Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1290




Introduction and Construction

We have looked at several optical drives from MSI in the past. After all, MSI is still one of the largest optical storage OEMs.

Today, we got our hands on MSI's best DVD recorder to date, the DR8-A. At first, we overlooked the DR8-A, thinking it was just an update on the DR4-A. The DR4-A received mild reviews and did not stir much excitement. As it turns out, the DR8-A is a very capable and potent burner that still has some life in it, particularly for those who favor the DVD+R medium. Does the DR8-A have what it takes to be a low cost equivalent of the Plextor 708A?

MSI bundled the same media package with the DR8-A as it bundled with the DR4-A. Nero Burning ROM 5.5, Sonic MyDVD, PowerDVD and one blank DVD+R were included.

Again, we have to be slightly critical of MSI for including only a 1-page quick help guide for documentation. MSI's website is very helpful and easy to find information, but clean, concise manuals will always trump online documentation.



Click to enlarge.


Asthetically, the DR8-A looks identical to the MSI DR4-A. The drive includes a play/fast forward button and an eject/stop button. Many of our favorite drives, including the Plextor 708A, do not have this capability. However, as we will soon see, the internals of the DR8-A have changed significantly.



Click to enlarge.


There is no rear cutout for fan or exhaust. The components that MSI chose for the DR8-A are mature enough to function only on passive cooling.

Much to our surprise, after disassembling the MSI DR8-A, we discovered the drive is based on the same Sanyo LC897490 chipset found in the Plextor 708A.



Click to enlarge.





Specifications

Below is a quick overview of specifications on the drive:

 MSI DR8-A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (CAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X, 16X (CAV)
12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
HD-CD Write Speed 24x, 18x (CAV)
12x, 6x (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4x, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (16,620KB/s) (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
MultiSession
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD-RW (random)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, UDF
Access Time CD: N/A
DVD: N/A
Buffer 2MB



Unfortunately, like the MSI DR4-A, access time on the DR8-A is quite high. The 8MB buffer of the DR4-A has also been downgraded to a 2MB buffer. Compared to other burners that we have reviewed, the access time of the DR8-A is one of the highest; lower times are better.

The DR8-A has very similar specifications to the Plextor 708A. However, the DR8-A supports HD-BURN, an underrated technology in our opinion. Nero, which was bundled, supports HD-BURN. You can read more about the technology here (no, we don't understand the cartoon that much either).



Click to enlarge.


The DR8-A is also unique in the fact that it supports 99-min and 90-min CDRs (both read and write). Several burners, including the NEC-2500A, do not support 99-min CDRs.




Tech Support

One key item that we have overlooked in most of our optical display reviews is technical support. Our very our Evan Lieb pioneered the original tech support benchmark for motherboards and today, we will attempt to replicate that benchmark with our optical storage vendors.

We used three camouflaged email addresses and emailed particularly trivial questions concerning our burners to each vendor. If tech support was capable of responding to all 3 emails within 72 hours (5 business days), we averaged the three times together for a final result. Our original results from the last DVDR Roundup combined with the DR8-A are below:

 Average Customer Support Response Time
ASUS (Dec 2003) No Response
Gigabyte (Dec 2003) 38 hours, 12 minutes
LiteOn (Dec 2003) 41 hours, 20 minutes
MSI (Dec 2003) No Response
MSI (Mar 2004) 27 hours, 11 minutes
NEC (Dec 2003) 29 hours, 48 mintues
Nu Tech (Dec 2003) N/A
Plextor (Dec 2003) 11 hours, 10 minutes
Sony (Dec 2003) 6 hours, 44 minutes

When inquiring about our DR8-A, we received much better response than our original inquiry with the DR4-A in December of 2003. We also found better help on the MSI support center; it looks like our comments from the last DVD roundup may have caused them to improve their customer support. Even though MSI has been downsizing recently, it is good to see that they are still improving their customer support, doing more with less.




Burn Tests CDR Media

We used the following configuration to test our MSI DR8-A:

Albatron 865PE Pro II
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz 800FSB
2 x 512MB DDR OCZ PC3200 EL
Maxtor 80GB 7200RPM 8MB IDE
Windows XP SP1

Our MSI DR8-A was benchmarked using the DR8-A_120D Firmware.

During our DVDR Roundup, we developed a strong methodology for testing our burner under several different kinds of media and burn processes. Today, we will add our burn times from the previous benchmark to this review. We have added and updated media from the previous benchmark to reflect the expanding selection in today's market.

Ritek 97m31s01f - 52X CDR
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 15.97X 74:43.00 CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 30.23X 74:43.00 CAV
LiteOn LDW-411S 30.22X 74:43.00 CAV
MSI DR4-A 21.04X 74:43.00 Z-CLV
MSI DR8-A 30.32X 74:43.00 CAV
NEC 1300A 16.00X 74:43.00 CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 29.87X 74:43.00 CAV
Plextor 708A 33.33X 74:43.00 P-CAV
Sony DRU-530A 29.28X 74:43.00 P-CAV

Mitsubishi 97m23s24f - 24X CDRW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 8.36X 74:43.00 CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 23.44X 74:43.00 P-CAV
LiteOn LDW-411S 23.43X 74:43.00 P-CAV
MSI DR4-A 10.04X 74:43.00 CLV
MSI DR8-A 23.32X 74:43.00 P-CAV
NEC 1300A 10.00X 74:43.00 CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 9.94X 74:43.00 CLV
Plextor 708A 23.78X 74:43.00 P-CAV
Sony DRU-530A 23.31X 74:43.00 P-CAV




Burn Tests DVD+R Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.

