Plextor PX-716AMay 14th, 2005 | By Archive
: 05/14/05 – 03:37:56 PM
: Optical Devices
Page 1 : Introduction
Price: $171 CDN ($139 USD) from the Plextor Shop (local rebates may be applicable)
Plextor is in the enviable position of being one of the few names in computer hardware that has ubiquitously been known as âthe bestâ. In fact, I canât really think of any other company that has represented themselves so well for so long. For as long as I recall, theyâve been well reviewed, well made, and performed as best-of-class. Plextor has been uncompromising in build quality. They have been as assured in their execution of products as any computer company I can think of; no paper launches. Based on a few early reviews, the drive may have initially been off to a slightly shaky start, but given a little time for the firmware to mature, the PX-716A dual layer burner follows in this tradition of quality. Answering the calls of enthusiasts everywhere, Plextor recently released their most recent firmware revision 1.04 (updated quickly to 1.05 and again to 1.06) to enable 6x dual layer DVD +/- R burning as well as improve a whole host of performance and compatibility issues. Itâs time to put the PX-716A to the test.
Page 2 : Packaging
The packaging is organized and simple. The unit is packed neatly in a glossy, informative retail box. Inside the box, the unit is held between Styrofoam packing. As well, the retail package includes a well guarded black face-plate kit and another zip-lock bag that contained an IDE cable, a utility bag with four screws, a jumper and an eject wire (in case you donât have a paper clip handy), a Plextor Hardware installation foldout, a Verbatim DVD+R, a DVD Writing software CD that includes: PlexTools Professional, Easy Media Creator 7 Basic DVD Edition, PhotoSuite 7, and a 30-day trial of Dantz Retrospect (all compatible with Windows 2000/XP; PlexTools and Retrospect also work with 98SE and ME), as well, you get an impressively complete 128 page manual in English (144 pages in French). Thatâs a lot of stuff!
Page 3 : Physical Description
Itâs a DVD drive! Itâs 17.5 cm long (thatâs just shy of seven inches) which would give an SSF setup a little more room than some drives. The installed front faceplate is white, but the unit ships with a black faceplate as well. Itâs too bad that it doesnât also include a gray faceplate; the majority of my cases being gray. The rear of the unit houses the usual connectors: both digital and analog audio out, an IDE connector (SATA is supported in the PX-716SA model), as well as the standard DC input connector.
Page 4 : Specifications
The numbers courtesy of the Plextor website:
Data Transfer Rate
CAV, PCAV, CLV write/CAV read and CLV read
Sustained Read/Write Speed
16X (DVD read/write) 9.28 – 22.16 MB/sec
12X (DVD read/write) 8.31 – 16.62 MB/sec (write)
6.92 – 16.62 MB/sec (read)
8X (DVD read/write) 8.31 – 11.08 MB/sec (write)
4.70 – 11.08 MB/sec (read)
6X (DVD write only) 8.31 MB/sec
5X (DVD read only) 2.90 – 6.92 MB/sec
4X (DVD write only) 5.54 MB/sec
2.4X (DVD write only) 3.32 MB/sec
2X (DVD read/write) 2.77 MB/sec
1X (DVD write only) 1.38 MB/sec
48X (CD read/write) 3.18 – 7.2 MB/sec
48X (CD read/write) 3.18 – 7.2 MB/sec
40X (CD read only) 2.71 – 6 MB/sec
32X (CD read/write) 3.18 – 4.8 MB/sec (write)
2.17 – 4.8 MB/sec (read)
24X (CD read/write) 3 – 3.6 MB/sec
16X (CD write only) 2.4 MB/sec
10X (CD write only) 1.5 MB/sec
8X (CD write only) 1.2 MB/sec
4X (CD read/rewrite/write) 600 KB/sec
66 MB/sec (Ultra DMA Mode 4) 16.6 MB/sec (PIO Mode 4/DMA Mode 2)
Typical CD Random Access
Typical DVD Random Access
Mode 1: block/1012 bits
Mode 2: block/109 bits
(All DVD-RW and CD-RW media is rewritable up to 1,000 times):
DVD+R (4.7 GB)
16X Maxell, Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
12X, 8X, 6X, 4X, 2.4X Maxell, Ricoh, Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
8X, 4X, 2.4X Ricoh, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
6X, 4X, 2.4X Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
16X* Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
12X, 8X, 6X, 4X, 2X Maxell, Taiyo Yuden, TDK, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
4X TDK, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical, Victor
1X – 2X Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
6X, 2X Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
4X – 48X Maxell, Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
4X – 16X Ricoh
24X Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
4X – 10X Ricoh, Verbatim/Mitsubishi Chemical
* Check for the latest media compatibility list on the Plextor website. NOTE: PoweRec will determine if 16X speed is possible and will set the optimal write speed.
