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Home > Technology Previews > General Computing

Saturday, March 15, 2003
CeBIT 2003 Show Coverage

11. Plextor


This year Plextor announced new drives, new software components for theme, and a set of flash memory kits. All of them were available at the company's booth under the slogan "King of Quality". And indeed Plextor did offer quite some new dev elopement formats and tools, both in hardware and software, to support its advertisements.

The first new drive seems to complete the line of high-speed CD recorders and its name "Premium" is highly suggestive of its features. It is a 52x burner that offers to consumers transparent compression, encryption and the ability to check several factors of the quality of the recorded disks. These are compelling enough reasons for some users to upgrade even their 48x recently purchased recorder!

The drive supports 52x CD-R writing, 32x CD-RW writing and 52x reading. An 8MB cache buffer, along with buffer underun protection, ensures safe recordings. The drive will be available in the next couple of months.

The new version of PlexTools, the "PlexTools Professional" will be bundled in the retail package of the drive. Through the software, users will have the chance to take advantage of the new features offered by the drive and the software itself, such as compressing and encrypting the data, quality measurements of the recorded discs, jitter measurements on audio and data discs, data reading speed tests and many more.

In the picture on the left you can see the new Menu of the PlexTools Professional.

This is the first drive among those offered by Plextor able to record disks that are both compressed and encrypted. According to Plextor, with the new "GigaRec" compression up to 1.4x times the typical CD-ROM capacity can be achieved by squeezing the pits on a burned disk to their limits. This means that one can record up to 1Gbytes of data, or the equivalent of about 110 minutes of audio, by using the now widely in use standard 80min/700MB media:

This is made possible by driving existing technology to its limits. Squeezing more pits at the same spiral length of a disk means that the reading drive will have to slow down the disk rotation accordingly. In the extreme case of reading the outer part of a disk this means that the linear velocity of the disk above the pick-up will be below 1.2 meters/feet, the lowest allowable according to red-book standards for 1x playback. However, most readers, and even the not-so-old consumer players, are able to playback a disk at least at 2x speed (anti-shock). Consequently, this is not a problem when playing back a compressed disk at a higher than 1x speed.

Another important feature of the new 52x recorder is its ability to offer transparent encryption to the recorded data. This is both for the table of contents (TOC) and the data bits itself. The encryption is based on a password provided by a user during recording and is independent of any system-level encryption offered by the operating system itself. The technology is called "SecuREC" and PlexTools offer the corresponding tab to provide easy maintenance of the feature:

Both encryption and compression is offered through a new version of PlexTools, the PlexTools Professional, developed by the European team of Plextor located at Belgium and it will be available to all the worldwide distribution channels in the coming months bundled with all new 52 recorders.

It is questionable whether some of the features of the new recorder will be available to earlier Plextor models through a firmware upgrades and a software upgrade of PlexTools. It is more questionable, though, if other recording software like Nero from Ahead will support this new drive's offering in future upgrades.

We did not had the opportunity to test all these new features ourselves, so our description here is mainly based on our own interpretation of what the knowledgeable persons from Plextor Europe told us. We hope we will present tests of our own in the near future.

Another interesting feature of the new PlexTools Professional. is the C1 and C2 measurements. Any user will be able to check the writing quality of his Plextor drive with various media. An example C1 graph is illustrated in the following picture:

Jitter and Beta measurements should be considered as essential when it comes to audio recording. For more information about the importance of these measurements you can take a look in our "writing quality" article. PlexTools Professional. offers such measurements, as you can see in the picture below:

Transfer rate tests for reading discs are including in the software for accurate monitoring of the drive's reading behavior:

Plextor could not, of course, stay out of the DVD recording arena. The new Plextor PX-504A supports 4x DVD+R writing, 2.4x DVD+RW writing and 12x DVD-ROM reading. The company rushed into the DVD recording market with a DVD+R/RW drive, but it is expected to launch a full 4x -RW multi format drive soon.

PX-116A is a new 16x DVD-ROM and 48x CD-ROM drive. The fastest compo from this manufacturer yet.

Plextor has a very good reputation when it comes to CD-ROM drives. The new PX-54TA supports 54x CD reading. This is the fastest CD-ROM-only drive using the new MediaTek chipset.

At its booth Plextor also displayed new PlexFlash USB Flash memory kits offering capacities up to 512MB with fast and easy plug-n-play capabilities when connected to your PC for easy data transfers.

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