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Appeared on: Monday, February 10, 2003
PleXWriter PX-W4012TS


1. Introduction

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 1

- Introduction

Plextor is one of the few companies that used to adopt both IDE and SCSI connection interfaces. For many years, the famous PX-40TS had become the de-facto CD-ROM reader for SCSI interface. The last SCSI recorder from Plextor was the PX-W1210TS model, and from that time, it seemed that Plextor would never re-release an ultra fast SCSI recorder.

There were various reasons for this but the most important was the high cost and the low demand/sales of SCSI recorders. At last, the 2003 find Plextor developing a new fast SCSI recorder, despite the high competition of cheap IDE CD-RW drives. What are the expectations from the new PX-W4012TS and how the drive performs against its IDE brother (PX-W4012A)?

- Features

As we have mentioned in an earlier review, both the PX-W4012A/TS series support:

- ZoneCLV recording technology
- VariRec recording mode
- PoweRec II media checking system
- Optimised PCB (power circuit board)
- Black tray
- Mt. Rainier support
- Up to 40X AudioCD authoring

- Specifications

The drive's features according to Nero Info Tool are the following:

PlexTools give us some additional information:

Something strange is that the PleXTools v1.18 didn't recognize the attached Buffer capacity (4MB) and reported an "unknown" capacity. Probably it's just a minor bug.

The drive supports 40X maximum reading / writing and 12X re-writing speeds. The buffer is 4MB and the reading of CD-Text and CD+G are supported. Nero Info Tool also reports that retrieving of C2 error information is supported but its accuracy will be examined later. Mt. Rainier format is also supported. The following pictures show the available reading/writing speeds:

After installing PleXTools v1.18 attached software, we can get more information about the adopted technology for each reading/recording speed:

Reading Speeds

Recording speeds

- Recording Technology

The drive supports the 40X recording speed with the use of Z-CLV recording technology. As Nero CD Speed graph shows, the drive starts writing at 20X, shifts up to 24x at 8mins, accelerates to 32x at 28mins and finally reaches the 40x at 54mins. That gives a theoretical average writing speed of 31.06X when using an 80min CD-R media.

- 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, 1 blank CD-R (made by Taiyo Yuden), 1 4-12x HS-RW disc (actual manufacturer Ricoh), an audio cable and mounting screws. The attached CDR software comes from Ahead (Nero 5.5.x & InCD 3.3x) and "PlexTools" v1.18. The bulk package contains: PleXWriter 40/12/40S, a manual in 16 languages, Plextor Utility software (PlexTools), and an audio cable.

TPlextor offers a 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). The retail package costs around Euro 270, including VAT, while the bulk version is expected at a lower price.

The PleXTools v1.18 software can be very useful for both amateur and experienced users. You can adjust various settings of the drive, rip AudioCDs with probably, the best error correction DAE software engine, author both AudioCD and CD-ROM projects, can copy Audio/Data CDs (and AudioCD protected) and lastly test recorded discs for reading errors.

- Looking at the drive

The front panel is almost the same as with the "older" PX-W1210TS. There are four LEDs, two buttons (eject, play/next), and the "40/12/40", "BPRec" and "High Speed" logos.

The operation of the front LEDs is the following:

A special version with black bezel is also available, dedicated to users who have a black coloured PC case. Both black and white versions are expected to have the same price:

On the rear panel of the drive you will find the SCSI-2 connectors, the jumpers for setting the SCSI-ID, the analogue and the digital audio output connectors and of course the power connector. There is no attached fan as with the PX-W1210S series.

The SCSI-ID can change with the appropriate set of the three jumpers, as it is indicated in the following table:

The drive was manufactured at December 2002 and it comes with a hardware revision TLA #0000

- Inside the drive

After removing the bottom screws we can see the internal of the drive. A big difference with previous Plextor drives is the specific drive includes a warranty sticker in the side, meaning if you decide to open the drive you will automatically loose the warranty! Be careful! The drive is based again at SANYO chipsets and uses various other chipsets without any obvious manufacturer ID.

Click to enlarge!

