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Plextor's 708A 8X DVD+R/RW Drive
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Date: Dec 29, 2003
Section:Storage
Author: HH Editor
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Plextor's 708A 8X DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 1

 

The Plextor PX-708A 8x DVD±R/RW Drive
Plextor fulfills the need for speed!

By Robert Maloney
December 28th, 2003

When it comes to optical drives, one brand that folks have turned to time and time again, for reliability and performance, would be Plextor.  We have had our looks at many a CD-RW drive and even a few 4X DVD burners this past year.  However, we were beginning to reach a point in time, where we were looking for the next "big thing".  It looks as if we're on the verge of this with optical drive technology in 2004.  Plextor is stepping out ahead in their core competancy, against the competition, with a drive that's not only dual-format, allowing for reading and writing to DVD+R and DVD-R, but does so with what is claimed to be speedy 8X technology.  The PX-708A is marketed as one of the first 8X drives to hit the market, burning over 4GB of data in just over 8 minutes.  If you can think to only a few years back, we were glad just to be able to burn 700MB to a CD in half an hour or so.  Additionally, Plextor has also provided speedy 40X/32X options for writing and reading CD-Rs as well, so there isn't much compromise with this DVD+R/-R drive.  Plextor appears to have come a long way with the technology, so let's get to the details and see what makes the PX-708A tick.
 

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Specifications of the Plextor PX-708A
Everything except the kitchen sink
Model: PX-708A
Interface: ATAPI / IDE
Data Buffer Memory: 2MB
Average Access Time: DVD: 150ms
Average Access Time: CD: 100ms
Data Transfer Rates:
     DVD+R Write: 8x
     DVD-R Write: 4x
     DVD+RW Write: 4x
     DVD-RW Write: 2x
     DVD Read: Up to 12x
     CD-R Write: 40x
     CD-RW Write: 24x
     CD Read: Up to 40x
     CD-RW Read: Up to 32x
 
Supported Formats: CD-Audio, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-R, CD-R, CD-RW, Video CD, CD Extra, CD+G, CD-Text, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD+VR, DVD-VR (read only), Mixed Mode, Bootable CD, UDF

Recording Modes: Packet, TAO, DAO, SAO, RAW SAO, RAW DAO, RAW SAO 16, RAW SAO 96, RAW DAO 16, RAW DAO 96

Buffer Management: Buffer Underrun Proof technology prevents buffer underrun errors, allowing user to multi-task during recording.
Write Methods: DVD: Sequential write, random-access write, multi-session, and Mount Rainier
CD: Disk at Once, Track at Once, Session at Once, Multi-Session, variable and fixed packet writing, and Mount Rainier .
Write Verification: PoweRec technology uses a sophisticated write strategy providing superior quality recording at maximum speeds.
Other Features:  Zero-link for DVD-RW has 0 byte gap between sessions to ensure compatibility with all players.

Front Panel: Eject/Load Button, LED Indicator, Headphone Jack, Headphone Volume Control Wheel Knob, Emergency Eject Hole
Disc Loading: Black Loading Tray - reduces optical distortion
Power Requirement: +12V DC and +5V DC
Mounting Orientation: Horizontal or Vertical, ±15 degrees
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 146mm x 41.3mm x 190mm
 (5.75" x 1.63" x 7.48")
Weight: less than 1.2 kg (about 2.6 lbs.)
Temperature: operating: 0-40° C, non-operating -40-60° C
Humidity: operating: 20%-80% R.H., non-operating 20%-95% R.H.
Safety Requirement: UL, FDA, FCC, CE, BSMI, MIC, C-Tick
MTBF: 60,000 hours



Bundled Media and Software
Putting it all together

While Plextor has covered just about everything when it comes to the reading and writing CDs and DVDs, we were somewhat let down by the bundle that we found in the box.  There was a expansive manual that covers all of the specifications of the PX-708A. 30 pages alone explain the various installation options, depending on the current system configuration and normal use.  These pages are a boon for anyone new to the art of installing hardware or using a DVD/writeable drive for the first time.  It's obvious that time and effort went into the writing to allay any reluctance and questions that users might have.  For those who are a little more experienced, a quick reference guide covered all of the necessary steps to install the hardware and software.  In order to do so, we've got a 40-pin IDE cable and some mounting screws, as well as an extra jumper cap, should the current one get fumbled away.  Plextor has also included an emergency ejection "tool" - essentially a straight, thin metal rod that can be inserted into the eject hole in the front plate.

