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We don't need no stinkin' media
Plextor manages to pack its box with almost everything you need to start burning. It includes an IDE cable, a quick-reference guide, a blank CD-R, an emergency-eject tool, and a software installation CD. Unfortunately, the company ships the drive without any 24X CD-RW media--the drive's raison d'être. But in what seems like a rarity these days, Plextor throws in a useful and in-depth printed user manual. The drive is compatible with Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP.
For some reason, Plextor includes not one but two CD-mastering programs: Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5.0 Standard Edition and Oak Technologies' SimpliCD. We tested with the former but preferred the latter's ease of use and integration with the Windows interface. For packet-writing duties, you get Roxio's DirectCD. The software bundle also includes Plextor Liquid Player+ for streaming, downloading, and playing audio files, as well as a trial version of Stomp's Click'N Design 3d label-creating software.
In CNET Labs' tests, the PlexWriter set a new packet-writing record, burning 400MB to CD-RW in only 4 minutes, 20 seconds--4 seconds faster than the previous high-water mark set by the TDK VeloCD 48X/24X/48X drive. In other tests, the PlexWriter proffered a mixed but generally positive set of results. While the drive set a new record by installing Microsoft Office Small Business Edition in 1 minute, 28 seconds, it took 2 minutes, 13 seconds to burn our 473MB test image to CD-R, or 30 seconds slower than the record held by TDK. Extracting 273MB worth of audio averaged 56 seconds, or 11 seconds slower than the CenDyne Lightning IV 48X/12X/48X CD-RW and the VisionTek Xtasy 48X/12X/48X CD-RW. As a reader and backup drive, the Plextor is without peer, though we'd like to see better mastering performance.
Plextor offers several technologies for a smoother recording experience. Burn-Proof protection lets you multitask while burning CDs, without the risk of encountering buffer-underrun errors that can turn discs into coasters. The drive also features a black tray, which the company claims minimizes jitter and C1 error rates. In our experience, the drive performed flawlessly with a wide variety of media.
Plextor backs the drive with an industry-standard one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT. The company's Web site includes software and firmware downloads, e-mail support, FAQs, and helpful technology articles on a range of topics.
We give the PlexWriter exceptional marks for its fast read speeds, ultrareliable burning, and ability to write CD-RW at 24X; it's the ideal drive for backing up your system. But if you want a cheaper drive that burns CD-R faster and offers more installation hand-holding (via the inclusion of video clips and tutorials, for example), check out the TDK VeloCD.
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)
The Plextor PlexWriter set new records in packet-writing and read tests, beating out the competing TDK VeloCD. When it came to burning a 43-minute audio CD from the hard drive, however, the PlexWriter finished last among the 48X drives we've tested.
All write tests were run with both the drive's recommended media (submitted by the manufacturer) and with Verbatim discs, rated at the drive's maximum speed. However, because Plextor and Verbatim did not have 24X CD-RW media available, we used a Yamaha 24X CD-RW for the packet-writing test.