Plextor PX-608CU Super Multi Portable Drive Review

Discussion in 'Notebook News and Reviews' started by Jerry Jackson, Feb 12, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

    Reputations:
    3,075
    Messages:
    2,021
    Likes Received:
    34
    Trophy Points:
    66

    by Jerry Jackson

    The ever-growing world of ultraportable laptops brings mobile convenience at the cost of some features. We all want a smaller notebook computer for travel, but sometimes that means we can't have a built-in CD/DVD drive. Plextor comes to the rescue with the PX-608CU external drive. This USB-powered drive eliminates the need to carry another bulky AC adapter ... and might just be the perfect accessory for your new ultraportable laptop.


    USB-powered (bus-powered) external CD/DVD drives and external hard drives have been around for several years now, but most consumers are only now beginning to recognize how valuable these devices are when paired with mobile workstations. Sure, most notebooks have built-in optical drives, but ultra-thin notebooks like the Apple MacBook Air and subnotebooks like the Asus Eee PC or Everex Cloudbook sacrifice the optical drive in order to reduce weight and bulk.

    Old-fashioned external optical drives work fine, but they require a separate AC power adapter ... and no one wants to carry one power adapter for their laptop and a second power adapter for an external drive. USB-powered drives obtain operating voltage via a standard USB cable and make life easier for notebook users. The Plextor PX-608CU is one such drive and it packs some solid features inside a tiny case.

    Specifications:

    • Supported writable media: DVD+R DL, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R DL, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM, CD-R, CD-RW
    • Buffer: 2MB
    • Random Access Time: DVD-ROM<160ms, CD-ROM<150ms
    • Interface: USB 2.0 port
    • DVD writing modes: Multi-session recording, random recording, disc-at-once, multi-border recording, restricted overwrite
    • CD writing modes: track-at-once, dics-at-once, session-at-once, packet write (variable and fixed)
    • DVD formats supported: DVD-RAM, DVD-ROM, DVD-Video
    • CD formats supported: CD-DA, CD-Extra, CD-ROM Mode1, CD-ROM Mode2, CD-ROM XA, Photo-CD, Video-CD, CD Text, Mixed CD.
    • Dimensions (W/H/D): 5.39" x 0.63" x 5.63" (137mm x 16mm x 143mm)
    • Weight: 0.55 lbs (250g) without AC adapter
    • Warranty: One-year parts and labor

    The hardware requirements are modest even for budget ultraportable notebooks like the Asus Eee PC or Everex Cloudbook. You only need a Pentium III 800MHz or faster processor, 250MB of RAM, and 1GB of free space on your hard drive for copying a CD image or 6GB-10GB free space for DVD authoring.

    [​IMG]
    (view large image)

    Build and Design

    The Plextor PX-608CU is remarkably compact compared to most external DVD drives on the market. Measuring just 5.63 inches at its largest dimension this drive is barely larger than a full-sized DVD or CD. The entire body is made of reasonably durable plastic so the weight comes in at just more than a half pound. We didn't have any concern about tossing the drive into a backpack or laptop case, but it's pretty clear the thin plastic lid won't survive being crushed under a dozen text books every day. Resist the urge to stand on the drive and it should last as long as other external drives.

    As mentioned previously, the PX-608CU is a bus-powered drive that works by using one USB cable for power and a second USB cable for data. This setup works quite well and is a great solution for laptop owners who need an external DVD drive. Plextor also includes a standard AC power adapter in case you don't need to travel with the drive and want to leave it plugged in at your desk. In that case you just remove the USB power cable and replace it with the AC power cable.

    [​IMG]
    (view large image)

    We couldn't find much wrong with the overall design of the PX-608CU, but we did run into a couple of minor issues that will be frustrating for laptop users. First, there's no manual on/off switch for the drive. As soon as you plug the drive into your USB port it starts powering up. This isn't a major problem unless you're using your laptop on battery power and don't want the drive using your precious battery life. You can always unplug the drive until you need it, but we would have liked to see a power button.

    Additionally, the manual eject button is located on the bottom of the drive. If the drive is unplugged and you need to remove a DVD or CD that is still inside the drive you have to flip the drive upside down and flip a recessed switch to release the drive lid ... which is now on the bottom since the drive is upside down. This simply wasn't a well thought out idea. The recessed manual eject switch could have been placed on the front, side, or back of the drive.

    In Use

    The major selling point for the Plextor PX-608CU is the compact size and ability to run on USB power. We tested the drive with five different notebooks and experienced some mixed results. The PX-608CU ran perfectly on all five notebooks when we connected both USB cables to two USB ports. However, when we plugged both the data cable and the power cable into a portable USB hub several notebooks had difficulty powering the drive from a single USB port. The Apple MacBook Air was able to power the PX-608CU from a single USB port with a Belkin USB hub (see image below) but the Asus Eee PC and the HP dv2700t couldn't provide enough power from a single USB port.

    Bottom line, some laptops will need to use two USB ports and cannot provide enough power from a single USB port and USB hub.

    [​IMG]
    Using a USB hub won't work with all laptops. (view large image)

    Limitations

    One minor drawback to the Plextor PX-608CU is that the drive doesn't support bitsetting for DVD+R/RW media. For the most part, if you don't know what bitsetting means then you probably don't need to worry about it. That said, bitsetting is used when you have an old DVD player or DVD-ROM drive that doesn't support DVD+R/RW media. If the PX-608CU supported bitsetting then you could create DVD+R/RW media that "fools" old DVD players and DVD-ROM drives into thinking they are DVD-ROM media. Again, this isn't a major issue unless you need to create DVDs that are compatible with old DVD players.