Usable DVD Formats
DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, Multi-border, Multi-session, DVD+VR, DVD-VR
Usable CD Formats
CD-DA, CD-Extra, CD-ROM Mode-1, CD-ROM Mode-2, CD-ROM XA, Photo-CD, Video-CD,
Multi-session, CD TEXT, CD-I, CD+G, UDF
Recording CD Modes
Track-at-Once, Disc-at-Once, Packet Write (variable and fixed), Session-at-Once
Recording DVD+R DL Mode(s)
Recording DVD+R/RW Mode(s)
Disc-at-Once, Incremental Recording, Multi-session, Random access write, Sequential Write
Recording DVD-R/RW Mode(s)
Disc-at-Once, Incremental Recording, Multi-border Recording, Restricted Overwriting, DRT-DM
Auto Eject/Manual Emergency/
Power on/Disc Access/Writing/
Auto load/Manual load
Dimensions & Weight:
5.75 in x 1.63 in x 6.69 in
146 mm x 41 mm x 170 mm
DC +5 V and DC +12 V
Master; Slave; Cable Select; Multiword DMA/PIO
IDE host adapter and 40-pin Flat E-IDE cable
Digital Audio Out
Analog Output, Molex Connector
Minimum System Requirements:
Pentium® 4 1.4 GHz or equivalent (minimum)
1 GB free space for copying CD to CD image
10 GB free space for DVD authoring
Monitor Display Resolution
1024 X 768 at 16-bit color
Page 5 : Features
(Again, courtesy of the Plextor website.)
AutoStrategy®: Writing technology for unknown media with uneven quality. When a writable disc isnât listed in the driveâs internal media catalog, AUTOSTRATEGY automatically checks the disc and develops a write strategy for it.
IntelligentTiltâ¢: Precise laser control via liquid crystal and three-dimensional tilt adjustment for uneven disc surfaces. Ensures optimal recording and reading, especially with double-layer media.
PoweRecâ¢: Plextor Optimized Writing Error Reduction Control (PoweRec) adjusts laser power and writing speed so theyâre at the optimum settings for that particular disc.
Performance You Can Rely On:
The PX-716A has a unique technology and feature combination offering unparalleled reliability:
GigaRecâ¢: allows high capacity storage of up to 900 MB on a 700 MB CD-R disc. With this advanced feature, you can increase the maximum writing capacity up to 30%.*
Q-Checkâ¢: checks and reports written disc quality â C1/C2 for CD, PI/POF and TA for DVD (Time Analyzer checks T3-T11 and T14), track and focus errors, beta and jitter.*
SecureRecording: offers password protection for your CD-R disc and other valuable data.*
VariRecâ¢: provides users with unprecedented control over the burn process.*
SilentModeâ¢: enables users to vary tray load/unload speed, spin up/down speed and write/read speeds.*
Black disc tray minimizes jitter and reduces C1 error rates. Optimized PCB circuits near the power supply decrease noise and provide clean power to the drive, improving both jitter and deviation levels.
Powerful Software that Works for You:
PlexTools® Professional: software allows you to control powerful functions with an easy-to-use interface and includes Plextor premium features for SilentMode, GigaRec, VariRec, Q-Check and SecureRecording.
Roxio® Easy Media Creatorâ¢ 7**: is an award winning software suite which combines full-featured photo, video, music, burning, and authoring applications for the PC.
Dantz Retrospect®: (30-day trial version) helps you back up important data against loss due to viruses, newly installed software, user error and damaged hardware.
*Enabled by PlexTools Professional only **Support Windows 2000/XP only[/quote]
Page 6 : First impressions
I slotted in the drive without incident. After booting, Windows XP SP2 recognized the new DVD drive right away. I popped in a music CD just to make sure everything was working and I was immediately struck by the quality of sound. Listening to more CDs confirmed my first impression; the Plextor transport delivers better audio than any of my other optical drives whose ranks currently consist of two drives from AOpen (one 52x CD-ROM and a 24x-10x-40x CD-RW), one slot-loading and one tray-loading Pioneer DVD-ROM, and the already mentioned LiteOn DVD+/-RW drive. Though I was surprised (shocked, actually) by the result, Iâm very happy to have found the difference. I would certainly recommend this drive for anyone looking for quality CD audio reproduction. Though nothing else caught my attention to the same degree, everything else seemed fine. So far, so good; Plextor lives up to its name.
Page 7 : Setup
For all tests Iâm running Windows XP SP2 with current updates on an ASUS A7N8X-X motherboard with 512 MBs of RAM, a 2500+ Athlon XP@3200+ spec in my beloved Antec SLK3700AMB case with its 350 watt power supply. In keeping with my real-world evaluation ethos, I set the PX-716A drive as master to a slot-loading Pioneer DVD-ROM drive set as slave. Plextor recommends making their drive the master, so I am going with their recommendations here. The computer is outfitted with six ATA hard drives, two drives in a software RAID-0 configuration, the other in a RAID-1 configuration. For the curious, the remaining two drives are large drives for media storage. Despite some of my baser desires to burn disks while performing other tasks, I opted for evaluation purposes, to run unique instances of tests. In other words, no other programs or unnecessary services were running during burn testing. Iâll be using a variety of media, including eleven different varieties of DVDs (some of which: 8x DVD-R Taiyo Yuden Silver , 16x DVD+R Ridata branded, 2.4x DVD+R DL Ridata brand, and 2.4x Verbatim DVD+R DL were generously provided by the good folks at BlankMedia).