  • PX-708A User's Manual
  • Quick reference guide
  • DVD with bundled software
  • One blank DVD+R
  • 40-pin IDE ribbon cable
  • 4 mounting screws
  • Extra jumper cap
  • Emergency Eject tool

On the software side, we've got a single DVD with various applications to get the most out of the drive.  One of the more popular tools, Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 and Photosuite 5 SE highlight the list.  While we usually prefer to use Nero Burning Rom, Roxio's burning solution uses a flash tutorial to explaining the ins and outs of creating audio CDs, data CDs, and DVD video in quick and easy steps, perfect for a new user.  Photosuite provides professional-level editing tools for creating projects, with integrated CD burning capabilities.  Two other tools can utilize the PX-708A much like an additional hard drive.  Roxio's Drag-to-Disc allows the user to drag and drop files to a DVD for additional off-site storage, while a trial version of Dantz Retrospect can be used to backup and restore the system should problems arise in the future.  Unfortunately, Plextor has only included one blank DVD+R for trying out all of these tools.  It may help keep costs down, but we would have preferred some additional media here.

Shades of the PX-708A  

 

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Plextor's 708A 8X DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 2

 

The Plextor PX-708A 8x DVD+R/RW Drive
Plextor fulfills the need for speed!

By Robert Maloney
December 28th, 2003

 

Quality and Installation of the Plextor PX-708A
It's as clear as black and white

         
         


The first package to arrive in the labs was the beige model, and while we were quite interested in its capabilities, we were otherwise dismayed at the idea of taking pictures of yet another drive of the same color.  True, the glossy black striping under the tray broke up the monotony, but we were hoping to add this to a customized case.  Anybody who has tried painting an optical drive to match their case can attest that they just don't look the same when the new coat of paint has dried.  So, it was to our pleasant surprise that a black bezel model was added to Plextor's product list as we were preparing this review.  On a completely aesthetic level, when comparing the two drives, we just loved the look of black on black, with the silver decals.  Both drives utilize a black disc tray, which Plextor claims minimizes jitter and reduces C1 error rates by reducing optical distortion of the laser beam.  

         

The front panel is fully populated, with an Eject button, LED indicator, headphone jack and associated volume control wheel knob.  The eject button has an obvious effect in that it ejects the tray, but it also has an additional purpose.  Holding the button down for 3 seconds when inserting a DVD-Video disc that has CSS (Content Scrambling System copy protection) will allow the drive to SpeedRead the disc.  The LED indicator uses various methods for relaying the drive's state to the user.  For example, solid yellow is shown when reading a disc, blinking amber when writing (with the blinking rate indicative of the writing speed), and green when the drive is at standby or when utilizing the Buffer Underrun Proof technology.  Unlike some past Plextor drives, the tray slides in and out quickly, and feels firm when a disc is placed into it.  Also, a small emergency eject hole is placed above and to the left of the eject button.  Using the provided tool, the tray can be manually pulled out to remove discs that are not being read properly or are otherwise jammed.  In general, one should only use this as a last resort, and care should be taken when pulling the drive tray out. 

         

The back of the PX-708A has exactly the same layout that just about all optical drives use.  On the left side, there are two sets of pins.  A two-pin set used to output a digital stereo signal for audio cards with S/PDIF or Digital-in connections, and a more common four-pin set for analog stereo signals.  The jumper cap on the mode jumper pins is used to designate the drive as master or slave, or to use cable select.  Master is set as the default, and it's recommended to leave this configuration.  The final two connectors are used for attaching an IDE cable from and 4-pin MOLEX power plug.  Also of note were four slots cut into the metal casing.  These are used for ventilation of the inner components of the drive, preventing unwanted build-up of heat and possibly condensation on the lens.

The drive can be mounted either horizontally or vertically, although most cases will have the setup shown above.  In a typical case, the drive would be mounted into an open 5 1/4" bay, using the four mounting screws to attach the drive to the chassis.  The user's manual covers a number of scenarios depending on the number and type of drives already in the system.  In our example, we have the hard drive as the Master on IDE channel 1, and the Plextor PX-708A as the Master on IDE channel 2, using the ribbon cable in the package.  As we mentioned earlier, the jumper cap is already set to Master, so this can be left as is.  The bundled audio cable should be suitable for most users, and should be run from the drive to an audio-in or CD-in connector on a sound card or a motherboard with built-in audio.  Finally, find an unused Molex connector from the power supply, and plug this into the power connector, aligning the shape of the plug with the connector.  Out of all the hardware upgrades you could perform, adding or replacing an optical drive is one of the quickest and simplest jobs to do.

HotHardware's Testing Setup  

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Plextor's 708A 8X DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 3

 

The Plextor PX-708A 8x DVD+R/RW Drive
Plextor fulfills the need for speed!

