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Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/248U Review
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Date: Sep 19, 2002
Section:Storage
Author: HH Editor
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Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/248U Review - Page 1

 

Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/24-8U Review
CD-R, CD-RW, DVD and USB 2.0

By -Chris Angelini
September 18th, 2002

Not long ago, CD-RW drives were considered a luxury.  Then, the MP3 craze swept college dorms and came to rest in the average household.  The ability to play music on demand through a computer sound system was novel, but taking that music on the road seemed far more practical.  Of course, the only way to get a custom mix was to convert the music into .wav format and burn the large files onto a disc.  Writable optical drives quickly became popular, simultaneously decreasing in price and increasing in speed.  Suddenly, CD-RW drives could be found in enthusiast systems and home PC?s alike. 

The first generation of drives was notorious for excruciating burn-times and the knack for ruining CDs, or creating what many affectionately refer to as a ?coaster.?  Nowadays, discs can be burned in a matter of minutes and without the risk of buffer under-runs.  Internal drives commonly run at 48x speeds and may even include DVD-read capabilities.  On the other hand, external drives have historically been limited by the I/O interface, though they offer greater flexibility.  Plextor?s latest CD-RW drive is unique in that it complies with the USB 2.0 specification, can burn discs at 8x, re-write information at 8x and read DVD discs at 8x speeds.  And, the whole package is small enough to tuck into a laptop case.  The multi-purpose PleXCombo drive may not stack up to it?s internal competitors with regard to speed, but you can?t argue with a device that lets you copy a Metallica track in the library and watch Heat at 35,000 feet, can you?

Specifications of the PlexCombo 8/8/24-8U
Covering All of the Bases


 

Total Solution features
 
  • USB 2.0 Interface
  • 4-in-1 drive: 8x CD-R, 8x CD-RW, 24x max CD-ROM, 8x DVD-ROM
  • Windows 98/2000/ME/XP Compatible, MAC OS (MAC software not included)
  • Buffer Under Run proof technology
  • Dark colored CD tray minimizes jitters
  • <150ms Average CD Random Access
  • <150ms Average DVD Random Access
  • 2 MB Buffer
  • Capable of Digital Audio Extraction at 24x max
  • Supports CD-DA; CD-ROM (Mode 1); CD-ROM (Mixed Mode); CD-ROM XA; CD-I; Photo CD; Video CD; CD-Extra; CD Text
  • Flash ROM allows for easy upgrade over the Internet
  • Supports Disc-at-Once, Track-at-Once, Session-at-Once, Variable & Fixed packet writing modes

  • USB 1.1 interface performance is limited to 4x write, 4x re-write and 6x read speeds.  DVD playback is limited to .7x

Minimum Systems Requirements

CPU: Pentium II 350MHz or equivalent
RAM: 64MB
USB 2.0 connector is required to achieve 8x write, 8x re-write, 24x read and 8x DVD read speeds
How to enable DMA inside operating system. Refer to your motherboard manual on how to set PIO Mode or DMA Mode.
Sound Card: For audio playback
Graphics: 800x600 display, 16-bit color


      

  • 1 - USB connector cable

  • 1 - AC power adapter

  • 1 - power cord

  • 1 - eject tool

  • 1 - 1x-24x CD-R

  • 1 - CD with Easy CD Creator, CyberLink PowerDVD XP, SimpliCD and more.

The PleXCombo drive comes with plenty of software to entice the average home user.  First, Plextor has included Easy CD Creator 5 Basic, which provides the means to burn an audio CD, data discs or a disc backup.  The complete version of Easy CD Creator adds a few more audio options and the ability to burn a video CD, though it costs $70 to make the upgrade.  Home users will appreciate the simple interface, but an application like Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM would have delivered more power to hardware enthusiasts.  Additionally, the 2-speaker version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD XP is included.  Next to WinDVD, PowerDVD has evolved into one of the most powerful DVD playback applications. Audio enthusiasts with multi-channel audio systems need to use the S/PDIF pass-through, as the included version is limited to 2-speaker output.  The DVD package is completed by hardware acceleration through chipsets like ATI's RADEON and the NVIDIA GeForce family.  Another useful utility is SimpliCD, which is very similar to the standard Windows XP CD burning interface.  Windows Millennium and Windows 2000 users will appreciate the simple drag-and-drop program for quick burning, though.