The shipped unit arrived with firmware revision 1.02, after some initial testing I updated the firmware to revision 1.04 (subsequently updated to 1.06, see Burn Speed/Erase Speed section for details). I also updated PlexTools to version 2.21 from version 2.17 that shipped with the unit. It should be noted that on startup (when installed, PlexTools adds itself to Startup by default) 2.17 seemed to be the culprit in occasionally sending the CPU usage to 100% and freezing the computer. Given the very brief âfirmware revision listâ on the Plextor website, I believe this was an issue with the nForce chipset. This appears to have been remedied in 2.21.
Page 8 : Operation
You press the eject button the tray opens, you place a disk in the tray, and press the button again and it closes. Amazingly enough, Plextor actually renders the preceding sentence overly simple. Utilizing the PlexTools Pro you can alter the noise level and hence the operations of the DVD drive. By enabling Silent Mode you can alter how fast you read and burn, as well as how quickly the drive tray is loaded or ejected. While this feature may seem largely inconsequential for many users, those seeking âsilenceâ in their PC, or those looking to minimize drive noise during playback will appreciate this feature. However, by default CD playback is 4x CLV (Constant Linear Velocity) and CSS (Content Scrambling System) DVD playback is automatically slowed down (max 2x CLV) for quieter playback. You can also speed up DVD playback by holding down the eject button for three seconds prior to inserting the disk to enable Speed Read. My DVDs played fine at the default setting, so Iâm not quite sure what situation would require this increase in speed though.
Page 9 : Evaluation
I thought it would be valuable to âreally understandâ a number of technologies that underlay error correction and measuring methodologies prior to undertaking this review, so I spent a few days delving into the Philips-Sony âRedbookâ standard and a whole host of other Internet articles to illuminate my knowledge and feel confident reporting on the success of the PX-716Aâs performance. Unfortunately, the reality of the complexities involved sunk in somewhere about hour five and I never fully recovered. Follow this link for proof. Undeterred and after another few weeks of research I feel that although I can now elucidate at length on the topic, suffice it to say, that to actually understand the complexities surrounding error corrections, identifying errors and the processes in place to circumvent C1 or C2 / PIO or PIE errors is very complex. It took a team of Sony engineers and mathematicians a decade to work out the first commercial CD error correction algorithms; I worked out in few days that the details of this topic are beyond me. With that in mind, I will however endeavor to evaluate the unit and produce some meaningful results regarding media quality, burning, and playback quality. Probably the most practical feature, the burn speed, will be measured and reported on. There are three main sections (Media Quality, Burn/Erase Speed, and Error Measurement, Playback, and Read Speed); I believe this approach best represents the workflow that you would actually follow using this burner or any burner for that matter. Each main section will include various subsections for each type of media being used. Specific Plextor features, primarily the *Rec tools (see the Features page), will be reported on in the relevant section.
Page 10 : Blank Media Quality
Given the value of our data and our faith in the optical media that we burn to be preserved for our future retrieval, I have added this section to provide some indication of the quality of the media we use to archive our data (measured using PlexTools Q-tools utilities). For those interested, I would encourage you to read this article published Oct. 18 2004 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Without singling out specific brands of media, it clearly indicates that media is highly affected by environmental conditions such as light exposure, heat and humidity and that media containing ââ¦phthalocyanine combined with a gold-silver alloy as a reflective layer was consistently more stable than all other types of CD-R media. Discs using azo dye as the data layer had less stability in light exposure and temperature/humidity stress testingâ [J. Res. Natl. Inst. Stand. Technol. 109, 517-524 (2004)]. We intend to contact media manufacturers to address this question further.
All blank media quality measurements are taken using the Q-check tools from PlexTools, speed tests are compared to Nero CD/DVD Speed, and all tests are again compared against K-Probe in a Lite-On burner for comparison.
As Iâd expect from a commercial CD, no errors were detected using PlexTools.
Six year old Verbatim CD-RW:
Next I picked a very old CD-RW that had been burned using a 2X HP burner back in the late 90s. If I recall rightly, the CD burner cost upwards of $300 at the time. I was curious to see how many errors this ancient backup CD had. After a very lengthy recovery process, it was determined that the disk was no longer usable or format-able; all data was lost. No problem, back in the day I had a backup strategy that was pretty much air-tight, I had six CD-RWs which I rotated daily and had assigned an automatic backup of my data using a third-party utility; I just grabbed Backup CD number 2. It seemed the CD was actually missing for the jewel case. After wincing and searching in vain for the missing CD, I tried for disk number three. Three was unreadable too. Four was actually read by Windows; however PlexTools wasnât able to run any tests on the media. Five was missing completely. Disc six also worked, but again PlexTools was unable to carry out any tests. Though this is no fault of the Plextor drive, I can honestly say that any truly âairtightâ backup strategy should include frequent updating of media. Itâs just something to keep in mind when youâre burning all that valuable data. Again Iâd encourage you to read the NIST article Iâve linked to at the beginning of the Media Quality section. There are no error tests for blank CD-RW media in PlexTools.
52x Verbatim CD-R:
While it took only 2 minutes and 23 seconds to complete the test, the TE (tracking errors) on this Verbatim CD-R rose substantially towards the end of the CD.
2.4x Verbatim DVD+RW:
Taking over 23 minutes to complete the test, the Verbatim DVD-RW produced a low number of errors.
