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Plextor PlexWriter PX-504UF Review

Highs

  • Solid performance
  • supports both USB 2.0 and FireWire

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 7

Lows

  • Loud internal fan
  • high CPU usage
Plextor has included a robust feature set with plenty of extras in the form of software and recordable media.

Summary

The PlexWriter PX-504UF is a great drive. Plextor has included a robust feature set with plenty off extras in the form of software and recordable media. Write and read times are solid as is the reliability of burn. The PlexWriter PX-504UF looks nice both when sitting alone and using the drive stand and would look good sitting on your desk. If only the internal fan was not so loud, we would have given the PlexWriter PX-504UF our editor’s choice award. If noise is not a major concern for you and portability is, look no further than the PlexWriter PX-504UF.

Introduction

This past April we had the opportunity to review Plextor’s new PlexWriter PX-504A internal DVD+R drive and today we get a chance to review the external version of this very same drive, called the PlexWriter PX-504UF, featuring both USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces. If you get a chance to read our original PlexWriter PX504A review, you will recall that we were noticeably harsh on Plextor for failing to include any recordable media or an audio cable. This time around however, Plextor has included not only a complete software bundle for both PC and Mac operating systems, but they have also included both CD-R and DVD+R recordable media.

Features and design

Since the PlexWriter PX-504UF is basically the same drive as the internal PX-504A with an updated firmware, the rated drive speeds are nearly identical meaning the PlexWriter PX-504UF supports 4X DVD+R and 2.4X DVD+RW writing speeds as well as 16X CD-R and 10X CD-RW writing speeds. Included with the PlexWriter PX-504UF is Roxio’s Easy CD Creator 5 DVD Edition and Photosuite 5SE, Dantz Retrospect backup software, Roxio’s Toast 5 Lite for Mac OS 9.1 or higher, and Plextor’s very own Plextools. Plextor also made sure to include both USB and FireWire cables, CD-R and DVD-R recordable media and a very detailed instruction manual.

The PlexWriter PX-504UF drive itself features a 2MB internal buffer with Plextor’s very own PowerRec technology to provide a stable burn at high speeds. The front of the PlexWriter PX-504UF features a headphone jack and volume control. Located on the back of the PlexWriter PX-504UF is where you will find both FireWire and USB plugs, a toggle switch and RCA audio outputs so you can play back music to your soundcard or an external amplifier. The PlexWriter PX-504UF records DVD’s using the DVD+R/RW format so if you have DVD-R/RW media you would like to use, you are unfortunately out of luck. Dual DVD+ – /RW drives are becoming more common yet still have a higher price attached to them. If we had to pick between the two formats, we would choose the DVD+R/RW format for increased compatibility with DVD-ROM drives and home DVD players.

PlexWriter PX-504UF using the horizontal stand
PlexWriter PX-504UF using the horizontal stand

The PlexWriter PX-504UF is pleasant to look at and features an elliptical faceplate covered in a thick clear plastic with curved sides which gives a sophisticated look to it. The drive can be mounted horizontally using the included stand and helps to give the PlexWriter PX-504UF a more aesthetic look.

Performance

Read and write times where nearly identical to the Plextor PX-504A internal drive, but trailed slightly in some tests. In our speed burst tests, the PlexWriter PX-504UF reached an incredibly high 1MB which is great and goes to show the potential of the USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces if only CPU usage was lower. We do not recommend multitasking while writing a CD/DVD unless you have 512MB of system memory or higher; this will provide an error free burn. Please click on the performance tab above this review and the link below this review for complete testing results.

For a screenshot of our Ner DVD Speed results, please click here.

PlexWriter PX-504UF write test PlexWriter PX-504UF Seek Times

Longer bars indicate better performance


 

 

System Configurations:

 

Windows XP Pro; AMD Athlon 1700+; Abit AT7 Max 2 motherboard; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; PNY GeforceFX 500 video adapter.

Use and Testing

Installation of the PlexWriter PX-504UF is actually easier than installing an internal drive because there is no need to open your computers case to install it. If you currently have USB 2.0 on your system but no FireWire, there is no reason to run out to the store to purchase a FireWire card. Our testing showed that the CPU usage, write times and transfer rates were nearly identical when comparing the FireWire interface to that of the USB 2.0 interface. The PlexWriter PX-504UF’s manual is very detailed and will give you instructions for installing the drive on both a Windows based PC or a Mac OS 9.0 or above system.

We are happy to say that a lot of the problems we encountered with the PX-504A drive have been fixed in the PlexWriter PX-504UF due no doubt to the upgraded firmware. Our PX-504UF drive had no problems reading any brand of media we threw at it regardless of how old the media was.

If you are unfamiliar with external CD/DVD writers, be forewarned that CPU usage is typically higher than that of an internal drive simply because of the interfaces that are being used. In our tests, the included 2MB buffer filled up quickly and our CPU usage peaked to 33% using both the FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces.

Read and write times where nearly identical to the Plextor PX-504A internal drive, but trailed slightly in some tests. In our speed burst tests, the PlexWriter PX-504UF reached an incredibly high 1MB which is great and goes to show the potential of the USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces if only CPU usage was lower. We do not recommend multitasking while writing a CD/DVD unless you have 512MB of system memory or higher; this will provide an error free burn. Please click on the performance tab above this review or the link below this review for complete testing results.

We were pleased with the performance of the PlexWriter PX-504UF and it certainly looks like Plextor has tried to make this a full featured product; but we are not without our complaints. First of all, the internal fan on the PlexWriter PX-504UF is very loud. In fact while playing a music CD we could still hear the internal fan over the music. Secondly, there are RCA audio jacks on the back of the drive and Plextor suggests that you can hook the PlexWriter PX-504UF up to an external amplifier for CD music playback. While this is a nice little touch, it is fairly useless as CD players are very common and since you need to use the AC adapter for a power source, the PlexWriter PX-504UF certainly is not portable. What would have been very cool and revolutionary would be an S-Video output so you could use the PlexWriter PX-504UF to playback DVD movies similar to the Philips Jack Rabbit external DVD writer.

The FireWire/USB toggle switch on the back of the PlexWriter PX-504UF is pretty old school as well. Most if not all external hard drives and CD/DVD writers we have tested feature auto switching which detects the type of interface you are using, and if you are silly enough to plug both interfaces (USB and FireWire) in at the same time, a default is then triggered.

Conclusion

The PlexWriter PX-504UF is a great drive. Plextor has included a robust feature set with plenty off extras in the form of software and recordable media. Write and read times are solid as is the reliability of burn. The PlexWriter PX-504UF looks nice both when sitting alone or when using the drive stand and would look good sitting on your desk. If only the internal fan was not so loud and CPU usage so high, we would have given the PlexWriter PX-504UF our editor’s choice award. If noise is not a major concern for you and portability is, look no further than the PlexWriter PX-504UF.

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