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ULTRAPLEX 40max Benefits

Maximum of 40X and minimum of 17X speed data transfer. Almost 3 times more data throughput than typical sixteen speed drives. User will experience an average drive rating of over 27X.* Support for Ultra SCSI burst rates of 20MB/sec. result in faster completion of computing tasks and less drag on the host CPU. Ultra SCSI speeds up the entire computer system especially when used with other SCSI devices. Fast access times, combined with Ultra SCSI burst transfer rates, speed up multitasking operating systems such as Windows NT and Windows 95. Database searches also run faster. Optimized management of 512KB buffer results in use of less CPU resources - under 20% utilization - for increased system efficiency and improved audio/video playback. In combination with fast data access speeds, even demanding games work in real time directly from the ULTRAPLEX 40max. No need for full install of data on your hard disk, saving precious space.

Front panel and software controls for easy playback of your favorite music CDs. Flash Firmware. Allows installation of new firmware without opening the drive. Easily upgrade to support the latest technology without having to purchase the next generation drive. Easy installation and upgrade with SCAM (SCSI Configured Auto Magically) - SCSI IDs are auto-selected and termination can be auto-configured. Especially beneficial for first time install and sharing of external drives on several machines, SCAM is true plug and play.** Warranty - Full two years: parts, labor, or replacement. More Reliability - Solid construction and advanced components place the ULTRAPLEX 40max a cut above the rest. Auto balancing spindle motors with two bearings on cushioned suspension ensure minimal disc vibration and years of dependable service. Plextor users can better read unbalanced or poorly manufactured CDs. More Compatibility - All major operating systems including Windows 95, Windows NT; reads all major formats, including CD-Extra (CD-Plus), Multi-session, Enhanced CD; reads all recordable formats - CD-R (CD-Recordable) media, CD-R/W (CD-Re-Writable) and applicable standards such as CD-UDF packet writing standards. The result is worry-free installation and playback. *Verified by CD-TACH Benchmark Drive Rating Score which measures CAV transfer rates relative to standard CLV transfer rates. **Requires SCAM (SCSI Configured Auto Magically) capable SCSI interface board available in special ULTRAPLEX 40max max kits.

Plextor ManagerTM 32-bit software utilities offer unique features, including Digital Audio Extraction at high speed. Create .WAV files from CD-Audio discs. Or use Plextor's new AudioFS to view and browse CD-Audio discs as .WAV files automatically. You can drag and drop these .WAV files to other applications and the extraction occurs automatically. Even send digital audio directly to USB speakers. In addition, Plextor Manager offers DiscDupeTM which gives you the power to use the UltraPleX as a source to duplicate CDs directly to a PlexWriterTM CD-R with "bit-by-bit" accuracy using Disc-at-Once method - no expensive software add-ons needed. Other valuable utilities include CD/AV player and complete audio CD control; and DiscInfoTM, which reports the disc format, file type, tracks and number of sessions.


Possibly, this will be the last time I'll post ALL of the respective manufacturer's specs. I think a link to their site would do. If you want the above section to be removed in future reviews, let Me know.

Something should be said about the incredibly extensive description and specifications that Plextor provides. If you still need more info after reading them, you're either an engineer or nut case. And I read data books from companies like Burr Brown and Motorola! I don't need anything more. Kudos to Plextor for the most informative, user friendly descriptions I've ever seen.

The Gooooood Stuff...

When I pay a Mercedes price, I, well, want a Mercedes quality product and the Plextor Combo does not disappoint in the least. Excepting external CD-R/CD-ROM units, these are the heaviest and best constructed products to date. Of course, pure weight does not, by itself indicate an excellent product but in Plextor's case, it sure helps.

Most CD-R's have flashable BIOS's and the 820T stays in step; however, the 40X Max CD-ROM also has a flashable BIOS. A much rarer quality and one that is much appreciated. BIOS flashing can cure many problems stemming from dirty or scratched CD's. These are products that can, over a limited time, grow with you. Instead of throwing them out, and you'd cry because of the mullah you paid for them, merely flashing them up to the newest BIOS can extend the useable lifetime probably for a few years. Try that with a CPU.

The Combo I received from Buy.Com included a software bundle, 8X CD-R, and the 40X Max CD-ROM. No SCSI-2 card or audio cables; you're on your own for those items. But not to worry! The myriad of choices is confusing, but in the end I opted for a hot little dude that hails by the name of TEKRAM. The DC-315U to be precise. A nifty SCSI-2 (8-bit) PCI card that comes with a 2 device cable and weighs in at about 35 smackers. It is not a bootable card due to the absence of a BIOS, but a few mods to the Win98 bootdisk and viola! Bootable DC-315U! If anyone requires this "special" bootdisk, email me and I'll upload it to you.