4x Verbatim DVD+R:
Showing speedy 8x test settings and low FE/TE error scores, this Verbatim media again shows a low number of errors.
4x Unbranded DVD-R:
Though this unbranded media would only test at its rated 4x, its quality, though slightly more variable than the Verbatim DVD+R media, still fell well below the red flag error limit.
8x Maxell DVD-R:
While taking the same time to finish the test as the above 4x disc, this Maxell media had slightly higher FE/TE error scores than the 4x Verbatim DVD-R scores.
blankmedia's 8x DVD-R Taiyo Yuden Silver::
This silver Taiyo Yuden media recorded slightly higher numbers towards the end of the DVD, but it finished the test in an impressive 5 minutes 12 seconds being seen as 16x media by PlexTools. However, the test results indicate this media should not be written at the highest speed.
blankmedia's 16x DVD+R Ridata:
Although read by Q-Check as 16x media, this Ridata disc took more time to finish the test (36 seconds more, at 5 minutes 48 seconds) than the 8x Taiyo Yuden and generated this PlexTools conclusion window comment, âThe test result exceeds the limitation value. This media should not be written at the highest speedâ. However with the exception of a focus error spike just past the 3 GB mark, it finished with similar error results to the 8x media.
This result was supported by similar results with 2 additional disc samples of the same brand media.
blankmedia's 2.4x Verbatim DVD+R DL:
Here the Verbatim disc stops reporting in Q-Check just past the 5 GB mark. To this point the test took 10 minutes and 49 seconds due to its reported 6x write speed. Despite a small peak around 4 GB, everything appeared fine. I suspect the bump is due to the switching between media layers.
blankmedia's 2.4x DVD+R DL Ridata:
This Ridata DVD+R DL exhibited a strange dropout between GB 4 and 5 during the first pass. Subsequent readings did not exhibit the same dropout. Iâll be curious to know if any anomalies become evident during the burning process. This media is being reported by Q-Check at 4x write speed. It is my suspicion that the bump is due to the switching between the two layers.
While I would have liked to seen no errors across the board on my blank media, I guess itâs just too much to hope for given the variables involved. Only a few discs seemed to be largely error-free. Hopefully further testing will shed more light on these discsâ performance and the complex interactions that make up the burning process.
Page 11 : Burn Speed / Erase Speed
Though it is increasingly likely that a DVD burner will be expected to perform many duties beyond just burning (CD audio extraction, DVD ripping, CD playback -which I happily refer to in the First Impressions section- and DVD playback, etc.), especially given the limited, usually single, external drive space in small form factor computers, its primary role will still be to burn CDs and DVDs. Given that, I will be measuring the length of time it takes to burn full or nearly full CDs and DVDs using Plextorâs included version of Easy Media Creator. Although I had considered using Nero for testing, I opted to deliver real-world results using the software included with this burner. I will however use the CD/DVD Speed tool available in Nero to compare the Read Transfer Rates PlexTools reports in the following section.
Just after my Media Quality review, Plextor released version 1.05 firmware for their drive and then quickly followed again with version 1.06. Since the primary benefits of the firmware upgrade are concerned with write quality, I have upgraded the firmware despite having tested disc quality using the 1.04 version. A sampling of blank media retesting showed no significant difference in media quality readings between firmware revisions. All test discs are therefore recorded with 1.06 firmware using Roxio Easy Media Creator 7 Basic DVD edition.
After running a number of different evaluative tests Iâve surmised that file size and even file proximity affect the burning process somewhat. As a result, unless otherwise stated, discs will be filled with a variety of random files, some small, others large, and others compressed or otherwise altered. I believe this will best average the burn speed and it likely represents the manner in which most users will approach burning using a CD/DVD burner. By default Buffer Underrun Proof, PoweRec, and Auto Strategy are ON. Iâve provided a quick chart comprising of all the media burn times at the end of this section. Given all that, here we go!
52x Verbatim CD-R:
Writing a CD with a single 700 MB file, the unit burned the disc in 3:20 reaching 47.2x; just shy of its rated 48x speed. This disc ended up being unreadable. A second burning of the same data on a different disc from the same stack of CDâs burned in only 2:44 and topped out just shy of itâs rated 48x at 47.9x. The second disc was readable.
4x Verbatim CD-RW:
This time using a number of large files, the 650MB CD took 19:42 to burn. Its write speed topped out just over its rated speed of 4x at 4.1x. It takes 19:37 to perform a full erase on the same media.
12x Verbatim CD-RW:
Using the same files as above, the 12x media finished in 8:09, not quite three times as fast as the 4x media as its maximum burn rate was just slightly over 10x. According to the Plextor specs this unit will only recognize CD-RW media at a maximum of 10x. PlexTools performed a Full Erase in 8:01.
2.4x Verbatim DVD+RW:
Grabbing a large portion of my profile from the Documents and Settings folder, I tailored a DVDâs worth of material for burning. This embodies the approach I stated Iâd take; it includes at least one of virtually every file-type there is. Coming only a few megabytes shy of a full DVD, I proceeded to burn the DVD. The disc quickly normalized to its rated 2.4x speed rating and never looked back, finishing the burn process in 26:34. A Full Erase took 23:58.