    Conclusion

    Overall, the Plextor PX-608CU Super Multi Drive is a nearly perfect external drive for ultraportable notebook and subnotebook users. If your laptop doesn't have a built-in DVD drive then you'll be hard pressed to find a better external drive than this one.

    However, the PX-608CU still has room for improvement. We would have liked to see a manual on/off button so that you don't have to unplug the drive when you don't need it or are concerned about laptop battery life. Additionally, the manual eject switch needs to be moved so you don't have to flip the drive upside down in order to eject a DVD without power. The lack of bitsetting for DVD+R/RW will be a deal killer for some, but most consumers won't need or care about this missing feature.

    Pros:

    • Attractive, compact design
    • Supports DVD±R/RW/CD-R/RW writing and reading at up to 24x
    • Reads 100 min CD-Rs
    • Reasonable price for a compact external drive
    • USB2.0 bus-powered (see below)

    Cons:

    • No manual on/off button
    • Not-so-great location for manual eject button
    • Some notebooks cannot provide enough power from one USB port
    • No Bitsetting support for DVD+R/RW media
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2015
  2. Greg

    Greg Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    7,857
    Messages:
    16,215
    Likes Received:
    58
    Trophy Points:
    466
    Since USB has lines for both power and data in each cable (two for data, one power, one ground), I'm assuming that the drive uses
    1) One cable just to draw 500mA
    2) One cable for data transfer and draw the remaining required power

    Its a nifty little device, and great for when you don't have a proprietary USB+extra power port like the Dell Latitudes do. Having the ability to use the drive without AC is definitely the biggest advantage of this drive.

    Doesn't the Macbook Air only have one USB port though?
     
  3. ryan stewart

    ryan stewart Notebook Enthusiast

    Reputations:
    5
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
    Yeah the air has a single so there must be some way it runs on 500ma. I think the thinkpad does the same with a 7mm drive so it must be possible.

    This looks pretty good, thinner than the dell solution (although not quite as elegant). I would love for dell to take the 7mm drive that is in my media slice and make it into an external.
     
  4. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

    Reputations:
    3,075
    Messages:
    2,021
    Likes Received:
    34
    Trophy Points:
    66
    Correct, per my review, the PX-608CU uses one USB cable for power and one USB cable for data. The MacBook Air indeed only has one USB port, but when we used the drive plugged into a Belkin USB hub and connected the USB hub to the one port on the MacBook Air it worked fine.

    The problem is that most notebooks don't have enough voltage running to a single USB port to run the PX-608CU from a hub connected to a single USB port. In order to use this drive with most notebooks you have to connect both the data cable and the power cable to two USB ports on the notebook.
     
  5. ryan stewart

    ryan stewart Notebook Enthusiast

    Reputations:
    5
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
    Did you guys try it with a single cable?

    My girlfriends HP needs the two USB cable to run a 2.5" drive but my dell can run it with a single no problem.
     
  6. nxxt

    nxxt Notebook Enthusiast

    Reputations:
    0
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
    To be completely honest, I feel that the con 'some notebooks require both USB-plugs' is actually not a disadvantage of the Plextor drive; it's due to the official USB specification. I'm not at all surprised that the Macbook Air is able to run the drive on one port, since it has a special non-standard USB specification that is designed specifically for higher output (to allow external SuperDrives running on one port).

    Nice review though.
     
  7. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

    Reputations:
    3,075
    Messages:
    2,021
    Likes Received:
    34
    Trophy Points:
    66
    Actually, yes, we did test the drive with just the data cable ... and as expected the drive didn't work unless the USB power cable or the AC power cable was also connected. The data cable isn't wired internally to supply power for the drive.

    Bottom line, you need two cables connected to the drive in order for it to work ... one cable for power and one cable for data. In "some" cases you can use a USB hub and connect both cables to the USB hub and connect the USB hub to a single USB port, but that only worked "reliably" with the MacBook Air and a desktop computer (probably because both of those computers had extra power going to their USB ports).

    I say "reliably" because I was able to read data CDs (very slowly) with the drive connected to a USB hub and connected to a single USB port on my Asus Eee PC. However, it couldn't play music CDs or DVD movies with this setup because the Eee PC couldn't provide enough power over a single USB port.

    In most cases you will need to have two USB ports available on your notebook to use this drive ... which is the way it was designed. If you're lucky enough to have a notebook with a juiced up USB port (like the MacBook Air) then you can connect both cables to a USB hub and then connect the hub to a single USB port.
     
  8. chengdude

    chengdude Notebook Geek

    Reputations:
    89
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    15
    I believe it does support bitsetting on dual layer DVD+R, but not on single layer +R or RW.

    Good overview, but this thing came out in 2006 and could really use a refresh...or at least a firmware upgrade.
     
  9. vize

    vize Notebook Enthusiast

    Reputations:
    0
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
  10. SRD

    SRD Notebook Virtuoso

    Reputations:
    133
    Messages:
    2,089
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    55
    I have that lite on drive from newegg.com. It will read cds fine connected to one usb port and no ac. But if you want to burn cds it will fail unless it is plugged in the wall as well. I also bought this one from ebay .

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...item=270206913949&_trksid=p3984.cWON.m313.lVI

    It cost me like 80 bucks and connects to 2 usb ports and plays cds and burns them fine. It is also smaller than the lite on one from newegg. But the plexter is smaller. For the price difference though i would buy this one again it uses an NEC cd\dvd drive.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page