Product Reviews

Product Reviews

In Brief

Blazingly fast drive makes short work of recording CD-R and CD-RW discs. And it runs without installing any software, thanks to driver installed automatically by Windows and Mac OS. But you get the benefits of all this speed only if your computer is upgraded with a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 controller.



Fremont, Calif.


Plextor isn’t alone making CD-RW drives. Check out LaCie, Sony, Teac, Toshiba, and Yamaha.

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Reference Guide is your authority for expert reviews of USB products. Check out the current list:

Epson C80 inkjet printer

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Corex CardScan 600c business card scanner

U.are.U fingerprint PC security device

Dymo LabelWriter 330 Turbo label printer

Logitech Freedom Cordless Keyboard & mouse

Mimio whiteboard recorder

Plextor 40/12/40 USB 2.0 CD-RW Drive

Y-E Data 6-in-1 memory card reader

Keyspan USB 1.1 mini-hub

Learn about USB 2.0

USB 2.0 features a data-transfer rate that is 40 times faster than USB 1.1. But that doesn’t mean your USB 2.0 devices will run 40 times faster. Visit the official USB site and learn what Hi-Speed USB is, how it works, and its advantages compared with USB 1.1.


desktop hardware

Plextor 40/12/40U USB 2.0 CD-RW Drive


By Joel Shore

August 6, 2002

We 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 fastif 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 speedsno 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 patriotic-looking, red-white-and-blue 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 astonishingly fast.

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.<

Yeas & Nays


4Fast, fast, fast

4Plug it in and go


4Computer must be upgraded to USB 2.0

4No included applications software for Macintosh

4Doesn’t read DVD


Did you ever try to make a CD and wind up with a useless disc? That happens when the drive tries to write to the disc but there’s no data available (usually because your PC was busy doing something else). The techno-geeks call it buffer underrun. Plextor and Sanyo called it bad news. They teamed up and came with an answer. BURN-Proof technology prevents underrun. That means no more ruined discs. We tried it. We liked it. And you don’t have to do a thing.

What’s in Your PC?

You must have a USB 2.0 controller in your PC in order for the Plextor drive to run at full speed. If your PC is equipped with USB 1.1and it probably isthen you’ll need to upgrade your PC to Hi-Speed USB 2.0. Here’s how to do it.

Copyright Law

We all make copies of our favorite audio  and software CDs. Be sure you understand what’s legal, and what isn’t.

Recoding Industry Association of America

Legal Information Institute

U.S. Copyright Office

Software Piracy and the Law from the Business Software Alliance (BSA)

BSA software antipiracy quiz


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