4x Verbatim DVD+R:
In this test I used the same test data as the previous RW media. Despite being recognized as 8x media by both PlexTools and Roxio, the disc burn averaged less than 4x over the entire session and only occasionally topped 4x, its max being 4.7x. Strangely, the disc had a dropout at the 90% mark where it only burned at .01x for about a minute. The total burn time was 18:44. The error results might be quite interesting as this media tested very well in the blank media tracking error test.
4x Unbranded DVD-R:
For fairness I decided to burn the same data as above yet again. This time the media was recognized as 4x and burned somewhat below that rate for the entire burn process. It took 21:31 to burn the disc.
8x Maxell DVD-R:
Creating a new data group I burned this disc to just shy of capacity. Topping out at 8.1x but largely staying at the 8x rated speed after hitting the 15% mark, the disc finished burning in a respectable 8:52. Given that itâs more than twice as fast as either 4x media, itâs a pretty impressive result. I tilt my hat to Maxell.
Burning this disc to its capacity showed a few interesting things. While itâs rated at 8x it is recognized as 16x media by Roxio, the record speed climbed pretty consistently, maxing out at 13.1x. But an odd thing happened at about the 63% mark, the recording level locked at 12.1x and then again dropping to a locked 4x just past the 80% mark. Iâm assuming this is the PoweRec feature kicking in, but this is the first disc that exhibited this behavior. Weâll see how this affected the quality a little further on. It took only 7:44 to burn this disc, the fastest DVD burn in the test.
Another interesting burn on the Ridata disc; this time the 16x disc rarely got off the ground, at best it only just topped 10x. It did manage to best 8x at the 16% mark, but got stuck at 6x at the 50% mark and slowed to the 4x mark from the 68% mark until the end of the disc. The disc was burned with data that filled all but 1.2MB of its rated capacity in 10:59.
And the moment weâve all been waiting for… (Iâve had this burner for some time now and have been waiting for this moment)…and the moment is really quite stunning! Given all the variety Iâve seen during the previous media burns, I was truly shocked to see this 2.4x disc reach 6x prior to reaching even 1% of its capacity and never once look back. There was an expected bobble at the 50% mark, while the layers were switched, but the 6x burn speed recovered again in very short order. Burning 8.5GB of data (actually it was 1MB shy of 8.5GB) in 18:55 is a very impressive achievement. It was the confidence that the Plextor unit exuded during the burn that presented such a surprising result; it simply hit its mark and stayed there the whole time. For those interested, as I was, the media starts out a dark purple-blue and lightens considerably after burning taking on a gold hue to the light purple-blue-ness. It is with considerable interest that I begin the quality testing.
The Ridata disc wasnât recognized as a 6x compatible disc and as a result had 4x as its maximum burn rate. Burning this disc with only 64K free it reached its peak of 4.1x almost instantly and continued to fluctuate between 4x and 4.1x for the entire first layer. The rate dropped to 2.4x for the first half of the second layer but jumped back up to 4x at the 75% mark. The total time to burn this disc was 31:52.
Not unlike the blank media tests, the burning tests showed a great amount of variability and presented no clear picture of this unitâs ability. When capable media is fed to the 716A, it rips through it in stellar fashion; however all too often the media wasnât up to the task.
Page 12 : Error Measurement / Read Transfer Rates
Here I take the burned disc (or commercial media) and run the C1/C2 Q-Test, the Beta/Jitter Q-Test for CDs and the TA Q-Test, four PI/PO Q-Tests for DVDs. Tests are compared in a Lite-On drive using K-probe, but as weâre concerned here primarily with the Plextor drive and tools, K-probe results will not be recorded here. For the curious, I noted no significant discrepancies between the error results. As well I test the Read Transfer Rate using both PlexTools and Nero CD-DVD Speed. Unfortunately the Jitter test doesnât deliver actual ns measurements, so to interpret the readings you must take into account the C1/C2 errors in concert with the Beta/Jitter measurement.
For reference, Iâve included this except from the NIST article referenced in section 9. This is section 2.1 Key Measured Parameters, and provides a quick reference to the types of errors being tested for.
BLER (CD only): Block Error Rate is the number of blocks of data that have at least one occurrence of erroneous data. BLER is quantified as the rate of errors (total number of E11, E21, and E31 errors)  per second. According to the CD specifications, BLER may be a maximum of 220 per second. Maximum BLER is the maximum BLER measured anywhere on the disc.
E32 (CD only): E32 errors are errors that are uncorrectable by the C2-decoder in the CD error detection and correction system. E32 errors represent lost data and therefore no E32 errors are allowed for in the CD specification.
PIE (DVD only): Data is arranged in DVD discs in a two-dimensional array with appended parity check bits. Each 2-dimensional array is called an error correction code block. Parity Inner errors (PIE) is the number of parity inner rows with errors. According to the DVD specification, any eight consecutive ECC blocks (PI Sum8) may have a maximum of 280 PI errors.
POE (DVD only): Parity Outer errors (POE) are the number of uncorrectable parity outer columns in an ECC block. Since PO errors are uncorrectable by the DVD error detection and correction system, no PO errors are permitted by the DVD specification.[/quote]
To start off, I tested a nearly 76 minute CD with Nero CD/DVD Speed Test. Not surprisingly, the unit exceeded its specified speed just past minute 68:00. The near linear arc of the test clearly indicates that the unit is capable of quality CD reads.
