Plextor's innovative and remarkably fast PX-708A has dethroned Sony's DRU-510A as our multiformat drive of choice. Not only does the groundbreaking PX-708A write DVD+R at 8X--to 4X-rated discs, no less--it's also far and away the fastest DVD-rewritable drive with CD-R (40X) and CD-RW (24X) media. On top of that, the drive writes 4X DVD-R, 2X DVD-RW, and 4X DVD+RW and offers a handful of unique features as well, including the PowerRec recording optimizer. It costs about $250--around $75 more than the DRU-510A--but we think it's worth it.
Plextor makes installing the PX-708A easy. A concisely written, printed quick-reference guide provides an excellent overview of the setup process, and the comprehensive printed manual supplies the details. If you can use a screwdriver, you're all set. Plextor includes mounting screws, an extra jumper, and a handy emergency-eject tool, so you won't have to fuss with a bent paper clip if the power dies and the tray won't open. We have two gripes: there's no drive-to-sound-card cable--a handy extra, even if most folks play their audio CDs across the PCI bus using digital audio extraction (DAE) these days. More importantly, the drive does not come with Plextor's PlexTools software, useful for tweaking esoteric drive features such as PowerRec and tray-eject speed.
The PX-708A has a full complement of features. A headphone jack and a volume control on the front panel let you listen to audio CDs straight from the drive, saving CPU cycles. The tray mechanism is exceptionally quiet and sturdy, and the reinforced front panel will keep a shattered disc (a rare but real occurrence) from escaping. An eject button, emergency-eject hole, and power/busy light adorn the front panel. The back of the drive has the usual IDE and power connectors, digital and analog audio ports, and drive jumpers.
Plextor bundles Roxio's Easy CD Creator 6.1 with the PX-708A. Faster and less buggy than previous versions, we can finally say that we like the software. The DVD Builder for movie editing wouldn't let us automatically burn multiple copies of our test movie; fortunately, it didn't force us to reencode our AVI file for each pass. The DVD-movie playback and the photo-editing software are also good.
Finally, Plextor bundles some Roxio software that's fast and stable.
The performance story is simple and sweet: the PX-708A tested at or near the top of the pack with every type of media we tried. In fact, it has the fastest DVD+R write performance of any drive we've tested to date. In informal testing, the drive burned an entire DVD-ROM movie at 8X in less than 10 minutes--inspiring nothing less than pure delight in our test personnel. The fact that the drive does this with 4X-rated media is a major boon: there's no need to wait for new, untried, more expensive media to appear. Our informal testing also convinced us that the PX-708A's 40X CD-R and 24X CD-RW writing makes it the first DVD-rewritable drive to offer uncompromising CD-burning performance.