Logo   Banner   TopRight
TopUnder
Transparent
Plextor PX504A DVD+R/RW Drive
Transparent
Date: Apr 15, 2003
Section:Storage
Author: HH Editor
Transparent
The Plextor PX504A DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 1

 

The Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW Drive
More Space, More Speed, More Compatability

By, Jeff Bouton
April 15, 2003


 

Plextor is one of the top manufacturers of optical drives.  In fact, many consider their drives to be the best available.  Over the years, we've had the opportunity to review quite a few models, with virtually all of them receiving our "Editor's Choice" award.  The reason for this was simple; Plextor consistently produces drives with features and performance, that either set the standard, or perfected current standards. 

As hard drive capacities continue to grow, the need for larger removable storage solutions has increased.  Naturally, it was only a matter of time before the CD market started shifting from CD-R technology to the higher capacity DVD format.  While standard CD-Rs have become common place, DVD media offers capacities six times that of common CD-Rs, making it an attractive upgrade.  Initially, like most new technologies, DVD burners tended to be out of the price range of the common user, often exceeding $600 for first generation models.  Today, DVD burners are becoming more popular and more manufacturers are creating competitive solutions.  Plextor is one of the latest manufacturers to get into the game with their first offering, the Plextor PX-504A.  Ever since DVD writers first emerged, we've been looking forward to seeing what would come out of the Plextor camp.  Now that wait is over.  Let's take a look and see what the Plextor PX-504A has to offer.
 

Specifications of the Plextor PX-504A
This Drive Does it All!
Specifications:
  • PX-504A/SW (internal), PX-504A/SW-BL (black bezel)
  • 6-in-1 drive: 4X DVD+R, 2.4X DVD+RW, 12X DVD-ROM, 16X CD-R, 10X CD-RW, 40X max CD-ROM
  • Buffer Under Run Proof technology prevents errors in CD-R/RW writing
  • Lossless Linking prevents errors in DVD writing
  • High capacity - Holds 4.7 GB of storage on DVD media
  • 120ms Average CD Random Access
  • 140ms Average DVD Random Access
  • 2 MB Buffer
  • Black tray minimizes jitters
  • Flash ROM allows for easy upgrade over the Internet
  • Supports DVD+RW background format
  • Useable DVD Formats: DVD-ROM, DVD Video, Multi Border (closed disc read only), multi session
  • Useable CD Formats: CD-DA; CD-ROM Mode 1; CD-ROM Mode 2; CD-ROM XA, CD-I; Photo CD; Video CD; CD-Extra; CD Text; Multi-session, UDF
  • Recording DVD+R/RW Modes: Sequential write, Random access write and Disc-at-one
  • Recording CD-R/RW Modes: Track-at-once, Disc-at-once, Session-at-once, Multi-session, Fixed and Variable Packet Writing
  • Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP Compatible
  • One-Year Full Warranty and Unlimited Toll-Free Tech Support






 

Minimum System Requirements:

  • CPU: Pentium III 800 MHz or equivalent (minimum)
  • CPU: Pentium 4 1.6 GHz or equivalent (suggested)
  • RAM: 128MB
  • HDD: 800MB-1GB
  • Monitor display resolution: 1024 X 768 16-bit color (requires a graphics card with minimum 16MB of memory)

The Bundle:

CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW
    

Included with the Plextor PX-504A full retail package, we found the following:

  • 1 - 40-Pin 40-Wire Ribbon Cable
  • 1 - 48X Speed Verbatim CD-R
  • 1 - 4X Speed Verbatim DVD+R
  • 4 - Mounting Screws
  • 1 - Emergency Eject Pin
  • 1 - User's Manual
  • 1 - Quick Reference Guide
  • 1 -Software DVD including: 
    -Roxio Creator DVD Edition
    -Roxio PhotoSuite 5 SE
    -Cyberlink PowerDVD
    -Retrospect Backup

In true Plextor fashion, the drive came with an excellent array of items.  A 40-pin data cable and 4 mounting screws are included to get the drive installed and working quickly.  We were disappointed to see that no audio cable was provided to connect the drive to a sound card however.  We found the Quick Reference Guide and User's Manual to be quite thorough, giving the user detailed information about their new DVD+R writer.  We think that an informed customer is a happy customer and Plextor does a fine job of covering all aspects of the PX-504A, from installation of the drive to software installation and use. 


ROXIO Easy CD CREATOR 5 DVD Edition

 

One of the more noteworthy programs included with the PX-504A is Roxio Easy CD Creator DVD Edition.  While this isn't the newest Easy CD Creator available, we found the software quite capable, with a clean interface and intuitive layout.  Immediately after we completed the installation, we were burning a Data DVD in no time.  Roxio did a great job at designing a simple user interface that is easy to understand.  The software has a clean menu that gives easy access to the CD and DVD writing applications.  The software also comes with DirectCD which lets a user treat a CD like a floppy disk using packet writing technology.


