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Appeared on: Monday, June 03, 2002
PleXCombo PX-320A


1. Introduction

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 1

- Introduction

In February 2002 Plextor announced the PX-320A. This was the first ever Plextor drive that supported the DVD playback option, making combo drives again appealing to user's eye. In the past Plextor avoided presenting a DVD-ROM drive possibly due to the fact that the Taiwanese competition could always ship lower cost DVD readers. We examine if Plextor's entry at the combo market is successful and how good the PX-320A is at both CD & DVD formats.

- Features

The PleXCombo PX-320A supports all the well-known features as introduced with PX-W4012A:

to avoid buffer underruns,

to automatically choose the best recording speed with the inserted media,

to give recorded audio a more personalized tone,

a Black tray to reduce C1 errors (and jitter), as the black colour absorbs some of the OPU's (Optical Power Unit) laser light, which improves writing quality,

and improved PCB (power circuit board) to avoid spark noise. Plextor's testing equipment showed serious improvement for deviation and especially jitter over the whole range (3T-11T) as the following graph illustrates:

Let's now pass over the recording specifications. The drive supports the following writing modes: Track-at-Once, Disc-at-Once, Session-at-Once, Multisession, and variable/fixed packet writing. The Plextor PX-320A drive supports: 1X, 4X, 8X, 16X and 20x (CLV) writing speeds. With HS-RW media, 4x and 10x recording speeds are supported.

The buffer of the drive is 2MB and there isn't support of the Mt. Rainier format. The drive's CD reading speed is 40x (CAV) max and in the table below you can see all the supported speeds, in various formats. Note that with HS-RW media, maximum reading speed is 32x.maximum speed is only 32x.

Plextor officially supports DVD-ROM, DVD-R and DVD-RW formats. From our tests, DVD+R/+RW formats are also supported but not DVD-RAM. The maximum reading speed is 12X (CAV) but with DVD-R/-RW speed is reduced to 8X (CAV). When playback DVD movies the reading speed is reduced to 2X to "avoid noise and vibration" as Plextor says. This however, limits the DVD ripping speed down to 2X.

The Plextor drive has RPC2 protection, which means that you can change the region of the drive only 5 times before the drive locks to the last change. Till now there isn't any region free firmware.

- The package

We got the European retail package which contains: the drive, a PDF manual in 16 languages, an RMA request form, a registration card, a quick installation guide, one blank 74min disc, one 4-10x HS-RW media (actual manufacturer Ricoh), an IDE cable, an audio cable and mounting screws. The retail box is much bigger than what we have used with other Plextor IDE drives. There isn't any printed manual, only the electronic PDF version.

The attached CDR software comes from Ahead (Nero 5.5.8.1/InCD 3.28). You can also find a CD with PlexTools v1.13 and a disc with PowerDVD XP v4.0 OEM Plextor Version (works only with the drive installed). 2-year warranty (only valid in Europe, Middle-East and Africa) and Plextor's "on-site collect and return service" (EU countries + Norway and Switzerland) are also present in the PX-320A. The retail package is expected to cost 229Euro.

PX-320A users should install the latest PlexTools update (v1.13a) to get the best from their drive. PleXTools offer many "interesting" features such as CD/DVD speed setting and spin down time. You can also enable/disable "Single Session" and "Hide CDR media". The last two options are very useful since with the "Single Session" you should be able to rip Audio protected CDs (Key2Audio, CDS200). With the second feature, you can hide the CD-R media from the system in order to playback backups the SD2 and SecuROM 2 protected CDs. Despite the fact that the features are there, both were greyed out, without any indication how to activate them. Plextor promised to activate them in future software updates.

