Plextor – PX-320A DVD/CD-RW combo drive review

combined DVD player and CD rewriter
Photo of Plextor – PX-320A DVD/CD-RW combo drive
£99 + VAT

Belgium is rather better known for its chocolate than for its IT industry, which is a little unfair on optical drive company Plextor. Over the years Plextor has produced IDE and SCSI CD-ROM, CD-RW and DVD-ROM drives, and now it has a combo drive too.

The PX-320A is an internal IDE drive rated at 20x CD-R (writing), 10x CD-RW (rewriting), 40x CD-ROM (reading) and 12x DVD-ROM (for playing movies, etc.). Of course, these days you can buy a CD-RW drive rated at 48x CD-R or even 52x, so the speed of the PX-320A isn’t massively impressive in this day and age in absolute terms.

Where the combo drive wins is by giving you the convenience of just one optical drive, yet it is fast enough to make CD writing quick and easy. The PX-320A will write a full CD-R in 7 minutes or so, and you won’t have any problems finding blank media that will work correctly. If only that were so for 40x media.

We aren’t too impressed by the price of this drive, as comparable products from Toshiba and Samsung are in the region of £70-75, but it is certainly a quality piece of hardware and Plextor is so sure of the quality that it offers a two year collect and return warranty.

In the box Plextor supplies the usual fixing screws, an IDE cable, an audio cable, one blank CD-R, a blank CD-RW and a copy of Nero Burning ROM. That’s all much as you would expect for a retail drive.

It so happens that we find Nero is the best CD writing software. Of course that’s because we prefer its interface and not because it is so good at backing up CDs that have copy protection. Cough.

The drive itself is rather more than a dumb IDE unit with 2MB of data cache. Plextor has used the Sanyo BURN-Proof technology that prevents a CD getting scrapped because the buffer runs out of data. The writing process simply stops and then restarts when it can. To make life even easier, Plextor has used its PoweRec technology to automatically evaluate the CD media you use, and if it detects it is low quality the writing process is slowed down.

This may sound surprising, but even the tray of the drive has a feature. The inside of the tray is black to absorb any laser light that may otherwise get reflected and possibly corrupt the media.

Company: Plextor

Contact: +32 2 725 55 22


Verdict
This is high quality internal IDE combo drive that does everything we could ask; DVD and CD playback, CD writing and rewriting. Our one reservation is the price, as you could afford separate DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives for about the same amount. That would allow you to copy directly from the DVD-ROM to the CD writer (rather than doing it via a hard disk image), which would speed up the process enormously. But for applications where only one drive bay is available, this is one of the best combo drives around.