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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > DVD Recorders 1-4x

Monday, February 18, 2002
Ricoh MP5120A DVD+RW

2. The drive

Ricoh MP5120A IDE DVD+RW - Page 2

- What's New at the MP5120A series?

Click To Enlarge!- Pick-up module, that mounts LDs (Laser Diodes) for both CD and DVD, but only 1 lens (2LD-1Lens pick-up module), is upgraded for DVD writing.

- Newly developed analog front-end processor LSI, which controls pickup, servomotor, and seeking, and a digital controller LSI for encoding/decoding support DVD writing at 2.4x which requires highly accurate control.

- MP5120A is equipped with the 'radial tilt correction mechanism' that uses a sensor to detect a camber or a tilt of the disc, and corrects the laser angle so that laser light is always directed vertically to the disc surface. (It functions only in DVD recording and playback)

- A high-precision stepping motor supports highly accurate seeking, even for DVD+RW media which has narrow tracks. It also reduces noise during operation.

- The drive

The super DVD+RW combo recorder supports 12x (CD) and 2.4x DVD+RW writing, 10x re-writing, 32x (CD) and 8x (DVD-ROM/+RW) reading. The drive also supports "JustLink" technology in order to avoid buffer underruns, for CD format. Its writing speeds are: 2x, 4x, 8x, 12x (CLV) writing and 2x, 4x and 10x (CLV) re-writing.

The writing speed for DVD+RW format is 2.4X CLV (X factor is now 1385Kb/s) which is equivalent to 20x of CD-RW drives. Even the media support both CAV and CLV writing modes, the drive incorporates the CLV recording. The differences are the same as with CD writing in that the overall writing speed with CLV will be quicker however random access with CAV is quicker. We don't have any information if Ricoh will ever support CAV writing technology.

The attached 2MB of buffer may seem small when writing at 2.4X DVD writing speed, but as we saw earlier buffer underruns are not present due to 'Loss less linking'. The drive doesn't support writing at DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM media. DVD+RW group prepares its own recordable format (DVD+R) and will try to compete the DVD-R!

There are some rumors that the existing DVD+RW drives would be able to write future DVD+R media with a simple firmware upgrade but this hasn't been totally confirmed from Ricoh :"...The present drive cannot support DVD+R. The next generation drive will support DVD+RW and DVD+R, however whether this can be done by firmware is still unknown..." The firmware update would be the ideal case but we must wait. If DVD+R eventually does supported it should be considered as an extra bonus. Last despite the fact that DVD+RW supports Mt. Rainer format the drive doesn't! Probably the next generation of DVD+RW drives will support it.

The following writing formats are supported:
1) DVD+RW: DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, Random Access Write
2) CD-R/RW: CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD Extra, CD-I, Mixed-ModeCD, VideoCD, PhotoCD, CD TEXT and Bootable CD.

- The media

DVD+RW medi for DataRicoh, among with other manufacturers (Optodisc, Ritek, Sony, Verbatim, HP, LeadData and Philips), offers 4.7GB DVD+RW media. The quaternary Ag-In-Sb-Te phase change recording material, previously developed by Ricoh has been customized for DVD. "...Ricoh's DVD+RW discs hold 4.7GB, are rewritable with reliability due to the defect management of the drive..." Ricoh says. However the drive doesn't support the advertised DVD+RW defect management at all!

Ricoh's media can be written from 1X-2.4X and have a life of more than 100 years. A DVD+RW disc can be re-written more than 1,000 times. The prices of the DVD+RW media are expected to be around 15$, slightly less than the current DVD-RW media cost.

The "official" DVD disc sizes are confusing because they do not follow the conventions used for other digital media. In the DVD world, 1 Gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 (109) bytes, whereas in the computer world, 1 Gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 (230) bytes. Therefore a 4.7-GB computer hard disk contains more data than a 4.7-GB DVD. In other words you can only fit up to 4.38GB of data, as with DVD-R/RW media.

DVD+RW media for VideoThere are 2 DVD+RW media types: "For Data", can be used with drives that support DVD+RW media and "For Video" for stand alone Video players/recorders and drives. Both types include CSS written information in order to be compatible with all standalone DVD players. That software on the market and broadcast programs that have anti-copy signals can not be recorded due to integrated copy protection. This refers mainly to consumer DVD+RW devices where TV broadcast, like Digital CS or BS Digital broadcasting have some copy protection signals in their broadcasts (in Japan). The European broadcaster may have other standards.

The DVD+RW format supports double-sided media specification that boosts capacity up to 9.4GB! Philips recently made an announcement for such product. The posted information about the new media is very limited and Ricoh couldn't promise that the MP5120A will support it "...since this 9.4 GB is simply a double sided - single layer disc logically it should work..."

- The package
The package supplied was the retail Europe version. This included: The drive itself, a quick start instruction guide, 1 piece of Ricoh 74min CD-R media, 1 piece of Ricoh DVD+RW media, 1 piece of Ricoh 74min High-Speed RW Blank, audio cables and mounting screws. The attached software programs were: Bs Recorder GOLD v3.04, BS Clip v3.04, Sonic MyDVD v3.0, WinProducer v1.00, WinCoder v1.50 and WinDVD v3.0. Also there are 2 extra tools for setting up the drive's working mode (PIO Mode4/UDMA33) and the region settings. Pricing for the drive is about 1500DM ($690) and about 35DM ($16) for the media.

Let's zoom at something interesting from the retail box: Yes it's true! The Ricoh DVD+RW MP5120A has 2 years of warranty, as the European laws order. Ricoh added "...This warranty is only for the product purchased in Europe. The warranty in other areas is the standard one year; however the 2 year warranty will be honored outside of Europe so long as the customer can provide a proof of purchase..."

Ricoh dropped Nero as the main recording CD/DVD solution and offers instead the BS Recorder Gold. Changes are always welcomed but at this case...don't seem so succeful. Bs Recorder GOLD general interface is a bit harder to use than Nero one and also many features are missing :-(. Latest Nero 5.5.5.4 worked very well with Ricoh MP5120An so there are alternative solutions for the user who will find BS Recorder GOLD not the best solution for his needs.

The front of the drive contains all the necessary logos to separate it from normal CD-RW drives. The "Ricoh", "JustLink", "High-Speed RW" and "DVD+RW" logos printed on it among with the drives codename "MP5120A" makes the difference. There is also only one led, the eject button and the headphone input jack/volume selector:

On the back of the drive there are the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for setting the drive as Master/Slave/Cable Select, the SPDIF output connector and 3 jumpers which are not used (factory reserved):

- Installation:
The Ricoh MP5120A was installed as Master in the secondary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA-2 mode and after boot up, it identified itself as the "Ricoh DVD+RW MP5120". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was a 2001 model (not sure which month exactly), with an initial firmware revision of v1.29. Ricoh released a newer firmware update to v1.30 which fixed some problems with reading/writing of DVD+RW media. We used the latest version of Nero Burning ROM (5.5.5.1/5.5.5.4), Bs Recorder Gold (v3.04), Bs Clip (v3.04) and CloneCD (3.0.9.1) for the recording tests. The drive is RPC2, which means that you can change its DVD region only 4 times. The DVD Region Info software gives the needed RPC2 confirmation. However already there are region free firmware available, even for the latest 1.30 :-)

- Test Machine:
WinMe OS
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
ATI AIW 128
Ricoh MP5120 firmware v1.29




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