The front of the PleXCombo PX-320A is different that what we had used in the previous IDE models. The drive contains the "24/10/40-12A", "BPRec", "High-Speed RW" and "DVD-ROM" logos. The tray is black, as with PX-W4012A and its operation is smooth, even if the CD loading is slow:

There are two leds (Disc, Busy). The CD indicator blinds green when a CD is loaded, yellow during CD reading and orange during CD writing. The CD indicator blinks orange at different speeds, depending on the read/re-write speed

Write CD-R
Write HS-RW
Indicator Speed
16/20 Z-CLV
4/10
100/50ms
1-16 CLV
-
150ms

In the back of the drive, you will find the power connector, the IDE cable connector, jumpers for setting up the as MASTER/SLAVE/CABLE select and finally, the analog/SPDIF connectors:

- Installation

The Plextor PX-320A was installed as a Master in the primary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA-33 mode. After booting, it identified itself as a "PLEXTOR CD-R PX-320A". WinXP activated DMA without our interference.

The drive was a May 2002 model with firmware revision v1.01 and TLA#0001 hardware revision. We used Nero v5.5.8.2, InCD v3.28 and CloneCD v4.0.0.1 for the recording tests.


2. CD/DVD Reading Tests
PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W- Page 2

Data Tests

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x results

The PleXCombo PX-320A is a 40x (CAV) reader. The drive is slower than its big brother (PX-W4012A) but faster than the Ricoh MP9200A in both "Average Random I/O" and at the "Average Sequential I/O" tests.

- Pressed CD results: (click here to see the CD Speed graph)

Using Nero CD Speed 0.85, we confirmed our previous results. The PX-320A is slower than the PX-W4012A but faster than the MP9200A.

The "seek times" results are out of the drive's specs. Plextor states 100ms average seek time but using both CD-R and pressed discs we got much higher results. It's also noticeable that PX-320A has lower seek times than PX-W4012A at the "Random" and "1/3" seek times test. However at the "Full stroke" test, PX-320A is slower. The Ricoh MP9200A is faster than both Plextor drives in this test...

- CDR Media: (click here to see the CD Speed graph)

In the CDR media test, the PX-320A continues to be faster than the MP9200A drive. There were some problems with the Seek Time test results, since either the drive returns read errors, or produces high full stroke seek times (685ms)!

- HS-RW media: (Click here to see the CD Speed graph)

The PX-320A is much slower than other drives, due to a lower supported HS-RW reading speed (32x CAV max). Ricoh MP9200A is quite fast, but slower than the PX-W4012A:

- DVD Tests: (DVD Speed graphs for DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW , DVD+R, DVD+RW)

Both Ricoh MP9200A and PleXCombo PX-320A support 12x DVD maximum reading speed. The Ricoh drive is faster, since it ends at 15705Kb/s, while the Plextor drive stays at 10929Kb/s.

Again in the seek time test, Ricoh drive is faster in both "Random" and "1/3" tests. The DVD Speed v0.53 reported 48ms for the "Full Stroke" test, which is impossible. Probably it's a software bug…

As you may have read in the specifications, Plextor PX-320A lowers its reading speed when playback DVD movies to avoid noise and vibrations. This also affects the drive's DVD ripping speed, which stacks to 2710Kb/s. The Ricoh MP9200A is much faster with an 8309Kb/s average DVD ripping speed.

Let us now check the drive performance when reading DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW media. The Plextor PX-320A drive can read DVD-R, DVD+R and DVD+RW media without any glitches. We had problems with DVD-RW media. The drive denied recognize our usual DVD-RW test disc. When used a brad new DVD-RW disc, written either by Pioneer DVR-A03/A04, the drive recognized it without any problems. This may be a firmware issue...

