img_3303-lanoc-reviews-lanoc-reviews-smallIn the Disc drive industry it's really hard to stand out. Most people just pick the cheapest drive with the specs that they are looking for. This may work for some people but anyone who has lived with the cheap drives should know that they can sometimes be noisy and unreliable. One company that has made a reputation of quality in the disc drive market over many years is Plextor. I've seen people throw down two and sometimes three times the price of a cheap drive just to be able to have a Plextor drive. The reason for this is all about quality and noise, for those same reasons I was excited to hear that I was going to be able to check out their new PX-B310SA BD Combo Super Multi Drive. My excitement doubled when I realized I would be able to watch The Dark Knight and other Blu Ray movies in 1080p on our 52-inch television.  So today I'm going to find out if the PX-B310SA is a quality drive that's quite enough to include in your HTPC without sounding like a weed eater running.

Review Sample Provided by: Plextor

Review by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

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Specifications

Minimum System Requirements
CPUPentium 4 1.3 GHz or equivalent (minimum)
RAM128MB, 512 MB Windows Vista Basic
HDD1 GB free space for copying CD to CD image 5GB to 9GB free space for DVD authoring
InterfaceUSB 2.0
Resolution1024 X 768 at 16-bit color
OS SupportWindows XP/Vista
Disc
Useable BD FormatsBD-ROM ver2.0, UDF2.5, Ver1.0 and ver2.0, UDF2.5, BD-RE ver2.0 and ver3.0, UDF2.5, BD-hybrid (only BD part), BD-9
Useable DVD FormatsDVD-RAM, DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, Multi-border, Multi-session
Useable CD FormatsCD-DA, CD-Extra, CD-ROM Mode-1, CD-ROM Mode-2, CD-ROM XA, CD-Extra,  Photo-CD, Video-CD, Multi-session, CDTEXT, CD-I (FMV)
Disc Diameter12cm, 8cm
Recording CD ModesTrack-at-Once, Disc-at-Once, Packet Write (variable and fixed), Session-at-Once
Recording DVD+R DV, DVD+R/RW Mode(s)DVD+R: Incremental Recording DVD+RW: Random Access Recording DVD+R DL: Incremental Recording
Recording DVD-R DL, DVD-R/RW Mode(s)DVD-R: Disc-at-Once, Incremental Recording DVD-RW: Disc-at-Once, Restricted Overwrite, Incremental Recording Record, Sequential Record DVD-R DL: Disc-at-Once, Incremental Recording, Layer Jump Recording
Recording DVD-RAM ModesRandom Access Write
Recommended Media (all DVD-RW and CD-RW media is rewritable up to 1,00 times)
DVD+R (4.7 GB)Taiyo Yuden, Mitsubishi/Verbatim
DVD+RWRicoh, Mitsubishi/Verbatim
DVD+R DL (8.5 GB)Mitsubishi/Verbatim
DVD-RTaiyo Yuden, Mitsubishi/Verbatim
DVD-RWJVC, Mitsubishi/Verbatim
DVD-R DL (8.5 GB)Mitsubishi/Verbatim
DVD-RAMPanasonic, Maxell
CD-RMitsubishi/Verbatim
CD-RWMitsubishi/Verbatim
Front Panel
EjectAuto Eject/Manual Emergency
LightsPower on/ Disc Busy Indicator
Disc LoadingAuto load/Manual load
Rear Panel
Power Connector15-pin SATA
SATA Cable Connector7-pin SATA
Dimensions & Weight
Dimensions (W/H/D)5.75in x 1.63in x 7.28in 146mm x 41.3mm x 185mm
Weight1.76lbs 800g

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Packaging

Plextor packed the PX-B310SA into a fairly standard white box. On the front, there is a large picture of the drive itself along with all of the information you need to know in large letters. The BD-ROM speed and DVD+R speed's are hard to miss. On the side of the box, there is a listing of all included software and full descriptions to give you a good idea of what each does. On the back of the box, everything is kept simple with a full specification list taking up almost all of the space. You will also find another picture of the drive itself and a list of Minimum System Requirements. Inside the box, the drive is protected with plastic foam on both ends. You will also find the manual, drive screws, SATA cable, and software inside a bag tucked in with the drive. Overall, the packaging is very standard for a disc drive, but Plextor gives you all of the information necessary to make a decision on the product along.

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Installation

There really isn't a whole lot to installing the PX-B310SA, the installation is just like any other disc drive. The only exception would be after everything is installed Plextor includes a full suite of software to help you watch BluRay Movies, Authoring and burning, data archiving, slideshow creation, video editing, photo retouching, music ripping, and label printing. This suite is one of the ways Plextor is sure to stand out of the crowd and justify the added cost.

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Performance

Aside from a few speed tests my biggest concern with the PX-B310SA was with noise output while in use. There isn't anything worse than putting in a movie and being able to hear the player the whole time you watch the movie. During testing I used the drive to burn both CD's and DVD's, I also watched both DVD movies and Blu Ray Movies. During all of my testing noise on the disc drive was never loud enough to be an issue, infact even at its worse noise levels it was no louder than a normal 120mm fan at full speed. This was in the shuttle case that I tested recently, if put in a case with a thicker metal you may not hear it at all. The included software pack was well above what some of the competitors supply. Not everyone will put each program to use, but I doubt that anyone will need anything else. I specifically was very happy to see Cyberlink's BD Suite included for High Definition playback, without it you can't playback Blu Ray movies.

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Performance (taken from Plextor test results)
Data Transfer RateCAV, PCAV, CLV, ZCLV
Maximum Read Speed BD6X27.5MB/sec (read)
Maximum Read/Write Speed DVD16X22 MB/sec
12X16.6 MB/sec
8X11.0 MB/sec
6X8.20 MB/sec
5X6.9 MB/sec
4X5.5 MB/sec (write)
2.4X3.3 MB/sec (write)
2X2.7 MB/sec
Maximum Read/Write Speed CD48X7.2 MB/sec
40X6.0 MB/sec
32X4.8 MB/sec
24X3.6 MB/sec
16X2.4 MB/sec
10X1.5 MB/sec
8X1.2 MB/sec
4X600 KB/sec
Burst Read/Write150 MB/sec
Typical DVD Random Access<250 ms (random typical) <350 ms (full typical)
Typical CD Random Access<150 ms (random typical) <250 ms (full typical)
Typical DVD Random Access<150 ms (random typical) <250 ms (full typical)
Typical DVD-RAM Random Access<200 ms (random typical) <300 ms (full typical)

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Overall

One of the big uses for the Plextor PX-B310SA is going to be in HTPC's, for under 180 bucks you can turn your old pc into a full high definition media center. Plextor is known for quality products and the PX-B310SA is no exception. I found that short of the now defunct HD-DVD format this drive will play it all. On top of that it is also a 16x DVD burner if you have the need to backup anything. I would have like to of seen the DVD burning be a little faster, you can now find basic DVD burners up to 22x. But considering the addition of BluRay playback I'm not really to upset about that.  Some disc drives can be extremely noisy when in use, but the PX-B310SA kept things to a minimum. If you are looking for a single disc drive for your HTPC or your PC I would recommend taking a look at the PX-B310SA. Of course the only major downside to this drive is the cost, at just under $180 its almost twice as much as some of the cheaper BluRay disc drives. However, if sound is very important to you, or you want the best quality the Plextor PX-B310SA is your drive.

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