Plextor PX-712A DVD+/- R/RW ATAPI Drive
Plextor's PlexTools Professional v2.12
When we reflect back over the years and compare the current version of the PlexTools Professional software suite to previous editions, we have to say that Plextor has come a long way. PlexTools has evolved from semi-useful software package to a robust recording, playback and testing suite. The version that accompanied the PX-712A was impressive, offering a wide collection of options, preference settings, and other functions to really get the most out of the PX-712A. For the sake of this review, we're going to focus on the Drive Settings options and how they relate to the drive's features.
The first tab was titled "Basic" and it's here that users have the ability to set the drive's CD/DVD read speeds, control the spin down time and adjust the audio output balance. The Advanced tab gave options to enable or disable a number of drive settings, including Auto Insertion, Buffer Underrun Proof, and DMA to name a few. The VariRec (CD) tab is where users can go and adjust the laser intensity of the drive when burning audio CDs. This can be useful for people with devices that are finicky about playing recorded audio CDs.
One of the more interesting options we found was GigaRec, which let's you record up to 913MB of data on a 700MB CD-R. This is achieved by ignoring the manufacturers information encoded on the blank CD, even overwriting it when possible. What's even more interesting is the playback of the disks are not restricted to the Plextor drive alone, meaning you can take a CD-R with 900MB of data on it and play it in virtually any CD-ROM drive. We tested this with a collection of multimedia files and fit 899MB onto a single CD-R. We saw no degradation in file quality with videos and heard no problems with MP3s. GigaRec worked flawlessly in our tests. The only drawbacks to GigaRec were record speeds, which are limited to 8X maximum, and Buffer Underrun protection is not available, so there is a stronger chance of burning a coaster.
Silent Mode is another interesting option that gives access to various settings for controlling the overall noise level of the drive. Here we can set the maximum read and write speeds independently, as well as the speed at which the drive tray opens and closes, and the load time of the CD. Lastly, was SecureRec which let's you password protect your CDs. Once protected, they can be only accessed on a system that has Plextor's SecureViewer software installed.
You may also notice that on each of these screens was an area in yellow at the lower left. Here Plextor provides a series of benchmarking and troubleshooting utilities for the advanced user. Not only can you test read/write transfer speeds and have the results displayed in a chart, but a number of other utilities let you scan various disks, checking for integrity of burns while reporting any errors found.