52x Verbatim CD-R:
After burning the CD I tested it for errors. While it hummed along nicely for nearly the entirety of the disc, from minute 76 on, things went drastically downhill. The errors piled up so high, so fast, that the test wasnât even completed before a medium error was posted. This happened at all C1/C2 test speeds. The Beta/Jitter test ended in errors after only a few seconds. The disc was unreadable in a variety of drives. Weâre not off to a good start. Looking back at the initial quality test I ran on the disc you can clearly see track errors taking a steep rise towards the end of the disc. Itâs time to try another disc.
The second disc, from the same stack of CDs tested quite well in the FE/TE test. I re-burned the same file on this new media again. This time through the disc had very few errors from start to finish using the C1/C2 test; however, it was still unable to complete the Beta/Jitter test.
Using PlexTools Read Transfer Rate Test the CD started the test at 18.4x and finished at 42.64x leaving an average of a 32.21x read rate. Thatâs a quite respectable reading.
Using Nero CD Speed Test the results were very similar with the disc starting at 18.46x and finishing at 42.74x with an average of 32.24x.
4x Verbatim CD-RW:
Burning at 4x proved to be a terrific way to avoid errors. In the C1/C2 error test the disc essentially was error-free. There were no C2 or CU errors on the disc and only 2457 C1 errors, thatâs only about 33 errors a minute which is way below the 220 limit imposed by the Red Book standard.
However, all is not entirely perfect. While the disc had few errors and a nearly perfect Beta error reading, hovering only slightly above zero, its Jitter reading is very jittery, topping out on the High end and dropping nearly all the way on the Low scale at maximum read speed. While these readings are high, when taking into consideration the lack of any uncorrectable errors, the results present this disc as performing well.
Both Nero Speed Test and the PlexTools Read Transfer Rate show the disc starting up at 18x and finishing the test slightly topping 41x with an average a bit above 31x. This is nearly identical to the read rates of the 52x CD-R media.
12x Verbatim CD-RW:
Here we have another tremendously error-free burn with the 12x media. Burned at 10x the CD has only 2488 C1 errors. Again there were no C2 or CU errors reported during the test.
Again here, this disc showed an essentially flat Beta reading and showed wild variations in the Jitter score; skewed to the high rather than the low end compared with the 4x CD-RW. Though Iâm unable to verify this, I think that maybe the Jitter result is relative to the C1/C2 errors, therefore, given itâs nearly error-free status, the Jitter appears much more pronounced than it actually is.
Nero and PlexTools agree that this media, like all other CD-based media, started being read just shy of 18x and ended up a little bit over 41x with an average read speed of roughly 31x. These numbers indicate clearly that media type (CD, CD-R or CD-RW) has little or no impact on this driveâs read rate.
2.4x Verbatim DVD+RW:
The Beta/Jitter Test resulted in a very different kind of response than CD-RW media presented. It should be noted that in this DVD graph I have kept the scale the same as the CD-RW range of +/- .5. Here the Beta slightly arced upwards and the Jitter remained constantly very low.
After the Beta/Jitter test I proceeded with testing with the PI/PO tests but I should have really started with the TA tests, youâll soon see why. There are four PI/PO tests and every indication would suggest this media was burned terrifically during the first three. In the SUM8, SUM1, and Basic tests the discs appeared essentially error-free. Things looked drastically different for the final Burst test. A massive amount of POEs (parity outer errors) were discovered during this last test that were not detected during the previous tests. At least there were no POF numbers indicating uncorrectable errors.
After running the TA tests, it became clear there was some kind of a problem. It should be noted that this is RW media and it is being subjected to the same tests as non-RW media. The TA tests essentially measure how accurately the DVD pits are placed. The following results would indicate that the pits are not placed well. Both the Inner and Outer tests earn a Not Good rating. Is this the media or the burner? Weâll have to compare this to non-RW media to compare.
Along the Read Test arc we see a few very minor hiccups roughly every 500MB until 1.5GB. Everything else runs smoothly until the major speed drop-off just before the discâs end. Using PlexTools the average read speed is 8.76x though there are some anomalies.
With Nero, the start speed is 5x, the average is just over 9.0x, and the end result is a surprising 3.14x. Weâll see how this compares to the DVD+R next.
4x Verbatim DVD+R:
Changing the order of tests based on my findings above, I started with the Beta/Jitter test. It should be noted that in the following DVD graphs I have tightened the scale to +/- .05 from the CD/DVD+RW range of +/- .5. Here the DVD performs quite well showing quite consistent Beta results and low Jitter.
Following with the TA tests Iâm hoping to find a developing pattern that will mesh with the PI/PO Burst test that will follow. In stark contrast to the RW media the Inner track earns a Very Good rating and the Outer track rating receives an Excellent.
Starting this time with the PI/PO Burst test, we see a few POE spikes, but nothing like the CD-RW above. Again there is a small âhumâ on PIEs, but itâs of pretty much no consequence. The SUM8, SUM1 (only 903 PIF errors), and Basic tests all showed essentially flat response. Despite the strange write speed anomaly mentioned above, obviously the Plextor unit burned this disc quite successfully.
