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Maximum PC Staff Nov 10, 2009

Plextor PX-B320SA Combo Drive

At A Glance

Feasting

Respectable DVD writing and ripping times; competitive price for a combo drive.

Fasting

Forgoing BD burns doesn't save you as much as you might expect.

Burn DVDs and watch Blu-ray movies

Blu-ray has yet to prove itself as a sensible storage medium—there are just too many less-costly solutions for backing up data. But just because you’re satisfied with a standard DVD drive for your burning chores, doesn’t mean you should be denied the enjoyment of watching Blu-ray movies on your PC—especially now that large 1920x1080 monitors are so affordable.

Enter Plextor’s PX-B320SA DVD burner/BD-ROM combo. We can’t say it offers the best of both worlds, but it strikes a nice balance. The drive’s DVD speeds aren’t up to the likes of, say, Samung’s SH-S223 performance DVD drive. For example, the Plextor is rated at 16x for DVD+R writes compared with the Samsung’s 22x. In our tests, that amounted to a 5:20 (min:sec) time to fill a single-layer disc vs. 4:46—not such a big deal. With double-layer media, the Plextor took 16:58 vs. the Samsung’s 13:16—yes, over time those minutes can add up.


Plextor adds a bit of splash to its PX-B320SA with a glossy front bezel.

Of course, Samsung’s drive won’t play your Blu-ray movies. In the realm of combo drives, Plextor’s PX-B320SA trumps LG’s GCC-H20L, the combo drive in our Lab test beds. Single-layer DVD+R write times for the two drives were virtually the same, but Plextor’s drive was more than 50 percent faster at writing to dual-layer discs, where the LG drive took 27:27. The Plextor drive also surpassed the LG drive in our DVD ripping test by nearly 50 percent, taking just 10:47 to copy a dual-layer movie disc to our hard drive, versus the LG’s 15:17.

Now, LG has since replaced the GCC-H20L with the GBC-H20L, which lacks the former’s support for also reading HD DVD discs (for obvious reasons) but otherwise boasts the same specs. We can’t say for certain that that drive performs the same as its GCC predecessor, but even so, we’re inclined to favor the Plextor PX-B320SA. After all, at $230, the LG GBC-H20L is a mere $20 less than our favorite full-fledged BD burner (Pioneer’s BDR-2203).

Even if you don’t have any interest in that functionality, it would be tough to turn down the added value for such a measly savings. At $180, Plextor’s drive at least saves you $70—money you could actually do something with.

Benchmarks

Plextor PX-B320SA LG GGC-H20L
DVD+R Write Speed Average
11.99x 12.09x
DVD+R Read Speed Average
12.07x
9.24x
Access Time (Random/Full) 111/210ms
100/178ms
DVD+DL Write Speed Average
6.86x
3.95x
DVD Ripping
10:4 15:17
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a Windows XP SP3 machine using a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard, one EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS card, a Western Digital 500GB Caviar hard drive, and a PC Power and Cooling Turbo Cool PSU. All tests were conducted using Verbatim media and Nero DiscSpeed, except the ripping test, wherein we time how long it takes to copy the contents of a dual-layer DVD to a VelociRaptor hard drive.
THE VERDICT

Plextor PX-B320SA Combo Drive

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