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It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the Plextor PX-716A was the most anticipated optical drive of the end of the last and the beginning of the current year. I can hardly remember another drive that would have been enwrapped into so many rumors and suppositions even before its official announcement, not mentioning the release into market.

Trivial though it sounds, everything began with the previous, PX-712A model from Plextor. This device was the first to combine a last-generation DVD drive with the functionality of the famous Premium series. Of course, there had been devices you could have evaluated the quality of the written discs with, but the Premium functionality wasn’t limited to this function only (the Q-Check feature is in fact a subset of what Premium can do). And then, though trivial again, Plextor is always Plextor. You want me to clarify? Here you are: Clover Systems uses a drive from Plextor in its CDX product intended to measure the quality of recorded CD media. This manufacturer says that “the CDX is made from a modified Plextor CD-ROM drive. We add circuitry to the drive to capture error rates and the HF signal”. Of course, we shouldn’t compare a calibrated and enhanced device with what you see on the shelves in shops, but this fact is anyway an illustration of what you should expect from Plextor.

If you were not following how the PX-716A model made it into market, here’s a short version of the story. Users’ opinions were divided as to what would be the next drive after the Plextor PX-712A. Some people said the next model would be an OEM contract with one of the leading manufacturers since Plextor just couldn’t keep on updating its product series at the rate this market demanded. At the moment of the release of the PX-712A many developers had already unveiled their dual-layer recorders and announced products capable of writing DVD-ROMs at 16x speed. The customers were quite naturally expecting to see both new features in the new Plextor, and the developer found itself in dire lack of time. The other group of potential customers argued that Plextor wouldn’t mar its reputation by releasing a clone of maybe a good device, but of a device which was not developed by Plextor itself. Today we know who was right.

Although entirely Plextor’s creation, the PX-716A didn’t take off easily. At the moment of its official announcement the leaders of the optical disc drive market had already gone through three generations of dual-layer DVD-recorders and two generations of products capable of writing DVDs at 16x. That said, the users expected to see something extraordinary in the Plextor PX-716A, not just another 16x dual-layer DVD-recorder, especially considering the rather long development cycle. It just had to offer something worthy of the long wait.

Running a little ahead, I must admit that the Plextor PX-716A had already gone through two revisions and three firmware versions by the time of its real availability on the market. The first version of the drive (TLA#0000 with firmware 1.0) couldn’t withstand any criticism as concerns the burn quality. It was evidently far from what had been expected, and even the enhanced functionality (you’ll learn more about it shortly) couldn’t make up for that deficiency. I should acknowledge that the manufacturer immediately took to improving upon the device, releasing revision TLA#0101 and then TLA#0202. It is the latter revision that can bear the Plextor brand without shame. If this improvement had been made before the start of the sales, it would have been all right, but the problem is that version 0000 and version 0101 were actually selling, mostly in the U.S. and Asian markets. What’s the most disgusting thing, it was the true fans of Plextor who didn’t stop even before the high initial price of the new product that were affected then…

So, we’re going to talk about revision TLA#0202 today (revision TLA#0203 is currently available, but you shouldn’t hunt after it since the last two digits denote the firmware version which can be easily updated after the purchase). After this somewhat long introduction we can proceed to examining the device, particularly to learning about one surprise Plextor parceled with the PX-716A.

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