- DVD Playback Tests

We used various DVD movies to test the reading performance of the PX-320A. The drive didn't have any problem with normal and slightly scratched DVD discs. The noise from the drive is kept in low volumes due to its 2X reading speed. Remember that only 1X DVD speed is necessary for DVD playback


3. CloneCD Reading Tests

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W- Page 3

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure

We used CloneCD (v4.0.0.1) 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 time of the drive. We also tested the reading performance with backups of the original CDs, since the reading speed varies between original and backup media. The following pictures show the drive's reading/writing capabilities as CloneCD reports:

- PSX Pressed Media

For this test we used the PSX game 'NBA Jam Extreme' and we ripped the image to the HD with CloneCD. The PleXCombo drive performed well and needs only 56secs to produce the image. The Ricoh MP9200A is 77secs slower:

- SafeDisc 2 Results

Although we expected the drive to be as fast as the PX-W4012A, results were different. While PleXWriter PX-W4012A needs only 2minutes to make the image of the disc, the PX-320A needs 5mins and has a lower Sectors/Sec reading performance. Ricoh MP9200A is much slower with 191Sectors/Sec:

- LaserLock 2 Results

As happened with SafeDisc 2 CDs, the drive again is slower than the PX-W4012A. Especially with the original disc, the drive needed 1:32:52 hours to end the task! With the back up disc the task was finished in 8minutes:

- SecuROM2 Results

The PleXCombo PX-320A can read SubChannel data from Data/Audio tracks without any problem. The performance however is again slower than the PX-W4012A.


4. DAE Tests

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 4

DAE Tests

- DAE features

EAC v0.9 beta 3 reports that the drive does "Caching" data, supports "Accurate Stream" and includes "C2" error info. However with actual tests we saw that the C2 error info capability feature is not actually present, although EAC reports it...

 

- Pressed AudioCD results

The DAE ripping speed of PX-320A is very high for the category. The specs state 40x (CAV) max DAE speed that was confirmed from the test results. The average speed is 28.9X with a pressed test disc. The PX-W4012A is faster with 30.1X and Ricoh MP9200A stays back with 26.8X:

- CDR AudioCD Results

Both Plextor drives had the exact same reading speed with CD-R media. The drives gave a 29.7X average ripping speed without producing any reading errors:

- 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 even EAC says drive supports C2 error info, if you actiave it, the drive refuses to extract the audio tracks. You must un-check it in order to start ripping:

Tested Drives
Average DAE Speed (X)
Pressed
CDR
PleXCombo PX-320A
2.9
2.8

- Advanced DAE Quality

The PleXCombo PX-320A at the Nero CD Speed "Advanced DAE test", showed two different behaviours. With the test disc, produced by the same drive, got a 100 score without any reading errors. With a test disc produced from other drive, had much lower reading speed (23.85X) and produced 100 data errors! The same behaviour had been noticed also with other Plextor drive models. The drive can also read CD-Text, SubChannel data and from the lead in/out area, as CD Speed reports:

- Bad CDR Media results

Despite the fact that Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test stretches 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 in order 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
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
PleXCombo PX-320A
22.3
120425687
15.92

The PleXCombo didn't perform well with the bad CDR media test disc. The drive doesn't lower its reading speed and therefore returns many reading errors. The % of the total errors is 15.92%, which must be the higher ever result we got from a Plextor drive.

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

Digital Recordings CD-CHECK is a compact disc which allows evaluation of the CD player's "error correction headroom" (i.e. player's ability to correct data errors) and "tracking" (i.e. player's ability to stay on track despite of disc surface or other errors). CD-CHECK uses special digital signals in combination with disc error patterns arranged over five tracks. The five tracks contain a sequence of progressively difficult tests referred to as Check Level-1 to Check Level-5. The higher the Check Level passed the more reliable the sound reproduction of the CD player. A smooth, continuous tone of 20-seconds indicates the player passes that Check Level. Any clicks, interruptions, skipping or looping indicates failure of a Check Level.

