Introduction and Construction

We have seen a few interesting technologies from MSI, including the first unbridged SATA burner. Unfortunately, MSI's SATA controller only seems to talk to Intel's ICH5/ICH6 southbridge, making adoption difficult.

We got our hands on MSI's newest burner in hopes that there might be a less expensive alternative to Plextor's PX-712A or LG's GSA-412B - this time, we were armed with a stack of 16X and 12X media. We all want to know if the DR12-A is just a revision of the DR8-A, or if there is something truly unique in this drive.




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Below is a quick overview of specifications on the drive:

MSI DR12-A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface PATA
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 12X, 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD-RAM Write Speed 5X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 16X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, UDF
Access Time CD: 100ms
DVD: 150ms
Buffer 2MB

Above, you can see the MSI DR12-A and the Plextor 712A are essentially identical. MSI does not advertise the 2MB buffer on its retail box, which we find particularly unusual, since the drive utilizes the Sanyo LC897491 chipset. You may notice in the chipset white page that Sanyo recommends an 8MB buffer with this LSI. This does not bode well for the drive, unfortunately.




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Oddly, the drive took uncommonly long to probe for revision information. Loading discs also seemed problematic for the drive - sometimes, we experienced load times over two minutes for unwritten media. Notice the unusual name under which the drive shows up.




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Below, you can see the Sanyo chipset mentioned earlier. Even though both the PX-712A and the DR12-A use the same chipset, they have radically different designs. Except for the chipset, almost every other component is different between these two drives. The one exception to this is the AK8584 analog signal processor, also used on the PX-712A.




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There are no official booktype setting capabilities for this drive. Since the drive is fairly similar to the Plextor PX-712A, it may be possible for creative users to flash an unofficial PX-712 firmware onto the drive and enable unsupported booktype functionality. This is not recommended.

The drive supports MSI's HD-BURN, which is extremely similar to Plextor's GigarRec. We are capable technically of burning 1.4GB onto a CD using HD-BURN, but we will not particularly focus on HD-BURN in this review, since we covered it during our DR8-A review a few months ago.

Burn Tests CDR Media
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  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    >Looking at your results, you probably got a faulty drive. Did you talk to MSI at all about these results?

    The drive isnt ready yet, its preproduction apparently.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Ian@CDRlabs - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    I have to agree with Belzer here. Why are you saying that the drive is "similar" to the Plextor? I've said this to you many times in the past: same chipset != same drive

    Looking at your results, you probably got a faulty drive. Did you talk to MSI at all about these results?
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    PrinceGaz:

    The drive name is actually identified on the drive, not in software. We suspect the reason it came up as GENERIC is due to such an early firmware revision that MSI does not even have the drive labeled yet internally. They OEM to other people, and also use other people to OEM the drive too. If MSI is building the drive for a different client, it would make sense that they do not label a name onto their development model yet.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    My CD-RW drive originally appeared as "ATAPI CD-RW 52XMax" in Device Manager before I updated the firmware (very similar to the "GENERIC DVD RW 12XMax" of that DVD burner).

    I guess this happens because initially when a drive is released, no burning software knows about the new drive so they just have it appear to the system as a generic device with certain basic features.

    Later firmware identifies it correctly but you need updated burning software for it to recognise the drive correctly. The generic names are just a stopgap to allow it to be used until that updated software is available.
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    >Yes that would be a great idea...if you want to f*ck up the drive. Same chipset != same drive or even "fairly similar" or "essentially identical". Besides the Plextor doesn't support bitsetting either so it would be pointless even trying...

    I didnt say do it. In either case, i missed your review of the drive - sorry. I think i got the message across, "dont buy this drive".

    If you think i've got so much nonsense and crap in here, why dont you point it out? We had this discussion about the chipsets before, but for the time being lets just not talk about that for now. What other errors are so marvelous in this review that you can't bring yourself to read it all the way through to the conclusion?

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Belzer - Saturday, July 17, 2004 - link

    "There are no official booktype setting capabilities for this drive. Since the drive is fairly similar to the Plextor PX-712A, it may be possible for creative users to flash an unofficial PX-712 firmware onto the drive and enable unsupported booktype functionality."

    Yes that would be a great idea...if you want to f*ck up the drive. Same chipset != same drive or even "fairly similar" or "essentially identical". Besides the Plextor doesn't support bitsetting either so it would be pointless even trying...

    "Here is how the burner performed using Verbatim 8X DVD-R discs. These were the only discs that we could find which would burn 8X DVD-R on the burner."
    Doesn't look like it's burning at 8x on the graph...

    Then there are a couple of more errors/stupid things I don't even bother to comment. Everytime I read an AT optical drive review I'm surprised it's possible to have so much nonsense and wrong crap in one review.
    Reply

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