- Installation

The PleXWriter PX-W4012TS was installed at an ADAPTEC 29160 with the default SCSI-ID (4). The drive worked at Ultra SCSI mode (20MB/sec). After booting, it identified itself as a "PLEXTOR CD-R PX-W4012S". We used Nero v5.5.10, CloneCD v4.2.0.2 and Ahead InCD v3.51.91 for the recording tests. The drive did not automatically reduce the maximum writing speed (40X) even when we used a low quality media, but user will notice the increased recording time. Also PoweREC cannot be disabled, as with the newest PX-W4824A series. The following Nero picture shows additional information for the drive. After this review was written, Plextor released a newer firmware update (v1.01) that supposed to support the 1X writing speed. Despite our efforts we couldn't write 1X, even with the new firmware version.


2. Data Tests
PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW -Page 2

Data Tests

- Pressed CD results: (Click to see the CD Speed 74 & 80min graphs)

The PX-W4012TS is slightly slower than the PX-W4012A series. The drive started reading at 16.53X and ended at 41.8X with a 31.7X average reading speed.

The seek times of the PX-W4012TS are improved compared with the PX-W4012A series, at least in the "Random" and "1/3" tests, since the "Full Stroke" values are exactly the same.

- CDR Media: (Click to see the CD Speed 74 & 80min graphs)

With CD-R media, the PX-W4012TS is still slower than the PX-W4012A series with a 31.5X average reading speed.

The seek times with CD-R media, are higher than the PX-W4012A series.

- RW media: (Click to see the CD Speed Graph)

Despite the fact that PleXTools mentioned that the supported read speed for HS-RW is 32X max, the drive was faster reaching the 40X, giving a 31.68X average reading speed.


3. Error Correction Tests
PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 3

Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we examine the reading error correction capabilities of the drive.

- EAC CD-R Test Disc

- Test Results (Max Reading)

Errors total
Num: 115248617
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 582339
Avg:-29.0 dB(A)
Max: -7.2 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 76754
Avg: 1.0 Samples
Max: 633 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 355
Avg: 44 Samples
Max: 2938 Samples
Total Test Result
52.8 points (of 100.0 maximum)

The drive didn't perform very well and produced a high amount of errors with high spikes. After the fifth scratch area the drive seems to loose control and produces a constant error level of -7.2dB (A). Also the black defect triangle seems to cause problems resulting to an overall score of 52.8 points out of 100.

- ABEX TCD-721R

- Test Results (Max speed)

Errors total
Num: 1520067
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 69147
Avg: -72.7 dB(A)
Max: -17.5 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 7315
Avg: 1.1 Samples
Max: 85 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 0
Avg: 0 Samples
Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result
75.6 points (of 100.0 maximum)

The drive performed better with the ABEX 721R test disc. The average level is -72.7 dB(A), while the max spike reached -17.5 dB (A). The score is 75.6 points out of 100.

- ABEX TCD-726

- Test Results (Max Speed)

Errors total
Num: 15
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 14
Avg: -80.2 dB(A)
Max: -72.7 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
93.0 points (of 100.0 maximum)

The ABEX 726 test disc was a "piece of cake" for the PX-W4012TS. Only one spike error was noticed at 27mins producing a 93.0 points score out of 100.

- Conclusion

Test Disc
Reading Speed
ASUS CRW5224
Score
EAC CD-R
Max
52.8
ABEX TCD-721R
Max
75.6
ABEX TCD-726
Max
93.0
Average Score
73.8

The PleXWriter PX-W4012TS gave an average performance with a 73.8 score out of 100.

- C2 Information accuracy

- Test Results (MAX Speed)

Below is the CDSpeed DAE quality test result of the drive. Despite the 104 sync errors, the drive got an 81.1 score. The C2 % accuracy seems to be low with an 83.23% score:

Below are the C2 % accuracy results as the EAC software reports. CDSpeed also confirmed the 82.17% result in the previous test.

Test Disc
Reading Speed
ASUS CRW5224
Score
EAC CD-R
Max
50.00
ABEX TCD-721R
Max
96.5
ABEX TCD-726
Max
100
Average Score
82.17

Last, we post the C2 error graphs as they are available by EAC analyser software.


4. CloneCD Reading Tests

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 4

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure

We used CloneCD and 3 original CDs - Serious Sam 2 (SafeDisc 2), V-Rally 2 Expert (SecuROM 2) and NBA Jam Extreme (PSX) - in order to test the reading times 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 picture show the drive(s) reading/writing features as CloneCD reports:

- PSX Pressed Media

We ripped the image to the HD with CloneCD using the default settings. The drive needs 72secs to finish the task, while the PX-W4012A needs only 54secs.

