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Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW review: Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW

MSRP: $149.00

The Good Fast overall performance; affordable; includes versatile software bundle; toll-free tech support.

The Bad Doesn't include any rewritable media; no audio cable; relatively slow on audio CD burns.

The Bottom Line The competitively priced PX-504A offers cutting-edge speed and excellent compatibility with a variety of media formats.

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7.7 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

In January of this year, Plextor announced its first ever DVD-recordable drive, the PX-504A. Because Plextor is a leading maker of CD-RW and DVD-ROM products, the company's entry into the lucrative writable-DVD market should come as no big surprise, despite stiff competition. Fortunately, the PX-504A delivers both speed and versatility at an attractive price. It reads both -R/-RW and +R/+RW media, it comes with a well-designed software bundle that makes the drive easy to use, and it finishes burns quickly with top 4X DVD+R and 16X CD-R write speeds. The PX-504A is a good choice for serious digital-audio and -video buffs looking for cutting-edge performance. Open the box for the Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW drive, and you'll find a staple-bound booklet, as well as a folded quick-reference guide that will help most users get their new drive installed in about 15 minutes. The words and pictures make each step of the simple plug-and-play operation clear. The drive is compatible with Windows 98 SE, Me, 2000, and XP.

The box also includes mounting screws, an emergency-eject pin, and an IDE ribbon cable but no audio connection cables. This last omission is not a big problem because most computers can read audio CDs as digital data and process them at the sound card. Still, if you're going to use the analog or S/PDIF connections on the drive, you'll have to find the cables on your own.

The Plextor PX-504A is a veritable Swiss Army knife of optical drives. It will read and write just about any CD or DVD format on a wide range of media. (The only notable exception is DVD-RAM, a technology that competes with DVD+R/+RW.) We do have one small complaint, however. The Plextor is a bit parsimonious with the media bundled in the box; you get one CD-R and one DVD+R but no rewritable media.

Easy CD Creator's Explorer-like interface makes it simple to burn data, music, and DVDs.

The drive sports the standard headphone jack and volume control on the front panel, as well as analog and S/PDIF digital connectors to attach to your sound card. The package also includes a capable and easy-to-use software bundle for all your burning needs. The anchor is Roxio's popular Easy CD Creator 5.0 DVD Edition, which makes it easy to create everything from audio CDs to DVDs. Also included is Roxio Direct CD, which uses packet writing to make optical discs as easy to use as magnetic storage. Also in the package are Roxio PhotoSuite 5.0 SE, which helps you organize and edit digital images and create slide shows; Roxio DVD Builder, which lets you burn DVD movies or VideoCDs; and CyberLink Power DVD, which is one of the most popular DVD-movie players. The bundle includes a 30-day trial version of Dantz Retrospect Professional, a capable backup utility.

DVD Builder lets you assemble movies from various video sources, add music, then burn DVD movies or VideoCDs.

The Plextor PX-504A read and burned all of the discs we threw at it, an important acid test for any DVD-recordable drive. Plus, the drive's 2MB buffer with buffer-underrun protection ensured a clean burn every time. To prevent buffer-underrun errors, the PX-504A features BURN-Proof technology, which enables the drive's laser to stop writing before the data in the buffer runs out, then start up again when the data flow from the computer resumes. (If the data stream to the laser were interrupted, the write would fail and, in most cases, ruin the disc.)

Once we established the Plextor's reliable operation, CNET Labs put the drive through a battery of speed tests. The PX-504A proved the fastest of all the drives in its class when writing or reading a 500MB folder to and from a DVD+RW. It came in a close second on reading a single 383MB file and on writing a movie to write-once media. For packet writes and large file reads, however, it dropped to the middle of the pack. It also trailed the fastest drive by about 30 seconds when writing a 43-minute audio CD. Although not the hands-down winner across the board, the PX-504A performed well enough to make it competitive with any of the other drives we've tested.

Movie write  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Write a movie to write-once media  
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Verbatim Producer DVD+RW
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable (DVD-RW)
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD-RW)
Note: Compression rates may vary, so write speed is measured in megabytes per second.
Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media  
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media  
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Verbatim Producer DVD+RW
Sony DRU-500A (DVD-RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable
Read tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Copy a 500MB directory from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Copy a 383MB file from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW/-RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Verbatim Producer DVD+RW
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Packet writing from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)  
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)  
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW/-RW)
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Verbatim Producer DVD+RW
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable
All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media (submitted by the manufacturer) and with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. For more details on how we test optical drives, see the CNET Labs site.

Plextor backs the PX-504A with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, standard for the industry. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m PT, but be prepared for a wait. When we called once on a Monday afternoon, we had to wait more than 20 minutes to speak with a technical representative. You can also choose to leave a voicemail message; the company says that it will return your call within 24 to 48 hours.

The Plextor support site offers lots of information on technical topics.

You will also find good tech support, including software updates, firmware upgrades, FAQs, and a troubleshooting section, on the Plextor Web site. The site contains other useful information, too, including articles and white papers on technical topics, such as USB 2.0 and Mount Rainier technology. You can also e-mail tech support for help with any problems.

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