The 712A offers cutting-edge 12X (Partial CAV) DVD+R writing speed while, at the same time, plays it safe by employing 8X (PCAV) for DVD-R and 4X (CLV) for DVD±RW. The 712A also boasts 48X (CAV) CD-R and 24X (PCAV) CD-RW performance along with near full-throttle reading of prerecorded DVDs at 16X (CAV), DVD±R/RWs at 12X (CAV), prerecorded CD-ROM and CD-Rs at 48X (CAV), and CD-RWs at 40X (CAV). With new downloadable firmware, the drive also reads DVD+R DL.
Official DVD+RW Alliance specifications don't cover 12X writing, so blank discs are not specifically designed or marketed as such. As a result, the 712A writes a limited number of Plextor-qualified 8X discs at 12X speed including those manufactured by Taiyo Yuden, Ricoh, Maxell, and MPO. During testing, Prodisc 8X DVD+R discs (supplied by Compact Disc Media Inc.) also wrote successfully at full 12X speed. The 712A writes to many brands of 4X DVD+R and DVD-R discs at 8X speed—a real boon given the scarcity and expense of big-brand 8X media.
The 712A's PCAV DVD+R recording begins at 6X speed, accelerating to 8X by 800MB and then to 12X by 2.6GB where it remains until the end of the disc. This takes the 712A a mere 6:16 (using Nero CD-DVD Speed 3.0) to record full 4.7GB Prodisc DVD+R media. Still respectable for DVD-R are Taiyo Yuden discs at 7:58 each, JVC DVD-RWs at 14:47, and 14:08 for Verbatim DVD+RWs. A speedy 2:51 to write full MBI CD-R discs is the icing on the cake.
Bundled with the Plextor 712A are Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator 6, PhotoSuite 5 SE, DVDMax Player, Drag-to-Disc, and a wimpy 30-day trial version of Dantz Retrospect. Of more interest to the discriminating buyer, however, is the latest version of Plextor's PlexTools Professional. In addition to handy features such as quick-and-dirty disc copying and creation, read speed control, and drive and disc information, PlexTools unlocks some of the 712A's more powerful features. These include the ability to create password-protected CDs, tweak fundamental writing parameters, and perform some low-level recorded and unrecorded disc quality assessments including C1/C2 (BLER, E22, E32), tracking and focus, and beta and jitter, as well as PI/PO checks. Presentation is cruder than it should be, however, and database capabilities are regrettably absent.
System requirements: 800MHz Pentium 3 (1.6GHz Pentium 4 recommended) running Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP; 128MB RAM (256MB recommended); 10GB free hard drive space; half-height internal ATAPI drive bay.
— Hugh Bennett