Back in mid-June we took a look at the latest offering from Plextor, the PX-712A. This drive boasted 12X DVD+R write speeds and maintained the same level of quality we've come to expect from Plextor. For years, Plextor has been in the optical drive business and for most of that time they've been the one company all others can be gauged against. This is because Plextor makes drives for the professional and the serious enthusiast looking for advanced features and the ability to control drive performance. Sometimes, they are not the first to reach the market with the fastest speed or the newest features, but when they do, you can be certain Plextor has done their homework before the drive makes it into your machine.
With the release of the PX-712A, Plextor also released the PX-712SA, which is the same drive with a SATA connection rather than IDE. Unlike the obvious benefits SATA brings to standard hard drives, this will not result in any performance gains since an optical drive is not capable of reaching the throughput needed to saturate the SATA channel. All this does is offer another option for connecting the drive to a system, reducing cable clutter and leaving the IDE ports open for other devices. The only requirement is your mainboard must have SATA support native to the chipset, meaning an add-on or secondary RAID controller will not work.
Here is a listing of the product specifications, after which we'll take a closer look at the drive and its performance.
When we lined up the drive with the Plextor PX-712A we reviewed in June, we found they are virtually identical on the surface. On the front side the only variation is the bezel with the "SA" in the model number. Notice how Plextor has changed with the times, eliminating the independent volume control and headphone jack typically found on older and less expensive drives. With the advent of MP3s and a wide range of powerful players available, it's safe to say most people are not using their CD-ROM drive to listen to audio CDs on their computer.
The rear of the SATA DVD drive is a completely different picture from what we are used to seeing. With SATA, there are no "master" and "slave" issues, as with IDE drives, so the only thing required is power and a SATA interface. Interestingly, we found Plextor simply used an adapter underneath the skin of the drive to change the interface from IDE to SATA, further proving it is ultimately the same drive as the PX-712A. Just like the IDE version, the PX-712SA comes with an 8MB cache for added buffering and a black tray to help absorb stray light during the burn process.
Overall, there is not much new to report here, but we're still going to run it through a fresh set of tests on our Intel 875P test bed to see how the drive performs. For a frame of reference, we've also included an Artec Dual format drive, which we used to compare benchmark results as well.