Reviewed By: LPMiller
Before we begin:
In my job, I repair and audit many a consumer product for resale. Items that have been returned to various companies, for one reason or another. I test them, I sometimes repair them, and occasionally, I chuck 'em out the trash. Some of you people are really mean to things you spend good money on.
In the 3 years I've been working this job, I've developed opinions on various companies, more so than I did just reviewing them. After all, I see them at both their best, and their worst. I deal with warranty departments, customer service, and I see the engineering that goes into their marvels - or in some cases, the engineering that doesn't seem to exist at all.
The point of all this is that it has effected how I feel about reviews, in general. I've come to the conclusion that raw benchmarks and pretty graphs do not tell me near enough about a product as just using it. I've learned that products may seem great out of the box, but 6 months down the road they self destruct, degrade, and ultimately disappoint. Except when they don't.
So I'm doing something new. This isn't a review of benchmarks, though I'll throw out some data. I'm not interested in checking out every single media format; there are others that do that, and much better than I ever could. Instead, we are going to focus on the overall experience of the product. Daily use. Real life. Nerds like me get plenty of reviews that cater to our need for numbers and math and pretty pictures.
This is a review for the rest of you.
Plextor recently sent me their new external Dual Layer burner, the PX-755UF. This was actually excellent timing, as my crappy generic burner is in fact a crappy generic burner. In the marketing material, the PX-755UF is listed as a 16X +/-R drive, and a 10X Dual Layer +R drive, which would make it the fastest dual layer external drive on the market. At least, this second.
While I don't really have anything to compare that to, I can say without a doubt it is one fast little drive.
• Formats: DVD, CD, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD DL -R/+R, CDRW
• USB 1.1 /USB 2.0/ IEEE 1394 — 12 Mbps /400 Mbps (max)
• 2MB Buffer with BurnProof
• PlexTools® Professional
• Roxio® Easy Media Creator™ 8
• AUTOSTRATEGY Writing technology for unknown media with uneven quality. When a writable disc isn’t listed in the drive’s internal media catalog, AUTOSTRATEGY automatically checks the disc and develops a write strategy for it.
• POWEREC Plextor Optimized Writing Error Reduction Control (PoweRec) adjusts laser power and writing speed so they’re at the optimum settings for that particular disc.
• PlexEraser™ is a data destruction utility that makes a recorded CD-R or DVD disc unreadable
The Plextor arrives with a hosts of options for creating a successful burn. Autostrategy is a very handy options that helps do away with bad burns due to generic media, or media that a particular drive doesn't recognize off the bad. PowerRec will then adjust the speed accordingly, trying to balance maximum burn speeds with quality, so that you get the best possible burn. The two married together work very well, managing to burn cheapo 2.4x Dual Layer DVD +R Memorex media at 5x speeds, or handling HP 16x media at full speed. It does make the drive initially seem slow, as it checks the media before it begin to write, but once it comes up with a proper strategy, off it goes.
This makes raw speed testing a little irrelevant, in my mind, as it really depends on the media. Still, in testing it was pretty clear that the current generation of Plextor handles off the self media pretty well, handling 16X HP discs I got at Compusa just fine at full speed. This is important, as most people really don't care for hunting for the 'proper' media to get the most out of a drive.
The PX755UF supports both USB and Firewire connections, something of a personal preference for me. For one thing, you never have enough USB ports these days, and trying to figure out what you can unplug is a pain. Also, I just like having the option, especially since the USB ports on my PC are a bit flaky.
It's In The Box:
Plextor provides most of what you need to get started: drive, AC Adapter, USB and Firewire cables, and a simple manual with the software disc. The one thing missing is any kind of burnable media. It's something that used to be fairly common, but with the advent of multiple formats, I can certainly understand why more and more companies are skipping out on it. Still, the big selling point to me is the 10x Dual Layer burning, so I would have liked to have seen at least one DL disc.
The drive is all black, with but a single Plextor logo on the top, and nice little blue LED light towards the back to let you know the drive is on. The drive has ports for USB and Firewire, but also has a handy mini din connector for Firewire, which I give Plextor props for. This makes it easier to use the PX755UF with a laptop, since mini ports are the standard. There is also a switch for going between USB and Firewire, and thankfully a power switch, which many drives on the market do not include. It seems like a small thing, but it's amazing how many drives I've seen go belly up because of plugging in a live AC cord when a simple power switch would have saved a lot of hassle.