CD-CHECK error sizes
Check Level-1
standard manufacturing errors
Check Level-2
0.375 mm
Check Level-3
0.750 mm
Check Level-4
1.125 mm
Check Level-5
1.500 mm

We tested the drive with the following procedure: We used WinXP Windows Media Player to playback the disc, and using headphones we listened all tracks. A continuous tone of 20 seconds plays in each track. If the drive playbacks without an audible pop or click occurring during playback of the tone it passes the check level. The tests are repeated five times. A result of 5/5 indicates that no pops or clicks were heard in 5 out of 5 playbacks of a particular track. A result of 0/5 means pops or clicks occurred during all 5 playbacks of a particular track. Digital Recordings provides the following interpretation of results:

· Level-1 Pass: Player meets minimum requirements
· Level-2 Pass: Average error correction
· Level-3 Pass: Good error correction
· Level-4 Pass: Very good error correction
· Level-5 Pass: Excellent error correction
Error Level
1
2
3
4
5
PleXCombo PX-320A
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5
0/5

The drive worked very well with CD-Check test disc and managed to correct up to Level-4 errors. The almost perfect results of the CD-Check test, comes in contrast with the BAD CDR media results. As you may know, manufacturers calibrate the drives with industry's standard test discs, but real life tests are harder the most times.

- Ripping 90 and 99mins AudioCDs

The drive recognizes 90min AudioCDs but when 99 min CDs are inserted, it will stop reading at 94mins.

- Reading/Ripping Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used 3 protected AudioCDs, which we tested in both recognition and ripping (with CD DAE v0.3b/EAC v0.9 beta2) processes:

* Pressed AudioCD with Sony Key2Audio
* Pressed AudioCD with Cactus Data Shield 200 (Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island)
* CDR AudioCD protected with Cactus Data Shield (CDS100) - made with Clone Audio Protector v1.1 (adding 30 secs lead-out)

Key2Audio
CDS200
CDS100
PleXCombo PX-320A
Can rip disc contents without any issues
Can rip disc contents without any issues
Reads all tracks as Data tracks - ripping impossible

The Plextor PX-320A can "handle" protected CDs with the right software/settings. The drive will rip contents of Key2Audio/CDS200 discs with EAC 0.9beta 3. In order to rip CDS200 discs, you will have to use EAC's (Action>>"Detect TOC Manually") option, "BURST" reading mode and "Read Command D8". No errors were produced after the ripping process. If you use the "Secure" mode, the drive rips contents at almost 0X so it's not suggested.

In case you decide to use Plextor's PlexTools v1.13a to extract CDS200 contents, you will be disappointed. Even the software does recognize 12 tracks; it cannot rip the contents and returns a read error message. This has been fixed with a newer (v1.14) revision:


5. CDR Tests - Page 1

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 5

CDR Tests - Page 1

- Procedure

We tested the drive with latest version of Nero/CloneCD. We used various media for our tests: Mitsubishi Chemicals 74/80min 32x certified, Mitsui 74min 24x and 80min 40xcertified, Taiyo Yuden 74/80min 24/32x/40x certified and Ricoh 4-10X HS-RW media. Plextor recomments the following media for 20x recording speed:

Taiyo Yuden
CDR-74TY/WPYN, CDR-80TY/TYN/WTYN
TDK
CD-RU74EB-DZ, CD-R80TFN, CD-R80TFX, CD-RU80EB-DZ
Ricoh
CDR74-20X, CDR74-32X, CDR80-20X, CDR80-32X
Hitachi Maxell
CDR74MQ (20X), CDR74RE/OR/LM/BL/WH/PK/YE/CY/PE, CDR80MQ (20X)
Mitsui Chemical
CDRT74MG/US, CDRT80MG/US
Mitsubishi Chemical
CDR74VA, CDR80VA
Fuji Photo Film
CDR 650 MB (24X), CDR 700 MB (24X)

As we can see the list is rather limited for 20x, and the most of the supported media come from Japanese manufacturers, leaving out media from Taiwanese manufacturers. As the test results showed, the drive doesn't have very good compatibility even with 32x or 40x certified media... For sure a firmware update could improve this situation.

You cannot disable the "PoweRec II" option and enable 20x (Z-CLV) with all inserted media. The drive will not warn you if a medium cannot be burned at 16x or 20x recording speed. Other manufacturers automatically drop recording speed when media cannot handle maximum recording speed. The good in that case is that user can understand which media can be used for each recording speed. With PX-320A you just select the 20x recording speed, and the drive chooses, automatically through PoweRec II system, the appropriate burning speed:

We burned CDs at the 16x and 20x recording speeds using the SAME amount of data for all the drives. The posted recording times are the best we had from our test results. Using other media can increase the final burning time.