- SafeDisc v.2 Results

The PX-W4012TS drive needed almost 6:32mins to finish reading. The PX-W4012A read the same disc almost in the half time and therefore gets the first place.

- SecuROM v.2 Results

All drives can read SubChannel data from Data/Audio tracks. Here we can see an improvement of the PX-W4012S, since it's slightly faster than the PX-W4012A series.


5. DAE Tests

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 5

DAE Tests

- DAE features

- Pressed AudioCD

The PX-W4012TS and PX-W4012A drives have exactly the same DAE reading performance (30.1X) with pressed discs.

- Audio CD-R media

With CD-R media, the PX-W4012TS is slightly faster than the PX-W4012A by 0.4X.

- EAC Secure Extract Ripping mode

EAC's secure extract ripping mode results, which ensures maximum produced WAV quality. Note that for each drive we used the built-in detection function:

Tested Drives
Average DAE Speed (X)
Pressed
CDR
PleXWRiter PX-W4012TS
8.0
7.0

- Advanced DAE test

All the drives got a "100" score. The DAE speed for the PX-W4012TS is 30.03X. The drive can also read Lead-in/out information, CD-text and Subchannel data.

- Bad CDR Media results

We used CD DAE software to rip the whole disc (756539616 sectors) to the hard disk.

Average Speed (X)
Errors
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
PleXWRiter PX-W4012TS
Slows down ripping after 81%...

The condition of the disc can be considered as very bad, so the purpose of this test is not to get the best results with zero read errors, but to estimate the capabilities of the drive. The drive lowers the reading speed after 81% and eventually returns a reading error.

- Ripping 90 and 99mins AudioCDs

 
Tested drives
Ripping up to
PleXWriter PX-W4012TS
Can read up to 99 minutes

- Reading/Ripping Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used 2 protected AudioCDs, which we tested in both recognition and ripping (with EAC BURST mode) processes:

* Pressed AudioCD with Sony Key2Audio (Celine Dion - New Day Has Come)
* Pressed AudioCD with Cactus Data Shield 200 (Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island)

Key2Audio
CDS200
PleXWriter PX-W4012TS
Rips entire disc without any problems
Needs the "detect TOC manually setting"m rips entire disc without any problems

The PleXWriter PX-W4012TS was able to rip the both CDS200 and Key2Audio protected Audio discs.


6. CDR Tests

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 6

CDR Tests

- Recording Tests

The PleXWriter PX-W4012TS showed a good behaviour compared with other Zone-CLV recorders (Samsung SW-240B). The drive needs 204sec (3:24mins) to finish the task. The PX-W4012A is slower only by two seconds. The below graph shows the recording times for all the supported recording speeds above 16X, with Plextor 80min 48X (made by Taiyo Yuden) CD-R media:

As a notice we could say that the time difference between the 32X and 40X is very low (7secs).

- Supported media

From our tests, we saw that Taiyo Yuden 48X, Mitsubishi Chemicals 48X, Fuji 40X, Imation 48X and SCK 48X media could be burned at 40X. With the new TDK 48X (white printable) we could write at speeds up to 32X. According to the Plextor European website, Hitachi-Maxell 4X-40X are also supported, while the USA website has a more detailed list of the supported media.

- Overburning Tests

The drive can overburn up to 99mins. This is an improvement over the previous Plextor models.

- CD-Text Results

Can read/write CD-Text without any problems.

- CloneCD Writing Tests

The CloneCD software reports that the drive supports the DAO-RAW feature. With the use of proper media, DAO-RAW writing can be performed at 32X.