The drive isn't really flashy to look at, but I like that it's fairly nondescript, yet feels solid in construction. While the casing is plastic, it makes for a lighter drive and is in fact quite sturdy to hold.
Outside, it's a 755UF. Inside, it's really a Plextor 760A, an IDE based drive. In opening the drive casing, I was very, very please.
One thing that was lacking was screws. Pop off the four corner pieces, slip a little flat head into the crease, and off pops the top. At no point are there any warning stickers yelling at me about warranty, and this is great. This makes it easy to swap the drive should later technology suit your needs better, or allow you to recycle the drive bay should the drive go to that great big CDRW in the sky. I like that, because I actually use an old Plextor drive bay for external hard drive testing at work, and Plextor makes some great bays. Also, since the Plextor includes a cooling fan, it's really handy to be able to get into the casing to blow out any dust that might find it's way there. Many companies make it impossible to get into the drive bay, and add warranty stickers all over the place (Lacie, Maxtor, I'm looking right at you) and frankly, I hate that. Harmless curiosity or maintenance shouldn't kill your warranty.
I've had the Plextor for about a month now, so I'm fairly comfortable with it. Installing it was easy, just plug in the AC and the Firewire, turn it on and watch Windows do it's thing. I went ahead and installed Plextools Professional, since it's a pretty handy bit of software that not only can do simple burns for you, but allows you to control things like whether or not PowerRec is turned on. Personally, I leave it on; I don't care about speed near as much as I care about having a disc that works.
Plextools also let's you test your burn for errors, run benchmarks, and is fairly useful. I didn't however, install Easy CD 8, though I have no real issues with it (version 9 is another matter,however). Easy CD 8 is actually a decent enough package to handle most of your needs, though I really don't like it's DLA monitoring software, it will allow for most kinds of burns with the drive.
No, I used the latest version of Nero, mostly for Nero Vision. I took four episodes of Heroes and burned them to a Memorex 2.4x Dual Layer disc. The actual burn of this, which came right to the 8.5GB limit of the disc, was handled at 5x speeds and took a good 20 mins to complete.
The Plextor is about one of the smoothest drives I've seen in ramping up and down it's speed range, with only slight blips as it builds up to full speed. It's also fairly quiet, though not really silent. My generic drive sounds like a buzz saw about to pop a bolt at speed, where the Plextor, once it really ramps up, sounds no differnt then a CPU fan. This is essential for an external drive, in my mind. Loud drives in cases are bad enough, loud drives on your desktop are a major annoyance.
I also created a mixed data DVD of music, files, and whatever I had lying around. The media was off the shelf HP 16x, which the Plextor had zero problems burning at 16x speeds. Over 4GB's of data burned in 8 mins, for both -R and +R discs.
In checking for errors, I had none. C1 and C2 errors just didn't exist. The Plextor also had wonderful CD ripping quality and speed. As far as burning anything goes, the Plextor drive is about the best I've ever seen.
The one downside, and there is one, is in mounting a disc. The Plextor is a bit of a dog mounting a DVD, taking upwards of 40 seconds to actually have a disc available for you to play with. It ejects quickly, but it just is a little pokey in actually firing up the disc. It wasn't a huge deal at all, but a little surprising. When you have a dual core 2 rig and 4GB's of RAM, you aren't used to waiting for much of anything.
Little of This, Little of That:
I've seen a ton of drives in my day. And I've hated most of them for one reason or another. Loud. Lacking power buttons. Lacking this port or that port, lacking access, lacking proper cooling, you name it. I've seen a lot of dead drives, too, due entirely to bad engineering. I've been using the Plextor exclusively for the last month, even over my internal drives, because it's just better. It's not flashy looking, but it's full of function, it's quiet, it's fast, and most importantly, it allows for options without sacrificing quality. It is a little more expensive than I would like, though external drives are just more expensive in general. It is a little slow to mount a full DVD at times. But those are small things, really, and the PX755UF has really impressed the heck out of me in how quickly it burns, the quality of the burns (and of the drive itself) and how it just works the way it should. Close enough to perfect, the Plextor earns the Got|Apex Award.
- Fast, yet quiet
- Multiple ports for easy connectivity
- Easy Access to internals
- Solid construction
- a little expensive
- slow to mount DVDs
Score: 9 out of 10.
Note: For those that might wonder, I have a limitation of 8 images in a review, hence the lack of some screens. Also, I cannot for the life of me find my copy of the GotApex Redline Award. Which I couldn't post up anyway. But if I could, it would be there. Honest.