approx (inc. VAT) - around $130 (Pricewatch)
In an industry where five year's experience virtually
qualifies you as a veteran Plextor must qualify as one of the
grand masters. For around ten years now they have headed up
the CD-RW revolution bringing reliability, innovation and ever
falling prices to what was once a privilege of only the wealthiest
of PC users. They were first to market with a true 40X CD-RW
and now they've gone a step further combining a blistering 48X
read and write speed with a groundbreaking 24X rewrite speed.
In the press release for their latest speed demon
Plextor more or less acknowledged that CD-RW has hit its ceiling.
Writing at speeds above 48X were bringing ever diminishing returns
along with increased risk of CDs literally exploding under the
huge centrifugal forces involved. Plextor's aim now is to focus
on quality and features rather than brute speed so with that
in mind I'm pleased to be able to introduce our look at the
new filly in the stables, the PlexWriter 48/24/48A.
Probably the thing that surprised me most of all
was the fact that Plextor have decided to switch to CAV over
their usually preferred method of Zone-CLV! Many people, including
Plextor themselves in the past have suggested that though a
little slower, Zone-CLV was the route to take when quality matters.
On the other hand LaserDisk users have always preferred CAV
although they concede it tends to be mechanically noisier. For
those not familiar with the terms CAV and CLV let me try to
explain. CLV stands for "Constant Linear Velocity"
and is the way most CD-RWs used to operate. CLV means that the
laser reads and writes data at a constant rate no matter whether
it's on the inside or outside edge of the CD. To do this however
the rotational speed of the media has to decrease as the laser
gets to the outside edge to compensate for the increasing circumference.
Zone-CLV is simply a variation of this technology whereby rather
than have a constantly changing velocity for the media it's
instead divided into distinct zones each of which is kept at
a fixed velocity. Of course no CD-RW drive can instantaneously
increase or drop its rotational speed from one zone to the next
so the recording is actually stopped prior to each transition
then continued again once the new rotational speed is reached.
Clearly this wasn't an option before the advent of buffer underrun
technology as stopping the recording even for a split second
would have lead to a coaster.
CAV on the other hand stands for "Constant
Angular Velocity" and with CAV it's the media rotation
speed that remains constant and not the laser's read/write rate.
As a result much more data can be read or written in a fixed
period of time from the outside your media than from the inside
tracks. Using PowerRec (covered later) Plextor monitor errors
and if necessary alter write strategy on a 1X by 1X basis and
laser power is modified on a minute by minute basis. If errors
are too high it will also automatically switch to Zone-CLV.
Some other noteworthy features are the rather
impressive <65 ms access time and the ability to overburn
to 94.55 minutes. The two year on-site collect and return warranty
(EU-Countries + Norway and Switzerland) is also a welcome inclusion
simply for peace of mind though I must admit I've never had
the opportunity to test this out. I've owned four Plextors and
each one is running as well now as the day I bought it. Don't
take that as a scientific endorsement though, I may just be
One thing I found a little strange was the fact
that only 4X, 10X and 24X Rewrite speeds are supported. There's
a fair amount of 12X and 16X ReWriteable media floating around
and it seems by default the Plextor will handle this at 10X.
I'm not sure quite why Plextor have left such gaping gaps other
than to force your hand and get you buying 24X CD-RW media and
if it is simply a marketing ploy I'm a little disappointed at