For checking the drive's EFM correction status, we used 3 different game titles with different SafeDisc 2 versions with the latest software patches installed. We used the drive as reader/writer at maximum reading/recording speed. Two discs were burned for each game. One disc was burned with PadusDJ and the other with CloneCD (Amplify Weak Sectors On). The results are posted in the following table:

Game Title
Tested Drive
SD2 Build
Settings
CloneCD (Amplify Weak Sectors On)
PadusDJ
Max Payne v1.05
Creative 52X
CD-ROM
v.2.50.020
Ok
Ok
TEAC 40X
CD-ROM
BTC DV316
DVD-ROM
Serious Sam - The Second Encounter v1.07
Creative 52X
CD-ROM
v.2.60.052
Ok
No
TEAC 40X
CD-ROM
BTC DV316
DVD-ROM
The Sims - Unleashed
Creative 52X
CD-ROM
v2.80.010
No
TEAC 40X
CD-ROM
BTC DV316
DVD-ROM

The PleXWriter PX-W4012TS can backup discs protected with Safedisc v2.50.020 or older without the need of special software. The v2.60.052 build backups will work only with the "Amplify Weak Sectors" option enabled, while the latest v2.80.010 won't work, mostly since CloneCD has problems with it. Using other software like Alcohol 120% or BlindWrite could be more efficient.


7. Writing Quality Tests - Page 1

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 7

Writing Quality Tests - Page 1

We used Plextor 80min 48X (based at Taiyo Yuden) CD-R media and burned the same AudioCD project (with CD-Text) at all recording speeds from 4X-40X and with the "VariREC +0" option. Below you can see the 3T Pit & Land Jitter graphs.

- 3T Pit results

As we can see from the above graphs, the 3T Pit Jitter stays below the 35ns RED book limit at 4X ~ 32X recording speeds. In the 40X (Zone-CLV) recording speed the drive produced higher jitter values after the 58min until the end of the disc. The average 3T Jitter values for all recording speeds are illustrated in the following table. The 4X recording speed produced the best results.

- 3T Land results

The 3T Land Jitter results are not very well, in the low recording speeds. The VariREC +0 feature produced 36ns values and again the 40X recording speed, after 58mins will give un-pleasant results. The16X recording speed produced the best results.

- Conclusion

Recording Speed
3T Pit Jitter (ns)
3T Land Jitter (ns)
> 35ns
Max value (ns)
4X
25.17
32.12
No
34
4X (VariREC +0)
26.98
33.78
Yes at
4-16mins
36
8X
27.05
31.88
No
33
16X
27.39
28.61
No
30
20X
27.63
29.12
No
31
24X
28.17
29.80
No
31
32X
28.39
31.34
No
34
40X
32.44
35.49
Yes after 58mins
44

The results with Taiyo Yuden 48X media for the low recording speeds are not very well, especially for the 3T Land Jitter values. The VariREC +0 seems to cause worst side effects than the normal (DAO) 4X speed, while the 16X seems to produce the most balanced results. The 40X recording speed may not please Audiophiles since the increased 3T Jitter value after 58mins is not according to the RED book standard.


8. Writing Quality Tests - Page 2

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 7

Writing Quality Tests - Page 2

We tested the drive with a variety of other media in order to check the writing quality performance. All media were burned at the 40X (Z-CLV) recording speed.

- 3T Pit results

As we can see from the above graphs, the 3T Pit Jitter exceeds 35ns RED book limit for almost all media except from the CibaPlasmon 48X. The SKC 48X seems to produce the worst results, while the Verbatim 48X media will perform well until the drive enters the 40X writing speed. The Fuji 40X media also performed well until the 76min, where it suddenly reached the 38ns. Below are posted the average values for all tested media.

- 3T Land results

The 3T Land Jitter is similar with the 3T Pit results. The CibaPlasmon 48X produced the best results, while the SKC 48X the worst. Below are posted the average values for all tested media.

- Conclusion

Media
3T Pit Jitter (ns)
3T Land Jitter (ns)
> 35ns
Max value (ns)
SKC 48X
36.05
37.49
Yes at 10mins
42
Fuji 40X
30.05
30.54
Yes at 78mins
40
Verbatim 48X
30.12
31.05
Yes at 54mins
38
Imation 48X
34.63
34.46
Yes at 54mins
41
Hitachi Maxell 40X
34.15
30.85
Yes at 54mins
39
Ciba Plasmon 48X
27.73
27.61
No
35

The results with various 48X media are at least interesting. The media that worked best with the PX-W4012TS comes from CibaPlasmon and is rated at 48X. The specific media produced the lowest 3T Pit&Land values and didn't exceed the 35ns limit. The SKC 48X doesn't seem to perform well giving the worst results. The Fuji 40X was a good performer until 78mins, where the jitter value reached the 38ns.


