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TR reviews Plextor's 16/10/40A CD-RW drive

Hunka hunka burnin' love
— 12:00 AM on March 22, 2001

Price (street)US$209.00

Enter the Plextor 16/10/40, featuring a 16X (2.4MB/s) CD-R burn speed for a 4X improvement over the 12/10/32A. RW burn speed is the same, but the read capabilities have been improved by an additional 8X in the new model, or 40X (6MB/s). Plextor was kind enough to let me take a look at their new beastie, and I decided to compare it directly to their 12X drive.

My reasoning on this front was that, with the 12X still out there for less cash, some might be interested in what separates the two models. I've made the comparison test between the two drives as comprehensive as possible, so consider this a good start if you're trying to determine whether the 16X is worth that extra little bit of cash over the 12X.

I've also included a 52X CD-ROM drive in the read tests, to provide a point of reference. The results are eye-opening, and show that when it comes to optical storage, the number before the X isn't always as important (or as accurate) as you think it is. But more on that later.

I should also point out that both of the Plextor drives feature BURN-proof, a Sanyo technology designed to prevent buffer underruns. I covered the BURN-proof feature in detail in my Plextor 12/10/32A review, so I won't rehash it here. I suggest checking that review if you are unfamiliar with the purpose of the BURN-proof feature.

In the box
The drive tested was a retail unit that included plenty of goodies. Included in the kit was a fold-out installation sheet, a hardware operations manual, and a software users' guide. Also included was a software installation CD, a piece of 10X CD-RW media, and a piece of 16X CD-R media. Rounding out the package was a 40-pin IDE cable and a small baggie containing mounting screws, an extra jumper, and an emergency eject tool. The installation CD included Adaptec Easy CD Creator Standard Edition, Adaptec Direct CD, and PlextorManager.

Old drive and new, front and back

As you can see from the photos, about the only thing that separates the two drives on the outside is the label on the drive tray. One notable difference is the addition of a small fan in the back of the 16X model; I can't comment on the fan except to say that I didn't notice it over all the other fans in the test system.

One thing I did notice (I'll mention it now for lack of a better place to discuss it) is that the 16X drive's tray opens and closes more slowly than that of the 12X. According to CD Speed 99 (which actually measures such things, if you can believe that) the 12X tray operates about .4 seconds faster than the 16X tray. I found the slower tray annoying when testing them side by side, anyway. On to the tests...