- Review Price: £100.00
It was with a definite sense of déjà vu that I unboxed the DR8-A from MSI. It looks identical to the DR4-A I tested a little while ago.
Not only does the drive look identical but the package is also the same. Inside the bright green box you’ll find the DR8-A drive, an audio cable, four mounting screws and a single DVD+R blank disc. On the software front you get Nero 5.5, PowerDVD for watching DVDs, ShowBiz for video editing and Sonic MyDVD for creating your own DVD movies.
So we’ve got a drive from MSI that looks the same as the old one, comes in an almost identical box, and has the same bundle shipped with it. But regardless of surface appearance, this drive is very different to the last MSI drive I saw. In fact this drive is very different from every drive I’ve looked at bar the Plextor PX-708A.
The DR8-A is a fast DVD writer, both on paper and in practice, but let’s look at the paper specs first. This drive will write DVD+R discs at eight-speed, DVD+RW discs at four-speed, DVD-R discs at four-speed, DVD-RW discs at two-speed, CD-R media at 40-speed and CD-RW discs at 24-speed. Those specs put the DR8-A at the top of the tree next to the Plextor PX-708A.
In practice the DR8-A lived up to its promise and turned in some great write speeds. Unfortunately there is still no eight-speed DVD+R media available, but like the Plextor drive, the DR8-A will burn good quality four-speed media at eight-speed.
Looking at the DVD+R performance we can see that the Plextor managed to burn the 4.3GB MPEG-2 file 30 seconds faster than the DR8-A. However, when it came to burning 4.5GB of mixed files, the DR8-A turned in a time three minutes and ten seconds faster than the Plextor.
I can’t really compare the DR8-A to the Plextor using DVD+RW media since I didn’t have four-speed media when I tested the Plextor. I will however be performing another full complement of tests on both the Plextor and the DR8-A as soon as eight-speed DVD+R media rears its head, so watch this space.
I can however compare the DR8-A to the BenQ DW400A, since this drive also features four-speed DVD+RW writing and was tested with four-speed media. In the large MPEG-2 file burn test, the BenQ proved to be almost a minute faster than the DR8-A. But burning the 4.5GB of mixed files was 21 seconds faster on the DR8-A, while the disc format was 26 seconds faster. So it’s fair to say that the DR8-A is as fast as the BenQ when it comes to writing DVD+RW discs.
The other major improvement is the CD writing speed. With 40-speed CD-R and 24-speed CD-RW performance, there’s little need to have a separate CD-RW drive in your PC, which will save you a bit of cash and space. Again, only the Plextor PX-708A boasts similar specifications, and in practice just manages to pip the DR8-A in the speed race. Burning 600MB of MP3 files to CD-R proved to be 12 seconds faster on the Plextor, while the same burn to CD-RW media was seven seconds quicker. The Plextor managed to format a CD-RW disc one minute and 22 seconds quicker than the MSI, so it looks like the Plextor still reigns in the CD performance kingdom.
Besides the write speeds, there is another difference between the DR8-A and the older DR4-A and that’s the size of the buffer. The DR4-A sports an 8MB buffer while the newer DR8-A only has a 2MB buffer. Now there was a time when the size of a data buffer was a major issue, but if a drive has buffer under run protection, as pretty much every unit does these days, the need for a large buffer is questionable. I therefore assume that the reduction in buffer size was a decision by MSI to reduce cost without affecting performance, and it was a pretty smart decision at that.
It’s definitely the price that makes this drive from MSI so attractive, especially when you consider that the only unit that’s really comparable to it is the Plextor PX-708A. The Plextor has dropped in price considerably since I first reviewed it and can now be found online for as little as £162.23, but it’s still far more expensive than the DR8-A.
I found the DR8-A for sale at www.overclockers.co.uk for an incredible £100.17, and if you rush out and buy it quickly, there’s a limited time special offer with a price of only £95.76. Even without the special offer (which is only valid for a few days), the price of the DR8-A is almost unbelievable, making it the DVD writer bargain of the moment.
The DR8-A is a very fast drive that will keep even the most impatient disc burner happy. The retail pack is pretty solid and you get everything you need bar an IDE cable. But it’s the price that makes this drive almost irresistible. At over £60 less than the Plextor PX-708A, the MSI DR8-A is a performance bargain.
To view the results from the first DVD writer group test click here
To view the results from the second DVD writer group test click here
Score in detail