- Comparison

Before starting the recording tests, let's see how the RICOH and PLEXTOR drives are compared in the writing/rotation speeds:

As we can see the PleXCombo uses Zone-CLV to reach the 20x recording speed. The drive starts writing at 16x and shifts up to 20x at 6mins and stays there till the end of the disc. That gives a theoretical average writing speed up to 19.63X when using an 80min CD. The RICOH MP9200A is faster, since it shifts up to 20x at 4mins. Ricoh's average theoretical writing speed is 19.70X:

Drives
Average Writing Speed with 80min CD (X)
Ricoh MP9200A
19.70
PleXCombo PX-320A
19.63

The PleXCombo PX-320A is quiet when writing at 20x. The RICOH drive reaches almost 9000rpm and is noisier.

- 74min CD-R Tests

We created a "DataCD" job with data slightly more than 74mins (74:03:64). The PleXCombo PX-320A performed well and needs 315sec to end the task. That's lower even from the PX-W4012A. The Ricoh MP9200A is slightly faster with 313secs.

At the 20x (Z-CLV) recording speed, the PX-320A performed much slower than the PX-W4012A and MP9200A. The best results we had with various media were 274secs, while the RICOH MP9200A is faster by 12secs and PleXWriter PX-W4012A by 15secs. Of course PleXWriter PX-W4012A supports 20x CLV recording speed, but again the time difference from MP9200A is high enough.

Below we can see the screenshot from Nero software at the 20x recording speed, with Mitsui's 74min 16x certified media

Best result with PX-W320A

The usage of other media for 20x recording can produce a higher recording time even we had originally selected 16x!


6. CDR Tests - Page 2

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 6

CDR Tests - Page 2

- 80min CD-R Tests

In our normal burning tests the 80min CD contains slightly more than 80min data (80:01:47). The RICOH MP9200A is the faster drive with 337secs. The PleXWriter PX-W4012A is slower with 340secs and PleXCombo PX-320A comes last with 344secs:

In the 20x write test, the PleXCombo PX-320A came last with 286secs. The PleXWriter PX-W4012A comes first with 276ses and RICOH MP9200 second with 282secs.

The posted results for the PleXCombo PX-320A come with specific media. Using other media will probably increase the recording time, as the following Nero screenshots confirm.


7. CDR Tests - Page 3

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 7

CDR Tests - Page 3

- Overburning Tests

Using Nero, we saw that the drive can overburn up to 95mins

- CD-Text Results

We created several AudioCDs with CD-Text enabled. The Plextor PX-320A supports read/write CD-Text AudioCDs without any problems.

- 8cm Media Tests

We used an 8cm RW media and we burned 185MB of data. The Plextor drive didn't have problems to write/read when 8cm discs are inserted.

- CloneCD Writing Tests

The CloneCD v4.0.0.1 reports that the drive supports the DAO-RAW feature. We performed our usual tests and we confirmed that both drives support the DAO-RAW writing mode at the following CD protections: SafeDisc 1.0, LaserLock 1/2 and SecuROM 2.

- SD2 Support

For the SD2 test we used the "No One Lives For Ever", "Max Payne" and "Serious Sam - The Second Encounter" game titles. We used the Plextor PX-320A both as reader/writer at the maximum reading/recording speed. The produced backups didn't playback correctly with various DVD-ROM and CD-ROMs. Using the proper recording software, you can overpass this...

