CD-ReWritable drives have been around for years, but the technology has advanced to allow increased writing speeds. Plextor's PlexWriter 8/4/32A writes at a phenomenal 8x - up to 1200Kb/sec - and rewrites at 4x, up to 600Kb/sec, so you can write a 650Mb CD in just over 9 minutes. On a single writing-speed drive, this process takes 74 minutes. And because the drive is capable of read speeds of between 14x and 32x, that's up to 4.8Mb/sec, breaking the old tradition of CD-Writers that really need to be supplemented by a much faster-reading CD-ROM drive.
Plextor is better known for making drives with SCSI interfaces, but the 8/4/32A is its first ATAPI drive. Installation is easy: simply slot the drive into a free 5.25" bay, connect it to a free 40-pin EIDE connector and a power connector, and the job is complete.
CeQuadrat's WinOnCD CD writing software is bundled, and is a competent package for writing, rewriting and copying CDs. Also bundled is one CD-Recordable and one CD-ReWritable media so you can get writing straight away.
Another feature of the drive is that it supports CD-Text. This is the latest extension of the Audio CD standard, and additional information such as the title of the CD, the name of the artist and track titles can be stored. CD Text information can be displayed by the newer generation of audio CD players.
Unusually, Plextor offers a one-year on-site collect and return warranty on the PlexWriter, giving you the least possible inconvenience should anything go wrong with the hardware.
We tested the drive using CD-Tach 98 and found it performed well. On average the read speed was 21.4x - this is because the transfer speed differs across the disc, ranging from 14x to 32x. Random access time was actually less than Plextor claims, 146ms instead of 170ms, which was good to see. We timed the writing process at 8x speed using the supplied plextor CD-R disc and found that the drive really was as fast as we had calculated. To write a a full disc - 650Mb - took 10 minutes and 14 seconds before the disc ejected and was ready to use. Impressive stuff.
The only critisicm we could level at the PlexWriter was the lack of an LED to show that writing was in progress.