Pondering Our Optical Options

Katherine Stevenson

Maximum PC regulars surely noticed the Plextor PX-716A DVD burner’s unprecedented tenure on our “Best of the Best” list—nearly two years! Shoot, that’s longer than some employees have been with us. As a matter of fact, employee turnover is one reason for the burner’s record reign. The optical beat has been shuffled around a few times (ultimately landing with me), and that combined with little movement in the DVD burner space has made it all too easy to stick with a sure thing. Not to mention the fact that we, like most of you probably, have been expecting the HD optical market to take off, offering options and prices that will spur us into the next generation.

But while we’ve been biding our time, the PX-716A has become increasingly harder to find—it’s been tagged “End of Life” on Plextor’s website and is bound to get scarcer at other outlets. This is why in our February 2007 issue we changed our “Best of the Best” pick to Plextor’s PX-755SA.

It’s got comparable specs to the PX-716A, save the memory buffer, which doesn’t concern us. A 2MB buffer (compared with the 716A’s 8MB) is plenty sufficient given the buffer-underrun protection built into modern optical drives. More to the point, the 755SA has the advantage of being a SATA drive—a rare thing indeed—and we just feel like SATA is a safer bet. Who knows how long mobos will feature parallel ports? Recall, that Intel left parallel support off the 965 chipset, leaving mobo vendors to add it themselves.

In fact, it might be time to revisit the pool of plain-old DVD burners, with an eye toward the few sporting a SATA interface. With format wars, astronomical pricing, and interminable burn times plaguing the current crop of HD options, we could be ready for our next optical upgrade before HD even seems worthwhile.

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