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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > 40x CD-RW

Tuesday, February 12, 2002
PleXWriter PX-W4012A CD-RW

1. Introduction

PleXWriter PX-W4012A IDE CDR-W - Page 1

- Introduction

Plextor is one of the most important manufacturers of optical storage devices. Many times in the past, Plextor has kept up with the writing race, behind Sanyo, and now a new proposal comes up. Plextor's latest model with the codename PX-W4012A is the first ever recorder that supports 40x writing race and leads the writing race. At the same time frame, where the majority of other manufacturers have already or are about to ship their 32x writing proposals, Plextor moved ahead and presents a recorder that supports the faster recording speeds at both CD-R and CD-RW formats. Our review plans to examine if Plextor's 40x writing speed brings up any major performance differences from the already tested 24x/32x recorders and how the new adopted technologies by Plextor can affect to the overall drive's performance.

- Features

Plextor continues to use Zone-CLV as the main recording technology. In our question, "why P-CAV is not adopted" Plextor answered "...CAV recording can never be better than CLV recording. The drive sets a certain write strategy depending on the disc type and the speed. For CLV, these are kept the same throughout the disc. For Z-CLV, they stay the same within a certain zone. But for CAV, the speed constantly changes. So in theory you need millions of write strategies. It's as if you have thousands tiny Z-CLV zones. So you have to compromise, probably on quality and accuracy..."

Plextor's answer has one correct point. P-CAV is very hard to accomplish without sacrifice of quality. Only Yamaha uses P-CAV for now and their future CAV writers would be probably faster than the Zone-CLV recorders.

Plextor PX-W4012A includes the already known "Burn Proof" buffer underrun protection, and "PoweRec II", media quality control mechanism but also introduces a new system that promises higher quality AudioCDs.

comes from the "Variable Recording" words and allows the change of the laser power when writing CD-DA or CD-R at 4X. (TAO or DAO). Users are allowed to make slight adjustments to the default value (0). This will change the quality of the sound and will also increase the playability or compatibility (or in extreme cases in-compatibility) with the existing players. Plextor says that the default setting (0) already reflects to the optimised laser power with the lowest jitter.

Users may compare Plextor's "VariRec" towards Yamaha's "AudioMASTER" system. We asked Plextor the same question and the answer was that "...VariRec is not an answer to any technology of any other manufacturer. The write quality of Plextor recorders is already much better, several tests have proven this. However, the idea that VariRec is more an option to 'tune according to personal taste'..." doesn't seem to un-veil the whole truth. Both "AudioMASTER" and "VariRec" uses 4x-recording speed, and both technologies promise a reduction of jitter and better AudioCDs.

As it is already known, Yamaha's proposal is to increase the pit length, and has earned the industry's respect. We will have to see how easily Plextor's "VariRec" technology will be accepted from users. A good question here is whether if we can listen to such slight changes of the sound, since the sound digital signal is processed through many DA/AD processes and circuits before the analogue audio playback. Some people claim that they can hear to such changes, probably with high-end systems, but we don't seem to agree. The addition of such specialized technologies for AudioCD recording is reasonable for user who may needed them. I think most of you have forgotten how many minutes it takes to write a full CD at 4x ;-)

There are also other major improvements over previous models, with the concept to produce better quality CDs. Plextor PX-W4012A uses a black tray to reduce the jitter and to increase the quality of the burned CD. In addition an optimised PCB (power circuit board) circuit is used to reduce noise and to get a higher quality of CD. Both of those systems are found in Plextor's PLEXMASTER-01 recorder that costs over $10.000, and is used for PS2 mastering proposes.

Plextor says that "...We found from tests that a black tray reduces the number of C1 errors. This improves the write quality of course. At the same time we improved the PCB circuit to avoid spark noise. Our test equipment showed serious improvement for deviation and especially jitter over the whole range (3T-11T)..."

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-W4012A drive supports: 4X, 8X, 16X, 20x (CLV) and 24X, 32X, 40X Zone-CLV writing speeds.

When writing AudioCDs, the maximum speed is reduced to 16x-24x (Z-CLV). The main reason is that Plextor believes that others speeds (32x/40x) would have a cost of writing quality. Most other manufactures allow users to record AudioCDs at 32x speed. The PX-W4012A also supports 4X, 10X and 12X (CLV) re-writing speeds. The buffer of the drive is 4MB, Sanyo 40x also includes 4MB, TEAC CD-W540E 8MB and LiteOn LTR-40125S 2MB. Lastly, there is an improvement of "Seek Times" down to 120ms. Even Plextor hasn't announced it officially, the drive expected to support the Mt. Rainier format - as soon the format will be finalized - with a new firmware upgrade.

The drive's maximum reading speed is still 40x (CAV) and if you are wondering why Plextor hasn't supported the 48x, here is the answer "...For the same reason as why our CD-ROM drives would go 40X max: when you go higher, the forces become so strong that certain CD's may break (influence of speed, temperature, aging and tiny damages around the hub ring). And we don't want to take the risk of damaging our customer's property..." However, our experience with two specific recorders (AOpen CRW3248, CyberDrive CW058D) that support 48X reading speed didn't showed such problems.

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