Audio cables must be a mystery, why else does hardly anyone include these gems in the box? They can't possibly cost the manufacturer more than 25 cents to make and I haven't seen any designer (read: high end) cables available in the local outlets. Must be a conspiracy. Ten bucks a whack is stupid. I get 'em bulk for $2.99 and I STILL think that's a crime. Now that my mini rant is over, grab two sets, you'll need them.

How Do They Work?

In a few words, very well, thank you. I've tried Manager 2000 (Plextor's own mini-software), Adaptec's EZ CD Creator 3.5 and 4.0 with no troubles at all. I even tried Feurio's overburning tests and the results with TDK 8X media was fantastic! I could squeeze another 3+ minutes on a 74 minute disc without any additional errors. The Plextor Manager 2000 software is cool because you can now drag and drop CDA (CD Audio) files from any disc onto your desktop and the conversion process takes place automatically. Another advantage of PM 2000 is that copy coded or hard to read discs usually burn with no problems--they may not burn at 8X, but they'll burn nevertheless.

Tests: When Is 40X Like 50X?

Last month, I reviewed several plain-Jane CD-ROMs and gave eye- opening speed results. "X" did NOT mark the speed of most drives. Both the 820 and 40X units actually OUTPERFORMED most other drives of similar and higher ratings.

The 40X max is of particular interest. Rated as an 8000 rpm drive, 40X or 6MB/s is a little low considering the spindle speed. I suppose that this contributes to an overall data transfer rate of 31X (4.65MB/s). With badly damaged or dirty discs, rather than read any number of errors, the drive initiates a "speed down" mode where it slows to a consistent 24X rate. Why is this good? The speed down of most other drives I've tested squashes the transfer rate to as low as 4X (but mostly 8X)! YUCK! Periodically, this phenomenon occurs seemingly randomly, even when using discs in perfect condition. I suppose you could call it the "I don't like you transfer rate," or IDLYTR for short.

The audio transfer rate is a two parter. With a neat, but very unpublicized utility from Plextor called Speed Down Disable v1.00, you can remove the IDLYTR property from any audio CD. Suddenly, this 40X rated unit has a maximum peak rip of 41X and an average rip of 32X using full 74 minute discs. That 74 minute disc can be completely converted to .wav's on a hard drive in less than 140 seconds! This audio ripping speed is only available when Speed Down Disable is activated. For some odd reason, I can't get it to work with data CDs--the computer literally STOPS when I try, so use at your own risk!

What a CD-R...with a huge 4MB buffer, the 820T has a hard time burning coasters unless you're a real moron. My test setup, a P2 233 overclocked to 266 on an Intel MB never strained during my 1/2 dozen or so burns. Some of this may be attributed to the SCSI nature of relieving the processor of certain operations, but the Plextor's buffer makes a big difference. At 8X (1.2MB/s) 4MB of "idiotproofness" will last a little over 3 seconds. After that, your CD had better be the correct color for the coffee table because that's where it's going. Even with that giant buffer, don't do anything else while burning! Simply hitting the start button can whack the CPU utilization to 100% for a few seconds and drain your precious buffer to zero.

The 820 could read audio and data discs at exactly the same rates. Averaging 16X for audio and 16X for data seems boring but remember, this is only a 20X drive. Speed Down Disable is not needed for the 820 because it never, and I mean never, had a problem with any CD I threw at it. Why can't manufacturers take those kind of laser heads and stuff 'em into all the readers? Somebody enlighten me.

I've already flashed my 820T twice. Once from v1.03 to 1.05 and then from 1.05 to 1.06. Notable is the flashing program, it works IN Windows. The Panasonic unit I had previously needed a clean DOS boot before flashing. Very convenient!

Finally, Ending Remarks (Or Jeez, Won't Bill Ever Shut Up!)

Not being a SCSI fan, I was slightly apprehensive about nabbing this combo, but after the power came on, all fears promptly left. If you've got an extra PCI slot, grab this combo. The Tekram DC-315U even shares IRQ 11 with the video card. I've just heard that the Plextor 8 writer is no longer King-Of-the-Hill, Smart And Friendly has just released a 12X unit, one of their CD Rocket series I think. Mmmmmm, I wonder when a 16X writer will be coming from Plextor, 9 minutes is starting to look like an awfully long time to burn a CD.

William Yaple
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