadrat drivers page gave us positive results. After downloading the latest driver package for PX-W1210A model and rebooted, both program started working ok.

We noticed that a new tab were added in the drive's properties which supposed to leave you select reading and writing speeds for PacketCD formatted CDs. However the 10x writing selection was not selectable for the PX-W1210A. You can only choose 4x, 8x and the device default settings (possibly this option activates the 10x write speed?). But this could be bug, since when using normal 4x RW media for the PX-W124TS it displayed only 1x,2x available selections. The strange thing was that Sanyo CRD-BP2 (using 4x RW media) the 8x write setting is selectable! (which of course is not possible). As for the reading speeds selection you can choose from from 1x,4x,8x,12x,24x and default.

When we inserted the HS RW media, PacketCD popped and asked:

We replied yes and the formatting of the HS RW media started. It was completed in about 20:46minutes. We also formatted a normal 4x RW media and it took 32:27mins to complete. Notice that you if you do a full erase the PacketCD format is lost and you can use it as normal RW media.

After the PacketCD format we had a CD with only 530mbs left (due to PacketCD format) and we started the tests. We copied a file-sized 330mbs (337.256kbs) from one CD-ROM to the PacketCD formatted RW media using explorer drag and drop move.We used 2 RW media. One was the HS RW and the other one a standard 4x RW media in order to see the differences in the reading/writing speed. The properties for the PX-W1210A were left at default (possibly 10x RW write speed?) for HS RW media and 4x write for the normal RW media:

File Size: 337256 kbs

Time

CPU Usage

Average Writing Speed

HS (4x-10x) media

277 secs

12%

6.92x

4x media

697 secs

3.5%

2.75x

Next I tried to copy the same file to the HD using Explorer drag and drop method. This was completed in 380sec (average reading speed 5.04x) for both media types. As you can also see the reading speed is far from perfect and is the same for the HS and normal RW media. Finally, erasing files from PacketCD formatted media took only a couple of seconds to complete.

Verdict of CDR-W Results:
The HS RW writing mode works great with the proper HS RW media. All our tests completed ok and the produced CD is readable from the most current CD-Rom and CDR-W drives. Notice that you might have some problem with older CD-Rom..The erase time seems varies from the writing speed and didn't was exactly what the PlexTools claimed off (1minute for quick and 8 minutes for full erase mode).

HS RW format also supports packet writing. People that use PacketCD for their daily backup purposes will be happy, since with the new HS RW media they can now write with 6.92x (average) speed instead of the old 2.75x! That's about 2.5x times faster than the previous format! However the reading speed when using PacketCD formatted discs is not so great as it reaches 5.02x.


9. Conclusion

PleXWriter PX-W1210A IDE CDR-W - Page 9

Conclusion

Positive (+)

Negative (-)

- Burn Proof (anti-coaster) technology
- Supports HighSpeed RW standard
- Supports reading/writing MMC DAO RAW
- Support most burn speeds (1x,2x,4x,8x,12x)
- Supports (4x,8x,10x) CDR-W re-write speeds
- Supports CD-Text
- Supports Overburning
- Very good data performance
- Very good DAE performance
- No problems with uncertified 12x Media
- Works fine with IDE interface
- Great price for the combo!

- No cooling fan

Plextor managed to surprise us one more time. This time they made a drive that's better equipped than every burner that exists out there currently. The most impressive features are the BURN-Proof and HS RW standards that promise to deliver the best performance someone can get from his drive.

Back to the drive's capabilities the drive performed very good in most of our tests. The drive has good data and DAE reading speeds (improved over previous PX-W124TS model). Writing CD's in 12x and re-writing them at 10x is the best thing you can buy today. The new PX-W1210A can also be used for backing up your data (packet writing) since it's now 2.5x times faster than all other drives that supports the previous 1x-4x RW writing speeds. If you are looking for a new drive don't look anywhere else. At this moment, his is the best solution for your needs.



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