Plextor 40/12/40U USB 2.0 CD-RW Drive
By Joel Shore
don’t have much patience anymore. Just a few years ago, you couldn’t
burn your own CDs if you had a million dollars. Today, we don’t like
it if it takes more than five minutes.
Plextor to the rescue.
The 40/12/40U USB CD-RW drive is amazingly fast—if your computer is up
to the task. More about that in a minute.
You never heard of Plextor? Not to worry. The company has been around
for years, supplying CD drives direct to PC makers. But it’s only
within the last couple of years that the company decided to make a
splash in the retail market. So now you know.
Ok, let’s explain those numbers, 40/12/40. They indicate CD write speed, CD-RW
rewrite speed, and read speed. Ok, now we’ll explain that. . .
First-generation CD drives operated at a particular speed, whatever
that was. The actual speed isn’t important. But, the 40 (the first
one) in the Plextor’s model number means that this drive burns CDs 40
times faster than one of those antique first-generation units. Do you
really care? Nah. As long as it’s fast.
CD write. As we just said, the Plextor burns (writes) a
CD-Recordable disc (CD-R) at 40X speed. Remember, CD-R discs can be
written to only once.
CD-RW rewrite. A CD-Rewritable disc (CD-RW) can be written,
erased, and rewritten to over and over. That’s why blank CD-RW discs
cost more than CD-R discs. The Plextor does this 12 times faster (12X)
than older units. Why not 40X? Mainly because erase/rewrite is a much
more complex operation than just writing—just as
it would be if you were erasing and rewriting with a pencil on paper.
CD read. Sure, you’ve figured it out by now. The Plextor drive
reads discs at a 40X speed factor.
The “U” simply
indicates that this drive uses a USB connection. But you knew that.
This particular model is an external drive meant to sit beside your PC
or Macintosh. It has two cables. The first is the standard power cord.
The second is the USB cable that you use to connect the drive to your
computer. Plextor also offers this same drive in an internal-mount
configuration with an ATAPI connection instead of USB.
It’s all about USB 2.0. Ok, this is really important: The drive
records and reads at those previously mentioned blazing speeds only if
your computer is brought up to USB
2.0 compliance. Introduced in mid-2001, USB 2.0 offers raw data
speeds that are 40 times faster than the USB 1.1 ports which your
computer undoubtedly has.
Unfortunately, your computer isn’t labeled. But connect the Plextor
drive and Windows will give you a pop-up message telling you that
you’re attempting to connect a high-speed device to a low-speed port.
Not to worry, the drive will work fine, but it will run at USB 1.1
speeds—no faster as that old drive you’re probably replacing.
With a USB 1.1 controller you can expect results more on the order of
4/4/6 instead of 40/12/40.
There’s only one solution, and that’s to
upgrade your computer to USB 2.0. And if you’re in the market for
a new computer, confirm that its USB ports comply with the USB 2.0
standard. (One way to do that is to check for the very
“Hi-Speed” USB logo.)
We had previously upgraded our PC (read our
review of Belkin’s upgrade kit), so we knew that everything was
running Hi-Speed USB 2.0.
The Dave Matthews Test. There’s only one way to test a CD-RW,
and that’s to burn some CDs. The Dave Matthews Band happened to be
sitting on top of the pile. We had two identical PCs, one running USB
1.1 and the other upgraded to USB 2.0.
Test one: We put the CD in the Plextor drive and copied it to each
computer’s hard drive. That was a test of read speed.
Test two: We put a blank CD-R disc in the Plextor drive and burned a
CD from the copy of the album we had just saved to the hard drive.
That tested write speed.
Test three: We did the same writing test, but with two identical
rewritable CD-RW discs to which we had previously saved some files.
This was a test of adding to a disc instead of writing to a clean,
unused disc—the rewrite test.
The results were amazing.
On average, the Plextor did
everything roughly five times faster on the USB 2.0 PC than on the one
running the older, slower USB 1.1. Burning the CD, took a
little less than two minutes, compared to about 7. The CD-RW and read
tests yielded similar results. Oh, and being good law-abiding
citizens, we destroyed the discs we made, lest the
copyright cops swoop down and haul us away. Right.
No doubt about it, the Plextor lived up to its billing. It was
We liked the Plextor 40/12/40U external USB CD-RW drive, and you will,
too. But remember, you get the speed advantages this drive
offers after you upgrade your computer to USB
2.0. Go for the upgrade.<