By Robert Maloney
December 28th, 2003

CD/DVD Performance Tests
Nero Burning ROM Ultra 6

Ahead software, the makers of Nero Burning ROM, have an excellent selection of free utilities to test the functions of various types of optical drives.  Each of these small applications perform a number of specific tasks that show us what each drive is capable of.  In this next section we ran several of these tests on the Plextor PX-708A  and included the results of the Teac DV-W50D drive for comparison.  Please note that in each test, the Green line represents Transfer Rates while the Yellow Line represents Rotation Speed.


Nero CD-DVD Speed - CD Data Test:

In our first run of Nero CD-DVD Speed we'll focus our efforts on standard CD-ROM performance.  With this benchmark, we loaded a 703MB CD-R in the drive and let CD-DVD Speed run through its cycle of tests.

Plextor PX-708A
Teac DV-W50D

The graphs are remarkably similar from start to finish, except the Plextor's was shifted higher than the Teac's due to its higher CD Read rating.  The PX-708A started reading around 20X and slowly but surely made it's way up beyond 40X, finishing at 42.73X with an average speed of 32.40X.  The DV-W50D followed the same pattern, from 15X to 33X, with an average speed of 25.33X.  Seek times were generally much better on the PX-708A, about half those found on the Teac DV-W50D at 1/3 and full stroke. The Burst Rate on the Plextor drive was also greater than that found on the Teac (22MB/s > 15MB/s).


Nero CD-DVD Speed - CD Audio Test:

To test each drive's audio extraction performance, we placed in an audio CD by Shania Twain.  The CD ran over 73 minutes, and although the test runs similar to the CD data test, it also measures how well the drive can extract audio tracks.  In order to do this, audio sectors are extracted to the hard drive at three different locations on the CD.  The same sectors are read again and compared to the sectors written to the hard drive.  Depending on the number of differences, the DAE quality will be rated from 0 to 10, with 10 being a perfect score.

Plextor PX-708A
Teac DV-W50D

We got identical results when using a pressed audio CD on the Plextor PX-708A that we got with the data CD.  The start, average, and end speeds may have dropped off slightly, but at negligible amounts.  If there's any concern here, it would be the access times, which almost doubled across the board.  Although the access times were higher than data CD scores, they do match up evenly with the Teac's access times.


Nero CD-DVD Speed - DVD Data Test:

In the next two tests we focused on the drive's DVD reading performance.  Each drive is configured to perform differently based on whether a DVD movie or DVD data disk is inserted in the drive.  We started by placing in a DVD+R containing over 4GB of AVI files.
 

Plextor PX-708A
Teac DV-W50D

On the Teac, the rotation speed held steady as the transfer rate went from 2.5X all the way up to 6X.  The Plextor drive started off well, at about 3.3X and marched on up to just under 8X, it's rating for reading DVD+R discs.  However, at about 3.5GB of data, the rotational speeds, and hence the data transfer, took a dip.  Whether or not this was due to the media, we could not say, but the results were repeatable using the same DVD on both drives.  Seek times were well within reported limits on the PX-708A, but the 40ms seek time at full stoke must be a function of the weirdness we saw at the end of the graph.  Generally speaking, we were surprised by the high CPU usage on the PX-708A, especially at 4X where the Teac DV-W50D was only using 26%.


Nero CD-DVD Speed - DVD Movie Playback Test:

In the final Nero CD-DVD Speed test we wanted to check the performance with a double-layered movie DVD.  We inserted a copy of Daredevil, grabbed a snack, and clicked on the Start button to get the results.
 

Plextor PX-708A

Teac DV-W50D

Both drive's implement CLV technology for reading the DVD movie, in which the data rate remains constant while the rotation speed decreases.  In doing so, data transfer is sustained while the drives remain noticeably quiet.  Although it appears that the 2X rating is slow compared to what the drives are capable of doing, rest assured that this is an ample transfer rate for watching a movie.  Both drives are close in the seek times and CPU utilization.  A small win, if you will, for the Teac drive is its quicker load time, a full five seconds quicker than the Plextor PX-708A.

CD-R/DVD+R Write Tests & Conclusion  

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Plextor's 708A 8X DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 4

 

The Plextor PX-708A 8x DVD+R/RW Drive
Plextor fulfills the need for speed!

By Robert Maloney
December 28th, 2003

CD/DVD Write Tests
So...just how fast can this thing go?

Nero CD-R Write Analysis:

Since CD-Rs are still widely available and cheap, we started our burning tests there using Nero Burning ROM 6.  In this test, we recorded 702MBs of MP3 music files from the hard drive to Memorex CD-Rs rated for 48X.  The CD was finalized as a non-multisession disc.  We wrote down the times shown at the end of the burning process for both drives and compared the two:

As we have mentioned in the past, one of the major detractions of the Teac DV-W50D drive was its slow CD writing speed.  16X really doesn't cut it anymore, although 5 minutes probably isn't too long of a wait.  The Plextor PX-708A sacrifices nothing, and we were able to completely load up our CD in just over 3 minutes.