ROXIO
PhotoSuite 5 SE

 

Another great piece of software is Roxio PhotoSuite 5 SE.  This program is a terrific freebie that lets you create Calendars, Custom Pictures, and Picture Disks.  There are also good photo editing functions and authoring software for creating custom picture DVDs.  This program is loaded with options and is a breeze to learn.  Roxio segments the program into several sections, each dealing with different CD/DVD authoring features.  This is an extremely useful package that will allow users to get creative and design great looking custom DVDs.

Now that we've got the package contents covered, let's take a closer look at the quality of the drive itself.

Quality, Features and Installation

 

Transparent
The Plextor PX504A DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 2

 

 The Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW Drive
More Space, More Speed, More Compatability

By, Jeff Bouton
April 15, 2003

Quality & Setup of the Plextor PX-504A
Easy as Pie

Quality:

The Plextor PX-504A has a long list of features.  The drive is able to burn DVDs at 4X speeds while rewriting is completed at 2.4X.  DVD movie playback is locked to run anywhere from 2X to 5X, yet DVD data output is rated up to 12X.  On the CD side, the drive is capable of burning CD-Rs at a top speed of 16X and rewrites at 10X.  Standard CD read speeds have decent headroom at 40X. 

The look of the PX-504A doesn't stray very far from other Plextor products.  What's new appearance wise is the CD tray now has a black piece across the front which has a pin striping effect.  The tray of the drive is also black which helps absorb reflected laser light during the burning process, improving the accuracy of the write.  One of the things that was immediately noticeable was the tray mechanism seems more flimsy than other drives.  We have a PlexWriter 40/12/40A and a PlexCombo 20/10/40-12A drive in house and both have a solid tray that is fast and quiet when opened and closed.  The Plextor PX-504A on the other hand has the sound and feel of a cheaper drive, sounding a bit "clackitty" when the tray goes through its motions.  Some users may not notice this, but when compared to the other models, there is a slight feeling that the quality just isn't quite the same.

 

The front of the drive has the standard components that one would expect to find on a typical optical drive.  A headphone output, volume control, emergency eject hole and standard eject button don the front of the drive.  The back side of the drive also had the usual items including digital outputs, standard audio outputs, master/slave jumpers followed by IDE and power connectors.  What was a little unusual was this square blank opening at the upper center of the drive.  We're not sure what it is intended for, but we get the impression that a small fan may be planned in the future.  Only time will tell.

Installation:

Installation of the drive couldn't be any easier.  The User's Manual includes a simple diagram that paints a clear picture.  If your system configuration doesn't match this simple layout, the manual includes a number of various scenarios that cover a number of different configurations. 

CLICK IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW

Once we secured the drive in place with the four mounting screws provided in the package, we connected our power and IDE cable and we were done.  Total installation time was less than 10 minutes.  Follow that up with some software installation and we were burning disks in no time at all.  We feel that Plextor really goes out of their way to make sure the process is simple and painless for even the most inexperienced users.
 

HotHardware Test Systems
It's Snappy

 

MSI KT3 Ultra-ARU Motherboard
AMD AthlonXP 2600+

512MB Geil PC3500 (2-5-2-2)

2 IBM ATA100 7200RPM 80GB HD (RAID-0)

eVGA GeForce4 Ti4600

Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW

PlexCombo PX-320A CD-R/DVD

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional SP-1

DirectX 9

nVidia Detonator 41.09

VIA 4-in-1s 4.46v

Utilities and Media Used For Testing
 

  • SiSoft SANDRA Professional 2003 (32-Bit)

  • Nero InfoTool

  • Nero CD Speed

  • Nero DVD Speed

  • Nero Burning ROM 5.5.10.20

  • Music Match 7.50 for MP3 Encoding

  • An audio CD 46:16 in Length

  • 700MB of MP3 Files for all Data Write Tests

  • Media: 
    Philips & Verbatim 48X CD-Rs
    TDK 2.4X & Verbatim 4X DVD+R
    Philips 2.4X & TDK 2.4X DVD+RW

 

CD-ROM Performance Tests - Plextor PX-504A
Speeding Things Along


Nero InfoTool:

Before we get started with the benchmarks, we like to run Nero InfoTool to show the scope of the drive's capabilities.