     

Quality, Features and Nero

 

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Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/248U Review - Page 2

 

Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/24-8U Review
CD-R, CD-RW, DVD and USB 2.0

By -Chris Angelini
September 18th, 2002

Setup of the PleXCombo 8/8/24-8U
External Combo Drive

As an external drive, the PleXCombo 8/8/24-8U is obviously suited best for environments that demand portability.  Weighing in at 1.1 pounds, the drive certainly doesn't add much to a laptop case and it's slim dimensions (5.55"x.87"x6.73") make for easy carrying.  Plextor includes a power adapter as well as an AC power cord for connection to a standard 120V wall socket. Additionally, a USB cord comes bundled.  While the external PleXCombo drive is designed for operation with a USB 2.0 port, it also functions connected to a USB 1.1 controller.  Unfortunately, performance drops to 4x write, 4x re-wrie, 6x read and .7x DVD read.

The expansive hardware compatibility of Windows XP makes it easy to setup an external disk drive.  Simply, the 8/8/24-8U is connected to a power source, plugged into an available USB slot, and turned on.  Windows XP detects the drive, installs the necessary drivers and finalizes the setup.  Windows 98 SE users will need to install supplementary USB drivers, but for the most part, setup is truly a piece of cake.

  

Like many of Plextor's other CD-RW drives, the 8/8/24-8U drive utilizes a black CD tray, which purportedly absorbs excess laser light.  According to Plextor, the dark tray consequently minimizes jitter and increases reliability.  Optimized power circuits also help eliminate electrical noise, further reducing the effect of jitter.

Many of the other features offered by Plextor's internal drives are not available with the 8/8/24-8U, like PowerRec, VariRec, and SpeedRead.  However, the most important feature, Buffer Under Run Proof technology, is present and accounted for.  Enthusiasts that consider themselves early-adopters will remember the frustration of writing a CD while trying to multi-task, only to have the burn process fail due to the internal buffer running out of data.  Should the 8/8/24-8U's 2MB buffer run out of data (which is less likely to happen at 8x recording than it would for faster, 48x internal drives), the drive will track the occurrence and resume writing once the buffer is refilled rather than return an error.  The Buffer Under Run protection allows you to start recording and go back to browsing the Internet, typing a term paper or balancing the checkbook.

HotHardware Test Systems
CD-RW Grudge Match

 

ASUS P4T533 i850E Motherboard
Intel 2.2GHz Pentium 4 Processor

512MB RIMM 4200 RDRAM

Seagate Cheetah 10k RPM SCSI HDD

ATI All-In-Wonder 8500

Windows XP Professional

DirectX 8.1

 

Plextor 8/8/24-8U

TDK 24/10/40

Utilities and Media Used For Testing
Nero Burning ROM 5.5.9.9
Nero InfoTool
Nero CD Speed
A 644MB data CD was used for transfer testing
The Ladies Man was used for DVD testing


 

CD-ROM Performance Tests - PlexCombo 8/8/24-8U
Did Somebody Say NERO?


Nero InfoTool:

Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/24-8U

TDK VeloCD 24/10/40x

Ahead Software's Nero InfoTool utility outlines the pertinent features of each drive in a manner easy to digest.  For the sake of comparison, we used TDK's internal 24/10/40x CD-RW.  Obviously, the internal drive is faster, but note that the 8/8/24-8U can also read DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW discs.  Both drives allow for buffer under-run protection, but the Plextor drive clearly supports several extra write modes.


Nero CD Speed:

Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/24-8U
TDK VeloCD 24/10/40x

Along with InfoTool, the retail Nero Burning ROM package also includes the CD Speed benchmarking utility.  The first test the application runs is a pure speed test.  Starting at under 5x transfer speeds, we expected the Plextor drive to increase quickly in order to peak at the rated 24x read speed.  However, 10.4x was the most the 8/8/24-8U would deliver.  In comparison, the internal TDK drive pumped out the expected 40x read speeds.  Both drives scored disappointing results in the Burst Speed test - the TDK drive bursting 1MB per second and the Plextor drive topping out at 250KB per second.  Finally, the 8/8/24-8U consumed significantly higher processor resources, especially as speeds increased from 4x to 8x.

File Transfer, DVD Testing and Conclusion

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Plextor PleXCombo 8/8/248U Review Page 3


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