Plextor PlexWriter review: Plextor PlexWriter

3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Excellent documentation; innovative hardware; solid support.

The Bad Mediocre performance.

The Bottom Line If slow and steady wins the race, the Plextor gets the gold. But though it has redeeming virtues, the PlexWriter was outperformed by lower-rated CD-RW drives.

7.0 Overall

What do you expect from a 40X CD-RW drive? With 40X write, 12X rewrite, and 40X read ratings, the PlexWriter should be bounding ahead of its 32X/10X/40X competitors. And the company continues its tradition of meticulous attention to detail with comprehensive documentation, a stout software bundle, and hardware innovations. The drive also has a reasonable price. But despite its cutting-edge ratings, the PlexWriter trailed behind its peers in our performance tests. What do you expect from a 40X CD-RW drive? With 40X write, 12X rewrite, and 40X read ratings, the PlexWriter should be bounding ahead of its 32X/10X/40X competitors. And the company continues its tradition of meticulous attention to detail with comprehensive documentation, a stout software bundle, and hardware innovations. The drive also has a reasonable price. But despite its cutting-edge ratings, the PlexWriter trailed behind its peers in our performance tests.

More for less?
Introduced at $209, the Plextor has already hit the sub-$200 price range. For your money, you get the drive, all the necessary cables, a software CD, one blank CD-R, one CD-RW, a 66-page paper manual, and a slick but simple installation foldout. In addition to instructions for hardware installation and system optimization, the foldout has a quick-reference section that covers some software titles' features. Installation of the PlexWriter (compatible with Windows 98 and later) went smoothly.

The drive's software bundle is complete. The installation disc starts off with Roxio Easy CD Creator Basic and DirectCD for CD mastering and packet writing, as well as a trial version of Click'N Design 3D for CD and jewel-case labels. You can download, play, or stream audio files with Plextor Liquid Player+, but the star of the show is Plextor Manager 2000, which combines a powerful audio utility and a disc-copying utility called DiscDupe 2000.

Unfortunately, despite its impressive specs, the PlexWriter failed to impress in CNET Labs' tests. In the write tests, the Plextor lagged behind lesser-rated drives, such as the 32X CenDyne Lightning II and even the 24X Yamaha CRW3200EZ. The read test was also discouraging, with the Plextor taking more than 3 minutes to install Microsoft Office Small Business Edition. Redemption came in the audio-extraction test, where the Plextor ripped a 27-minute track in a respectable 1 minute, 2 seconds.

Reliability and hardware innovations
The drive's disappointing overall performance was most likely due to the Roxio Easy CD Creator software, which is slower than competing packages such as Ahead Nero Burning ROM. Plextor is aware of this but believes that its customers prefer Roxio for its reliability and ease of use. Anyway, there's more to life than numbers, and Plextor introduces a few bells and whistles with the drive. The first is Burn-Proof buffer management; though not exactly new, this feature lets you multitask while burning CDs, without the risk of encountering buffer-underrun errors that render your discs unusable. Plextor also touts a new, black CD tray that reduces certain kinds of errors and an enhanced chipset that helps reduce electrical interference and jitter (digital distortion) levels.

The PlexWriter is covered by a one-year warranty on parts and labor. Tech support is available Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT. Online support for the drive is extensive; a trip to Plextor's Web site yields a well-organized collection of downloads, FAQs, and technical documents, as well as links to other storage resources on the Web and troubleshooting guides.

Slow and steady?
Although its performance scores were a letdown, the PlexWriter could still be considered a good value. Plextor offers top-notch documentation, hardware innovations, and solid support for the drive. If that's enough for you, the Plextor's a good buy. But if your bottom line is speed, faster performers such as the CenDyne Lightning II are available for less than the cost of the PlexWriter 40/12/40A.

Write tests
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)   
Single-session data burn to CD-R (500MB directory)   
Packet-write from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)   
CenDyne Lightning II (32X/12X/40X)
2.92 
3.38 
5.65 
Plextor PlexWriter 40/12/40A
3.57 
3.64 
6.85 
QPS Que Fire (32X/10X/40X)
2.62 
3.03 
11.6 
Yamaha CRW3200EZ (24X/10X/40X)
2.52 
2.72 
6.56 
 
Audio-extraction tests
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)

QPS Que Fire (32X/10X/40X)
0.89 
Plextor PlexWriter 40/12/40A
1.04 
Yamaha CRW3200EZ (24X/10X/40X)
1.63 
CenDyne Lightning II (32X/12X/40X)
1.75 
 
Read tests
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)

QPS Que Fire (32X/10X/40X)
1.71 
Yamaha CRW3200EZ (24X/10X/40X)
1.88 
CenDyne Lightning II (32X/12X/40X)
2.07 
Plextor PlexWriter 40/12/40A
3.16 
 
Unfortunately, despite its impressive specs, the PlexWriter failed to impress in CNET Labs' tests. In the write tests, the Plextor lagged behind lesser-rated drives, such as the 32X CenDyne Lightning II and even the 24X Yamaha CRW3200EZ. The read test was also discouraging, with the Plextor taking more than 3 minutes to install Microsoft Office Small Business Edition.

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