9. RW Writing Tests

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW - Page 8

RW Writing Tests

For the burning tests, we burned a full 74mins disc with all the drives. The results are showed in the following chart. We used the maximum supported speed for each drive.

Both the PX-W4012TS and PX-W4012A support the 12X writing speed with HS-RW media. The drive will need 400secs to end the task and 35secs to quick ease the media.

- Packet Writing Tests

We used Ahead InCD v3.51.91 for the packet writing tests. The formatted disc had 534 MB 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 more than once, to eliminate any possible time measurement faults and user errors.

The PX-W4012TS reached the top with an 8.61X average writing and 17.35X average reading speeds.

- Mt. Rainier Tests

For testing the Mt. Rainier performance, we used was InCD v3.51.91 by Ahead Software. After the format process, we immediately started the recording process (drag & drop). When the drive finished, we started the reading process back to the HD. The PX-W4012TS performed well without any problems. The drive's reading performance was higher than in the normal Packet writing mode, while the writing speed was slightly lower (7.49X).

Drive
Average Writing Speed (X)
Average Reading Speed (X)
PleXWriter PX-W4012TS
12X HS-RW
7.49X
20.09X

- EasyWrite tests

The Philips Easy Write test checks the quality level of the Mt Rainier implementation. Although the drive accepted the EasyWrite test suite commands it didn't fulfil the basic PartA v1.60 tests. We are expecting Plextor to improve this with a future firmware update.


10. Conclusion

PleXWriter PX-W4012TS SCSI CD-RW- Page 10

Conclusion

Positive (+)

Negative (-)

- The first real SCSI recorder supporting 40X writing speed
- "BURN-Proof" anti-coaster technology
- "PoweRec II" quality monitor system
- "VariRec" recording mode
- Supports Mt. Rainier format
- 4MB of Buffer
- Can handle Audio protected discs
- Good DAE ripping speed
- Supports DAO-RAW writing mode
- Can read/write SubChannel Data from Audio/Data tracks
- Supports CD-Text (read/write)
- Supports Overburning (up to 99mins)
- Complete retail package (Nero 5.5x, 40x CDR media and PlexTools)
- Comes with 2 years of warranty for EU buyers

- Writing quality needs improvements
- CD Error correction could be better
- Supports C2 error information but with low accuracy
- Performance is somewhat slower than the IDE model
- Low CloneCD reading performance
- Cannot produce perfect SD2 backups/ DAO-RAW writing only at 32x
- High Price (270 Euro)

The PleXWriter PX-W4012TS comes to fulfill a specific market where most manufacturers avoid entering so far. Although the SCSI interface used to be the no1 choice for power users, today it has been neglected and set aside by the evolution of IDE devices and the fast USB2.0 and FireWire interfaces. The increased cost of SCSI devices gave the manufacturers no other choice but to drop it and continue evolving the IDE devices. Plextor comes to change that with the PX-W4012TS.

The drive worked in the most of the tests either equally or slightly slower than its IDE brother (PX-W4012A). All the familiar technologies are present (BURN Proof, PoweRecII, Mt. Rainier, VariRec, 4MB buffer) as in the IDE model. The drive can rip Audio CDs in a high speed and at the same time, is able to handle Audio protected discs. Reading and writing of CD-Text is not a problem, while the overburning limit has been increased to fully support 99min discs. The package is poor compared with the IDE model (one piece of CD-R instead of five pieces of the PX-W4012A) and comes with a 2-year warranty for the EU buyers.

Listing the negatives, we must note the high Jitter values at the maximum speed with various media, while the error correction capabilities could be better. In addition, although retrieving of C2 error information is present its accuracy is not high. Users who wish to backup their discs will not be satisfied by the limited EFM hardware correction, but this is a common characteristic for all drives that use SANYO chipsets. As a last note we could say that the price of the drive is not very compatible, since very cheap 52X solutions can be found at a price around Euro100.

Summarizing our thoughts, we can say that we expected a better overall performance from the PX-W4012TS, considering the high price of Euro270. The PX-W4824A is available in almost half this price and performs faster in the most of the tests. Of course the SCSI interface is what some users have been requesting from Plextor to implement, so we can assume that they will give the extra money to buy it :-)



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