Nero DVD+R Write Analysis:

Next, we set out to backup all of the files from our a volume on our testing drive.  The assorted large and small files on this drive totaled 4.43GBs, just enough to mostly fill up our TDK DVD+R discs rated for 4X burning.  Again, we timed burning the same set of files on both drives.

You'll notice that we said we used 4X TDK DVD+Rs for burning, but yet we've come out with the Plextor drive well ahead of the Teac.  How can the Plextor be that far ahead, when it should be limited to the media?  It's done by Plextor's PoweREC technology, which doesn't simply identify the kind of media, but rather monitors the media and the laser during the burn.  Therefore, the 4X media is burned as if it were 8X, but should it start producing errors, the drive speed and laser strength decrease. This is particularly handy since we haven't seen any 8X media available yet, which would make the PX-708A too far ahead of its time.  


It seems that Plextor has done it yet again, coming up with the best of both worlds.  On one hand, we have a drive that's right at home with both DVD+R and DVD-R formats, and supports just about all formats in between.  It is also one of the fastest DVD burners we've seen, with fast enough CD burning on the side to satisfy your CDR needs as well.  In order to keep up with everything a user can throw at it, Plextor has given the drive a 2MB buffer for underrun protection, although an 8MB buffer would have been better, especially during long DVD sessions.  Plextor's PoweREC technology is definitely a solid solution however, allowing us to produce steady burns, even at higher speeds than the media is rated at.  By getting an 8X drive out there so sooner, Plextor will really grab market share, especially as its price has dropped down as low as $220 in most U.S. markets at the time of this article.  The PX-708A is a job well done by Plextor, and a well-deserved Editor's Choice Award.

We give the Plextor PX-708A 8X DVD+R/RW CD-R/RW drive an 9.5 on the HotHardware Heat Meter.

 

 

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Join us in the PC Hardware Forum!

 

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Plextor's 708A 8X DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 5

 

The Plextor PX-708A 8x DVD+R/RW Drive
Plextor fulfills the need for speed!

By Robert Maloney
December 28th, 2003

CD/DVD Write Tests
So...just how fast can this thing go?

Nero CD-R Write Analysis:

Since CD-Rs are still widely available and cheap, we started our burning tests there using Nero Burning ROM 6.  In this test, we recorded 702MBs of MP3 music files from the hard drive to Memorex CD-Rs rated for 48X.  The CD was finalized as a non-multisession disc.  We wrote down the times shown at the end of the burning process for both drives and compared the two:

As we have mentioned in the past, one of the major detractions of the Teac DV-W50D drive was its slow CD writing speed.  16X really doesn't cut it anymore, although 5 minutes probably isn't too long of a wait.  The Plextor PX-708A sacrifices nothing, and we were able to completely load up our CD in just over 3 minutes.

Nero DVD+R Write Analysis:

Next, we set out to backup all of the files from our a volume on our testing drive.  The assorted large and small files on this drive totaled 4.43GBs, just enough to mostly fill up our TDK DVD+R discs rated for 4X burning.  Again, we timed burning the same set of files on both drives.

You'll notice that we said we used 4X TDK DVD+Rs for burning, but yet we've come out with the Plextor drive well ahead of the Teac.  How can the Plextor be that far ahead, when it should be limited to the media?  It's done by Plextor's PoweREC technology, which doesn't simply identify the kind of media, but rather monitors the media and the laser during the burn.  Therefore, the 4X media is burned as if it were 8X, but should it start producing errors, the drive speed and laser strength decrease. This is particularly handy since we haven't seen any 8X media available yet, which would make the PX-708A too far ahead of its time.  


It seems that Plextor has done it yet again, coming up with the best of both worlds.  On one hand, we have a drive that's right at home with both DVD+R and DVD-R formats, and supports just about all formats in between.  It is also one of the fastest DVD burners we've seen, with fast enough CD burning on the side to satisfy your CDR needs as well.  In order to keep up with everything a user can throw at it, Plextor has given the drive a 2MB buffer for underrun protection, although an 8MB buffer would have been better, especially during long DVD sessions.  Plextor's PoweREC technology is definitely a solid solution however, allowing us to produce steady burns, even at higher speeds than the media is rated at.  By getting an 8X drive out there so sooner, Plextor will really grab market share, especially as its price has dropped down as low as $220 in most U.S. markets at the time of this article.  The PX-708A is a job well done by Plextor, and a well-deserved Editor's Choice Award.

We give the Plextor PX-708A 8X DVD+R/RW CD-R/RW drive an 9.5 on the HotHardware Heat Meter.

 

 

Have a "burning" question to ask?
Join us in the PC Hardware Forum!

 



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