December 12, 2000

Review: Plextor PlexWriter 121032A CD-RW

Author: JT Smith

- By Jeff Field -

One of the best things of Linux distributions being free (as in beer, in this case) is that this means you can download your favorite distribution online. Now, most of these distributions can be installed over the network, from another partition of your hard drive, or off of a CD. If you want to install a CD, and you don't want to pay for the distribution, you can get ISO images of the distributions and burn them to CD.
This makes CD-RW drives even more enticing to Linux users, and their ability to copy and create audio CDs isn't bad either. In this review, I will discuss the PlexWriter 12/10/32A, an ATAPI CD-RW.

The drive
The PlexWriter 12/10/32A is the latest entry in Plextor's long line of CD-recordable/rewriteable drives. Besides sporting faster speeds, which can make a big difference in CD-RW drives, this drive also sports Sanyo's new BURNProof technology, licensed for use in the Plextor. What BURNProof does is prevent fatal buffer underruns by stopping the recording process when the flow of data is interupted by other programs taking up CPU and disk time. Once the interuption stops, it resumes recording the next frame right after the last recorded frame. This helps prevent wasted time for those burning CD-RWs and the all-to-common coasters (useless discs) when burning CD-R discs.

Configuration of the drive was done in the standard method for an IDE CD-ROM drive, with a jumper for slave, master or cable select, which was easily accessible in the rear of the drive.

Other than BURNProof, the drive operated like any normal CD-RW drive should. It had no problem with any of the media I used on it (CD-R: Vertbatim, Maxell, Hewlett-Packard; CD-RW: Acer, HP, Verbatim) and had no problems writing at full speed with BURN-Proof off, provided there wasn't anything too demanding running on the machine. With BURNProof enabled, I was able to run Quake 3 Arena timedemos, copy files from the source hard drive, and do any number of things that were frowned upon by drives without BURNProof. And, in case you are wondering, CDRecord 1.9 does support BURNProof on Plextor and Sanyo CD-RW drives, so this isn't something that is only going to benefit Windows users.

Goodies
The drive didn't include anything particularly astounding in the box. A version of Easy CD Creator from Adaptec was included, although that's not a big deal for a Linux user. However, more useful was the free CD-R and CD-RW included. A nice touch was that that an IDE cable was included in case, but most people will either already have all the IDE cables they need installed or have extras somewhere else. Still, it will certainly be a blessing to those who don't have the correct cable for the drive.

The company
Plextor
Since opening their headquarters in Santa Clara in 1990, Plextor America has had 12 generations of CD-ROMs, three CD-recordable drives and five CD-RW drives. Besides focussing on products for high-end computer users and enthusiasts, Plextor also has equipment that caters to professional users who need to create many CDs at once.

Conclusion
Plextor has a reputation for making very fast and reliable drives, making the company the "land of milk and honey" of CD-ROM and CD-RW drives to many users. By adding BURNproof, Plextor has found a winning combination. You get the performance and support of a Plextor drive with buffer underrun protection, and I can't think of a better combination. If you are simply looking for the best ATAPI CD-RW drive on the market, you need look no further than the PlexWriter 12/10/32A. It's feature set makes it unbeatable, and it can be had online for the price of $239 on Pricewatch. You can purchase 12x10x32 IDE CD-RW drives for as low as $155, but without the advantage of BURNProof. So, if you feel you can live without BURNProof, you can save yourself a good amount of money, but in my mind BURNProof is worth the money both in saved CDs and because I can't afford to have my computer tied up making CDs for hours at a time.

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