The Read Test indicates at the 6x-16x CAV shows a maximum read speed of slightly shy of 12x.
The Nero test shows a nearly identical arc and just as with all DVD media so far has a reading on 57% CPU usage at 8x. For comparison the CDs had about 5% readings at 8x. Iâm curious to see if this trend continues.
4x Unbranded DVD-R:
The Beta/Jitter tests indicate that despite the scary looking graph, that the burn is actually pretty well controlled. Iâll be curious to see how well the 8x media (+/-R) comparison will turn out.
Things donât look so rosy for this no-name media. The TA results indicate that the early half of the DVD may be passable; it raises concerns about the data being burned towards the outer edge of the DVD. Itâs something to keep in mind as we investigate further.
Letâs roll out the telling Burst Test and see where we stand. In comparison the 4x Verbatim media itâs clear that this disk does not have as accurate a pit structure. Although there are no uncorrectable errors present on the disc, the PIEs pile up very high towards the end of the disc. Given that the outer edge of the disc is the most likely area to be handled or damaged Iâd feel that this quality represents a threat to the long-term storage of this data. The disc turns in equally troubling performances in the other tests as well, though not showing as many errors in the SUM1 test as in the others.
Here again, the Read Test shows some strangely anomalous results. The slowdown at the end is obviously related to the error correction having to be applied so that the disc is readable at all.
The Nero test is unable to even complete the 4x or 8x CPU usage tests. It would seem that this no-name disc leaves us wishing for brand-name media.
8x Maxell DVD-R:
Again starting from the Beta/Jitter test we find this disc has a very controlled result all things considered. Despite a little variation, the Maxell disc performs very well.
Following with the TA test, the pit structure gets a near perfect rating at the discs inner edge, lowering slightly to a Very Good rating in the outer edge test.
The telling Burst test indicates a similar, though with more correctable errors, result to the 4x Verbatim media, it seems that the name brand media burns better than the no-name discs here. Likewise, the SUM tests (the SUM1 test being virtually error free) as well as the Basic Test indicates this media is very readable.
The Read Rate for this 8x media finishes up at 11.83x, barely shy of the driveâs rated 12x read speed. The test doesnât indicate any major glitches, though it does exhibit the same small anomalies up to 1.5 GB mark that the other discs do. Nero records virtually exactly the same results here with 44% CPU usage at 8x speeds and slightly faster seek times than the unbranded disc above.
blankmedia's 8x DVD-R Taiyo Yuden Silver:
Well, starting off with an uncorrectable Read error during the Beta/Jitter Test is not a great start for the media. The error occurred very near the end of the disc; well past the 4.1GB mark. Itâs unfortunate because things looked reasonably good until this point. While weâve seen a few drop-offs towards the end of the media, no discs have so far generated an uncorrectable error. Iâll burn the same data to another Taiyo Yuden disc and see if any more light can be shed on the error.
Despite a somewhat positive pit and land accuracy at the beginning of the TA test, itâs clear that things degrade from the inner to outer portions of the disc. It would appear that the dye has a tendency to âbleedâ more towards the outer edge of the disc. Weâve seen almost the exact opposite case with the DVD-R 4x media. Is it software, the burner, the burn speed, or the media? I think a far-reaching and comprehensive disc evaluation might be in order.
Hereâs where even more strangeness comes into play. The Burst Test which has been so good at implicating discs up to this point doesnât really showcase major errors, though it shows the obvious flurry of POEs towards the end of the disc, it doesnât list any uncorrectable errors. Both the SUM tests show even fewer errors, with the SUM1 test showing the lowest number of errors of any disc measured so far during this review. The Basic Test shows a very low result as well. For those of you wondering what this means, (though I believe itâs a tricky thing to attribute) it would seem to indicate a surface fault with the disc towards the outer edges.
Despite a number of re-tests on the media with somewhat variable results, I was unable to determine definitively the cause of the errors; it is beyond the scope of this current review.
The Read Rate tops out just shy of the 12x rating but it takes a nose-dive just past the 4GB mark. This result mirrors the error results. Again, Nero yields an identical result. Itâs interesting to note that the arc here is very similar to the Verbatim 4x DVD-R above.
Taiyo Yuden is a very well respected brand of blank media. Given more samples, I havenât found the same type of error occurs. This leads me to believe that this disc was an anomaly.
The Ritek Ridata 16x media shows reasonably consistent Beta and Jitter results here. Only the 8x Maxell and Verbatim 4x DVD+R discs have shown better results so far.
Looking at the TA tests, they indicate excellent pit structure at the beginning and end of the disc, though the middle test does indicate a less defined topography. All-in-all this disc turns in a very good result.
Though largely a satisfying result with only a smattering of POEs and cluster of PIEs bunched up before the 2GB mark, itâs difficult to conclude how reliable this disc will read over time. Despite all the errors being correctable, seeing POE spikes nearly hitting the 400 mark isnât good. The SUM8 test looks identical to the PIE results from the Burst test. Good results are had in the SUM1 and Basic test.
