Theres a photo of the Premium's chipset on the CDFreaks board... It has a large Plextor logo on it.
Yes indeed the Premium will be excellent at ripping protected audio, it has to be since it has the advantage of PlexTools Pro
I got my CRW-F1DX for around $500 AUD months ago, which is very expensive for a CD recorder, but I got 5yrs warrenty included. I love its flexible dual interface
Last I checked, the CRW-F1E could be had here on OZ for $170 AUD, and the PlexWriter 48/24/48A was still $300-$380 AUD!!! For some reason, there is a *massive* markup on Plextor in my country, like $80 AUD for a LTR-52246S, and the Plextor's are just 4-5X as expensive!