PLEXTOR PX-504A

When we view the "Supported Read Functions" for the drive, we see that the PX-504A offers read support for both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW.  When we move to the "Support Write Functions", as expected, the PX-504A shows support for DVD+R/RW.  We were a little surprised that the Plextor opted not to support Mount Rainier with the PX-504A.  Mount Rainier is a proposed open industry standard backed by such companies as Philips, Microsoft, Sony & HP/Compaq.  The main focus of the proposed standard is to enable native OS support for CD-RW drives.  The potential standard would allow user's to drag and drop files to recordable CDs like a floppy disk, which is a "no brainer" from a user's perspective.  We're a little curious why Plextor would not want to provide support for this functionality.  Nonetheless, this is not a huge strike against the drive and there are a number of after market products that enable this type of functionality like Roxio's DirectCD.  A firmware update could add support for Mount Rainier.


SiSoft SANDRA Pro 2003 (32-Bit):

Another utility we like to run is the CD/DVD module within SiSoft Sandra Pro 2003.  With this test, we ran the module with a DVD data disk in the drive and then with a CD data disk to test the various read performance.

PLEXTOR PX-504A - CD

PLEXTOR PX-504A - DVD

As you can see, the results can vary quite a bit with different media inserted.  In the end, one thing is certain, there are no read performance issues to speak of with the PX-504A.  In the next few pages, we'll focus on some more detailed tests that assess the drives various capabilities.


More Nero Tests

Transparent
The Plextor PX504A DVD+R/RW Drive - Page 3

 

 The Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW Drive
More Space, More Speed, More Compatability

By, Jeff Bouton
April 15, 2003


 

In the next round of tests, we ran a few real world examples of CD/DVD recording performance.  With each test we compared performance with different brands of media and the CD-R performance included scores from the PlexCombo PX-320A as a gauge.  Each one of the tests was completed using Ahead Software's Nero v5.5.10.20.

CD/DVD Write Tests - Plextor PX-504A
The Burning Question...

Nero CD-R Write Analysis:

The first test we ran was a CD-R write test.  With this test we recorded a folder with 700MBs of MP3s from the hard drive to 48X media from Verbatim and Philips.

While the PlexCombo is faster than the PX-504A, we found the performance difference minimal.  Regardless of the media, the PX-504A averaged the same speed, while the PlexCombo reported better results with the Verbatim brand disk.  It seems that the PX-504A has been fine tuned to run more consistently with various media, showing no noticeable difference.


Nero DVD+R Write Analysis:

Next we recorded 4.45GBs of MP3s to DVD+R media from TDK and Verbatim.  The TDK media was rated at 2.4X and the Verbatim was rated at 4X.  We were anxious to see how much of a difference the two speeds would make in our results.

While there doesn't seem to be a huge difference between 2.4X and 4X from a rating perspective, the difference is rather large.  The increase in speed from 2.4 to 4 is 69.4% and the difference from 14:18 to 23:26 is virtually identical.  So what looks like a small increase in speed at first can ultimately result in big gains.  The only thing I can say is burning 4.45GBs of data in less than 15 minutes is awesome!


Nero DVD+RW Write Analysis:

Next we ran two tests with various DVD+RW media.  We used TDK and Philips DVD+RW media, both rated for 2.4X.  We were curious to see how the results can vary with different brands of media.

At the end of the test, the Philips media posted a better overall score, but we don't necessarily think that most users will balk about a 22 second difference.



 

Some may feel that Plextor was a little late getting into the DVD+R/RW market, but it's hard to dispute that they came up big with their first offering.  The PX-504A proved to be a capable drive with solid features and useful complimentary software.  We were quite pleased with the PX-504A's overall performance and Plextor covered all of the bases by providing a complete DVD+R/RW package as well as traditional CD-R/RW functions.  While we didn't think the drive had quite the same feel as other Plextor models, it's difficult to argue with its performance.  Who wouldn't like burning 4.45GB of data in a little over 14 minutes at 4X?  That's an average of over 325MB per minute and would be similar to burning a 700MB CD in under 2:30.  In each test the drive posted solid performance and we never encountered a single problem writing to any of the media.  This reinforces Plextor's reputation for producing products with superior reliability and compatibility.  Nonetheless, we think there is room for improvement. 

Along with adding support for Mount Rainier, we would like to see a new revision of the PX-504A with support for the DVD-R/RW format.  Adding this format would offer greater compatibility with set-top DVD players, although dual format drives often exceed a $350 price tag.  As it stands, the Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW CD-R/RW is an good choice for users looking for a quality DVD/CD burning solution.  We recently paid a visit to our HH/Cnet search engine page and found the PX-504A selling for around $259, which in our opinion, is a great price for a great drive. 

We give the Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW CD-R/RW drive a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 8.5.
 


 

Discuss This Article in Hardware's PC Hardware Forum!

 

Transparent
Plextor PX504A DVD+R/RW Drive Page 4


Content Property of HotHardware.com