The Plextor 6PleX CD-ROM Drive

A FAAAST SCSI CD-ROM drive you can use with your Amiga


Introduction

Computer users' storage needs are always changing, easily described by the single operative word "more." "More, more more more."

So this is probably part of the reason why CD-ROM drives have been such a hit over the last few years. They provide users with 600-odd megabytes of storage per disc (and began doing so before hard disks of that size were priced anywhere near sub-astronomically), with the only drawback being that they are read-only. Of course, now that's changing, too. They have been particularly great for times when developers feel like squeezing a whole load of data onto a single volume, and the result has been very multimedia-ish games (probably why "CD-ROM" became synonymous with "Multimedia"), and to some extent, dare I say it, some really big operating systems that now come optionally on CD (not that they wouldn't have grown exponentially without that option). And this brings us up to today, when the fastest currently widely-available drives are 8 times standard CD speed, and that may even change by the time you read this.

Of course, whenever a big innovation takes the market by storm, Amiga users are quick to ask "Yeah, but can *I* use it?," and they aren't altogether unaccustomed to getting "No." as an answer (not that this is necessarily true as it is, considering the question of the Amiga's aptitude for texture-mapping from a few years back). But in the case of CD-ROM drives, once again thank the 3rd-party developers for bringing yet another product to the Amiga. Programs such as AsimCDFS made it possible to use these optical wonders, as their popularity increased, and then, lo and behold, functional support for them was actually built into the latest version of the Amiga's operating system.

"Hello, yes, what do you carry in the way of CD-ROM drives?"

I had been thinking about getting a CD-ROM drive for some time, so one day a little ways back I called Software Hut and went for the big 6X-monger 6-PleX. It wasn't cheap by any means, selling for somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 dollars, but it seemed like the right choice. Unfortunately, the first one I received refused to eject the disc ("No, that's MY disc!") on most occasions, and then the front panel went completely dead. Software Hut graciously replaced the faulty unit with another one that, for all intents and purposes, was perfect.

Installation

Days like these I'm GLAD to own an Amiga! Setting up the drive was easy as can be. I plugged it into the SCSI port on the back of the A530 turbo, and it ran. The only delay was caused by the need to run to a local electronics store to pick up a unit-to-unit SCSI cable, because my EZ135 Drive was shouting something about "Hey, I want in too!" Er, well, you get the idea. SCSI drives generally don't include those cables because it is assumed you are buying your first SCSI device.

I ordered AsimCDFS with the drive, but thought that first I'd like to see it just plain work, so I set about configuring the Amiga OS 3.1 built-in CD0: DOSDriver. After "duh, why won't this work?" was quickly replaced by "oh, change the device tooltype to 'gvpscsi,' dummy," (no, this is for your benefit, I don't REALLY talk to myself while using the computer, hehe...) well, it worked! I popped my one CD-ROM (it PAYS to subscribe to Amiga Computing!) into the cartridge (not only is this good for protecting your CD's, but it also prevents you from assuming your drive's CD tray is a cupholder, if you're so inclined).

Test Results

The test machine, incidentally, was an A500 with GVP A530 Turbo (40Mhz 68EC030, 16-bit SCSI interface). Yep, pretty nice.

Not having used CD-ROM drives before, I wasn't exactly sure how to go about rating the drive's overall performance in a relative sense, but I can tell you that it almost kept up with the internal hard disk and EZ135 drive. SysInfo reports (hold on a second while I go find out...okay, I'm back) 916,587 bytes per second. Close to a megabyte. Very nice! The drive's technical specs say that it should manage about 900KB/sec, so we're right in range. Plus other various specifications say the following: "1/3 Stroke: 175ms; Random Access: 145ms; Random Seek: 115ms."

The package includes: the drive, a CD cartridge, software (forget that, Amigans), SCSI cable, documentation, warranty registration card, and some styrofoam (?). The docs do a good job of helping you with basic installation and operation; and the box says it's compatible with a list of just about every platform BUT AmigaDOS, but don't worry about that.

Besides using CD's, I find that this drive is nice for listening to music, of course; and I would like to report on some of the more advanced features of AsimCDFS, like CDTV and CD32 emulation, as they relate to this particular drive, but I have no such discs at this time. Sorry.

In terms of external controls, the drive has a headphone jack, volume control, play button, eject button, and emergency eject (punch out!) port. It also has separate audio-out RCA jacks on the back.

Well, that just about does it for this review, so let's summarize:

Plextor 6PleX

A Six Speed SCSI CD-ROM Drive, ~$300

Plextor

info@plextor.com
http://www.plextor.com
ATTRIBUTES
PERCENTAGE
COMMENT
Installation:95%nice and easy; plug & play
Ease of use:94%the drive itself is easy, and AsimCDFS helps on the software side
Compatibility:87%fine hardware-wise, but of course there's no Amiga software support
Performance:95%not the fastest CD-ROM, but very good nonetheless
Features:98%just about everything you'll need for everyday use
Interaction with company:N/AN/A
Overall Score:
93.8
A very fast CD-ROM drive, versatile, and easy to use, all from a quality brand name. Price is a bit steep, but is probably going down.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Amiga, SCSI Interface, AmigaDOS 3.1 or a CD filesystem like AsimCDFS
(Required)
AsimCDFS, decent sound system, AGA or GFX card (for full multimedia effect with graphics), 32-bit Amiga (if you want to channel audio CD data through the Amiga's sound hardware)
(Recommended)
-By Michael Webb
Write to him at email address 103165.3700@compuserve.com