Writing Quality Tests

We used many media and burned them at 20x recording speed. We used Nero 5.5.8.2 as the main CDR software. The produced CDs, were measured from DigitalDrives and results are illustrated in the following table:

Brand
C1
Average Burning Time (mins)
Max
Average
Taiyo Yuden 74min (24x)
8
0.2
5:32
Mitsui 74min (16x)
25
0.5
4:30
Mitsui 74min (24x)
19
0.8
4:34
Mitsui 80min (40x)
20
0.6
5:02
Ritek 80min (24x)
33
0.9
4:46
Prodisc 80min (32x)
26
1.8
4:59
Imation 80min (32x)
45
3.5
4:49
Taiyo Yuden 80min (40x)
24
1.0
5:52

The drive really shows a confusing media compatibility even when using 32x or 40x certified CDs. The best results with 74min CDs came from the older Mitsui SG Ultra (16x certified) with 4:30mins. With 80min CDs, the best results come from Ritek 24x certified media. Using either Mitsui or TaiyoYuden 40x certified we got higher recording times (5:20 and 5:52 respectively). We cannot understand why the drive's media compatibility is so limited, for such a low recording speed. Of course Plextor has proven it's continue after-sales support and probably a newer firmware update could improve this.

The writing quality in general is good, although Plextor's improved PCB and black tray allowed us to expect better results…


8. HS-RW/Packet Writing Tests

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 8

RW Writing Tests

We used Nero 5.5.8.2 for writing CDs at the maximum RW speed for all the tested drives. The Plextor PX-W4012 cannot really be compared with the new PX-320A due to its increased re-writing speed. If we compare the PX-320A with the MP9200, we can see that the drive is faster at the writing part with 479secs when MP9200 needs 485secs. The erase time is high up to 53secs:

- Packet Writing Tests

We used Ahead InCD v3.28 for the packet writing tests with Ricoh's HS-RW media bulked in the retail package. The formatted disc had 534mbs 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 Windows Explorer (we dragged and dropped) and we completed the test twice to eliminate any possible time measurement faults and user errors:

The PleXCombo PX-320A didn't perform very well in the packet-writing mode. The RICOH MP9200A is faster at both reading/writing tests. The PX-320A had 5.72X average writing and 17.2X average reading speeds.


9. VariRec Tests

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 9

VariRec - Tests

Both the PX-W4012A and PX-320A support the "VariRec" function. In order to activate "VariRec" you need to select the AudioCD project and over the "Write" tab you will find a new button "VariRec" options. If we press it, a new window "Options for VariRec" will show up, giving us some information about VariRec and the slide bar to select between -2,-1,0,-1, +2 values. The recording speed will automatically lower to 4x and we would need 19mins to end the task:

- Tests

We used the same methodology as with the PX-W4012A review. We burned two types of media with VariRec enabled/disabled and measured the writing quality in terms of C1/C2 errors. For comparison reasons we post results from the PX-W4012A and from YAMAHA 3200E.

Plasmon Media

ATIP start of lead in: -02:32:56 (sector: -11456)
ATIP start of lead out: 79:59:74 (sector: 359999)
Manufacturer code: 97 27 19 - Plasmon Data systems Ltd. (Type: 9)
Disc subtype: Medium Type B, low Beta category (B-)
Target writing power: 5

Recording Mode
C1
Max
Average

PX-W4012A 4x recording

PX-320A 4x recording

49

46

12.8

12.5

PX-W4012A VariRec (-2)

PX-320A VariRec (-2)

62

60

13.4

13.2

PX-W4012A VariRec (0)

PX-320A VariRec (0)

43

44

13.3

13.4

PX-W4012A VariRec (+2)

PX-320A VariRec (+2)

50

45

13.5

13.6

Yamaha's AudioMASTER
35
8.7

The test results showed that both the PX-W4012A and PX-320A initialize the same "VariRec" engine. The produced results are in the same level in almost all cases. The differences can be explained from the quality of each specific media. Yamaha's AudioMASTER produces CDs with lower C1 error rate.

