Slim and stylish
Unlike most travel-sized drives, the PlexWriter uses a standard USB cable. Unfortunately, the USB bus is insufficient for powering this drive; you must use the bundled AC adapter--a little trinket that adds another 4 ounces to the unit's travel weight. Still, you wouldn't be ashamed to pull this svelte, 1.1-pound drive out of your travel bag. The handsome silver and midnight-blue case measures 5.5 by 6.7 by .9 inches.
The PlexWriter installs easily, thanks to its USB interface and excellent documentation. It supports both USB 2.0 and 1.1. However, you'll be restricted to 4X writing with the older standard.
In addition to Roxio Easy CD Creator Basic for CD-mastering and packet-writing chores, Plextor bundles its excellent PlexManager 2001 software. PlexManager includes a media player, system-tray utilities, and the AudioFS drivers. AudioFS integrates into the Windows interface and lets you extract audio simply by dragging files from a music CD to your hard drive.
Good and bad
The PlexWriter produced mixed scores in CNET Labs' tests. The drive was most disappointing while packet-writing, requiring 11 minutes and 34 seconds to burn 400MB of data--a task normally completed in less than 8 minutes by an 8X-rated drive. The most likely culprit is Roxio's Easy CD Creator; when we switched to Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM, we got the sort of results you'd expect from an 8X drive. Other than the packet-writing problem, the PlexWriter was an excellent performer. It burned our 500MB test file to CD-R in an on-target 8 minutes, 7 seconds; wrote a 47-minute audio image to CD-R in only 6 minutes, 40 seconds; took a mere 2 minutes, 47 seconds to install Microsoft Office 98 Small Business Edition; and required a little less than 2 minutes to extract a 26-minute audio track. Like the Addonics Pocket CD-RW drive and the CenDyne 8X/8X/24X USB 2.0 Slim CD-RW drive, the PlexWriter features buffer-underrun protection, so you can multitask without the risk of ruining discs.