The Read Rate follows a steady arc to the driveâs 12x rated speed, a result also confirmed by Nero.
blankmedia's 2.4x DVD+R DL Ridata:
Starting again with the Beta/Jitter Test, I am again happily surprised. While there is some variation in the Beta, especially occurring around the disc layer transition mark, it stays quite stable throughout. The Jitter, though jumping at the halfway point, manages again to stay quite low. Given the characteristics of the media, I am quite satisfied with the quality of the burn.
The TA testing shows excellent results almost entirely throughout. Itâs only towards the end of the second layer that things âslipâ to Good status.
The Burst Test shows the disc taking quite a hit in the number of errors on the second layer. Given that the other tests have yet to indicate any major issues, I have to question the test itself and wonder if the first layer is influencing the second layer readings. The SUM8 test shows the same error pattern as the Burst test. Once again the SUM1 and Basic Test do not reveal anything of importance other than their low error ratings, though the same error doubling is apparent in the Basic Test.
The Read Rate test indicates what for me was a surprising result. Though, had I thought about it more thoroughly prior, the result does make perfect sense. The disc writes from the inner edge to the outer and then on the second layer it back-tracks from the outer edge back in. As a result, the graph shows the read speed peaking at the centre of the disc. This disc peaks just shy of 8x and starts and ends at 3.29x.
Nero finishes with pretty much the same speed rating graph, but displays different numbers in the results. It should be noted that the disc was unable to finish either the 4x or 8x CPU Usage tests.
blankmedia's 2.4x Verbatim DVD+R DL:
Things look quite successful on the Beta/Jitter Test with this Ridata disc with the exception of the Jitter having a very large fluctuation just past the halfway mark.
Running the TA tests indicate an excellent result on the first layer, scoring Excellent on both the Inner and Middle Tests and a Very Good for the outer test. However, things turn ugly on the second layer; a ânot goodâ rating is assigned across the entire surface. This might indicate some troubles up ahead on the Burst Test.
As suspected, actually worse than expected, the Burst Test shows a massive amount of PIOs and PIEs as well as one POF (uncorrectable) error on the second layer. Itâs really too bad, as the first layer is nearly error-free. The SUM8 test substantiates the Burst test results, as does the SUM1 Test. Both tests indicate one Parity Outer Fail.
The Read Rate here mirrors quite closely the Verbatim result above. The disc starts off just shy of 3.5x, peaks just below 8x, and ends back down just below the 3.5x mark again. The only real difference is the significant dip at the halfway point. Nero charts the same path, though the dip at the halfway point isnât so low. Again, the disc is unable to finish the Nero 4x and 8x CPU Usage tests.
Page 13 : Conclusion
The above quote is an excerpt from a feedback form I submitted to NIST regarding the importance of data and I think it sums mostly how I feel on the subject.
Over the last 500 hours Iâve immersed myself in reviewing this drive. The results Iâve achieved with various media are so broad that any real conclusion cannot be easily made. There is just too much variability in the results. Is it the media, the dye lot, the burner, the media/burner combo, or what? Obviously this issue needs huge resources of attention to ascertain whether a product is truly good. It seems the minimum test would be 5 discs from the same lot on 5 different burners in identical systems burned 5 times and then the same test being run on 5 different lots of discs and the whole process being repeated at no fewer than 3 different write speeds. Then the entire process should be run again using specific file sizes, both large and small. Though my plan would require 750 discs, this sort of rigor would go some way to resolving the issues. Subsequent testing would have to be done on each of the drives as well as a third-party, media-independent device. Anything less than this kind of testing methodology and depth will only lead to misinformation regarding the current state of media burners and the media it burns.
Despite the Plextor burner doing its best, I canât help but feel disappointed in the current state of affairs regarding blank media. While many discs burned well, Iâm left with no confidence at all that my precious data is being preserved for any length of time. It is with this nagging feeling that I would appeal to both Toshiba and Sony to not only merge their ideas into the next recordable media format, but also to spend great effort to ensure that media quality is consistent and reproducible, as well as guarantying a realistic, useful life-span of the media that is finally used in the drives. Only then will I look to optical media as a viable archival device.
Focusing on the Plextor unit itself, I can attest to its build quality, sonic superiority, and the success of the included software. While Iâd love to suggest Iâm overwhelmed with all the technology that the PX-716A offers and emphatically state that it is the âfinest burner in the landâ, instead, Iâm left feeling that it is a solid, capable product largely performing up to its specifications. Testing this burner is like dating an unapproachable, beautiful girl; in the end you still feel like youâre missing out on something. While I would happily purchase another Plextor unit as the primary transport in a music/media server, Iâm unsure that if I didnât find its sound reproduction so outstanding that Iâd be prepared to spend the extra money that this drive, and all Plextor drives command when compared with many other competing products. Given that a new 20-50GB DVD standard is likely to emerge in the coming months and combined with the high cost per gigabyte currently associated with dual-layer media, purchasing any DVD DL drive at this point should be taken only after careful deliberation. However, if you have a need to currently burn discs that span more than 4.7GB and need to make the move to 8.5GB media, I certainly suggest you look very closely and seriously at this Plextor unit.
-Superior CD audio playback
-Capable of the fastest burn times with compatible media
-Highly configurable options through software
-Variable burn speed may introduce errors at higher write speeds
-Without further testing, unproven burn quality
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