Acer Media

ATIP start of lead in: -02:37:09 (sector: -11784)
ATIP start of lead out: 74:25:00 (sector: 334875)
Manufacturer code: 97 22 66 - Acer Media Technology, Inc. (Type: 6)
Disc subtype: Medium Type B, low Beta category (B-)
Target writing power: 5

Recording Mode
C1
Max
Average

PX-W4012A 4x recording

PX-320A 4x recording

28

25

1.7

1.5

PX-W4012A VariRec (-1)

PX-320A VariRec (-1)

44

45

2.7

2.8

PX-W4012A VariRec (0)

PX-320A VariRec (0)

26

24

1.8

1.9

PX-W4012A VariRec (+1)

PX-320A VariRec (+1)

23

25

1.5

1.6

Yamaha's AudioMASTER
20
1.0

With the Acer media, both Plextor drives produced better results, in terms of C1 error rate. Yamaha's AudioMASTER produces CDs with lower C1 error rate than Plextor's VariRec. Using other media it's possible to have totally different results.

- Compatibility

Drive
VariRec (-2)
VariRec (-1)
VariRec (0)
VariRec (+1)
VariRec (+2)
Denon DCD-950 (stand alone)
No problems during playback
Cannot recognize disc contents
JVC XL-P31 (portable)
No problems during playback
AIWA LCX-257 (midi system)
No problems during playback

As with the PX-W4012A test, we had only one case that the disc wasn't recognized from a stand-alone CD player. Plextor also recommends leaving the value zero (0) since the +2, -2 selections can result in un-readable CDs.


10. Conclusion

PleXCombo PX-320A IDE DVD/CDR-W - Page 10

Conclusion

Positive (+)

Negative (-)

- Combo (DVD+CD-RW) drive
- Supports "BURN-Proof", "PoweRec II" and "VariRec"
- Can read DVD-R/-RW/+R/+RW media
- DVD playback is very good
- Very Good DAE ripping speed
- Good CloneCD reading performance
- Supports DAO-RAW writing mode
- Can read/write SubChannel Data from Audio/Data tracks
- Supports CD-Text (read/write)
- Supports Overburning (up to 95mins)
- Supports Ultra-DMA 33 connection interface
- Complete retail package (Nero, Plextools, PowerDVD)
- European retail package offers 2 years of warrantee

- Limited media support for the 20x speed
- Limited DVD ripping speed (2X)
- High Full stroke seek times with CDR media
- Cannot produce perfect SD2 backups
- BAD DAE ripping quality
- Doesn't support Mt. Rainier format
- High price ($180-$200)

Leading manufacturer Plextor introduced a new combo drive, possibly a little late. The drive comes with all the latest goodies from Plextor labs, including BURN-Proof, PoweRec II, VariRec, Black tray and improved PCB circuit to reduce noise on written CDs. The Plextor drive supports high DAE ripping speed, un-problematic DVD playback, UDMA 33 support, complete retail kit and two years of warranty for the European customers. So far good...

There are several issues we encountered and will also trouble the possible buyer. The biggest problem is the limited media support, especially for the 20x recording speed. Plextor supports only few media manufacturers for the 20x recording speed. We understand this policy for higher recording speeds of 32x and 40x but is this policy reasonably to be applied to 20x? Also even the drive doesn't lower its DAE speed with scratched media, resulting to produced read errors. There isn't support for Mt. Rainier, a wanted feature nowdays.

As a combo solution, the drive should perform equally well in both CD/DVD formats. The drive's compatibility with the various DVD recordable formats is almoost perfect since the drive accepted without any issues DVD-R, DVD+R and DVD+RW media. We had problems with the usual DVD-RW test disc but since the drive accepted a brand new, we assume this isn't really a problem.

The price of the drive ($180-$190) is between buying a bare Plextor 40x CD-RW recorder and a Plextor 40x CD-RW + cheap DVD-Rom drive. There will be users who wish a one-package solution with good CD-R and DVD playback features. If you need a Plextor drive with the DVD reading capabilities, PX-320A it's the way to go. Looking for alternative solutions may come cheaper (Ricoh MP9200A) but you will have a hard time to buy the drive since Ricoh no longer produces it...



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