RICOHJPNR00 - 2.4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 2.43X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 2.46X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV

MCC 002 - 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 6.36X 4.38GB Z-CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.67X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV

MCC 003 - 8X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 6.78X 4.38GB Z-CLV
NEC 1300A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.72X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 6.63X 4.38GB Z-CLV

RICOHJPNR01 - 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 6.81X 4.38GB Z-CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.65X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.20X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV

YUDEN000T01 - 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 6.80X 4.38GB Z-CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.66X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.65X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.03X 4.38GB CLV

We were very pleased that the MSI DR8-A recognized the 8X write descriptor for "MCC 002"" media. 4X MCC002 is much more prevalent than the official 8X "MCC 003". We did not get the same speed as Plextor or NuTech, but there was still an advantage over other more expensive drives.

Looking at the RICOHJPR01 speed test, we can see that the reason Plextor and NuTech score higher speeds on their write tests is due to how it manages its Zone CLV mode. Sony's DRU-530A performs very conservatively as well, even on 8X "MCC003". The NuTech DDW-081 and Plextor 708A are very aggressive in how they recalibrate the burn speed on the fly.




Burn Tests DVD-R Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.

PRINCO - 1X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 1.02X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 2.02X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 - 4.38GB -
Plextor 708A 2.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.02X 4.38GB CLV

RITEKG04 - 4X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 - 4.38GB -
Plextor 708A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.04X 4.38GB CLV

MCC01RG20 - 4X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 - 4.38GB -
Plextor 708A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV

Like the Plextor 708A, NuTech DDW-081 and Sony DRU-530A, the MSI DR8-A had trouble recognizing poor DVD-R media for write. Do not expect to burn on DVD-R discs that do not have write descriptors. Our DR8-A would not even report "ready" on several no-name DVD-R discs that had burn just fine in our Pioneer 107D.




Burn Tests DVD RW Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.

RICOHJPNW01 - 2.4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 2.45X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 2.40X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 2.45X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 2.37X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV

PHILIPS 041 - 4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D - 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A - 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 4.04X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A - 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 3.92X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV

RICOHJPNW11 - 4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D - 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A - 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 4.04X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A - 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 3.96X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 3.99X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV

MCC00RW11N9 - 1X DVD-RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 - 4.38GB -
Plextor 708A 1.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 1.01X 4.38GB CLV

PVCW00V00245 - 2X DVD-RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 1.95X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR8-A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 - 4.38GB -
Plextor 708A 2.01X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.03X 4.38GB CLV

Full erase of a DVD+RW takes 14:30 minutes; a similar time was recorded for DVD-RW. Our Plextor 708A took over 20 minutes to erase the same disc.




Printed Media

Seek Times - Pressed CD 74:40.02
Drive Random Full
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 123ms 163ms
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 92ms 187ms
LiteOn LDW-411S 88ms 179ms
MSI DR4-A 128ms 188ms
MSI DR8-A 76ms 145ms
NEC 1300A 121ms 183ms
Nu Tech DDW-081 102ms 167ms
Plextor 708A 94ms 167ms
Sony DRU-530A 125ms 199ms

Seek Times - Pressed DVD
Drive Random Full
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 145ms 188ms
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 142ms 173ms
LiteOn LDW-411S 120ms 196ms
MSI DR4-A 166ms 249ms
MSI DR8-A 117ms 170ms
NEC 1300A 124ms 167ms
Nu Tech DDW-081 135ms 144ms
Plextor 708A 170ms 228ms
Sony DRU-530A 175ms 242ms

The CD and DVD seek times were exceptionally good on the DR8-A. We found this to be slightly unusual, since we could not find advertised seek times anywhere. Even though Plextor's 708A uses the same Sanyo controller, we can tell the 708A and the DR8-A use very different pickups.

We used various DVD and CD media around the lab for this portion of the benchmark. We attempted to use discs that contained no errors or scratches. Higher read speed averages are better.

Read - Pressed CD
Drive Average Read Length
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 25.10X 74:43.00
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 30.42X 74:43.00
LiteOn LDW-411S 30.39X 74:43.00
MSI DR4-A 30.81X 74:43.00
MSI DR8-A 30.62X 74:43.00
NEC 1300A 31.01X 74:43.00
Nu Tech DDW-081 32.22X 74:43.00
Plextor 708A 31.66X 74:43.00
Sony DRU-530A 31.59X 74:43.00

Read - DVDR
Drive Average Read Length
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.62X 4.38GB
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 5.22X 4.38GB
LiteOn LDW-411S 5.23X 4.38GB
MSI DR4-A 4.05X 4.38GB
MSI DR8-A 4.04X 4.38GB
NEC 1300A 3.66X 4.38GB
Nu Tech DDW-081 6.26X 4.38GB
Plextor 708A 6.05X 4.38GB
Sony DRU-530A 3.48X 4.38GB

Read - Pressed DVD Video
Drive Average Read Length
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 2.18X 7.88GB
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 9.26X 7.88GB
LiteOn LDW-411S 9.24X 7.88GB
MSI DR4-A 2.04X 7.88GB
MSI DR8-A 9.01X 7.88GB
NEC 1300A 3.66X 7.88GB
Nu Tech DDW-081 3.11X 7.88GB
Plextor 708A 9.14X 7.88GB
Sony DRU-530A 2.01X 7.88GB

Unusually, the DR8-A refused to read speeds higher than 4X on DVDR media, and no higher than 6X on dual layer DVDs. DVD and CD reads were right about where we expected on the DR8-A. Eject time was measured at 2.38s.




Final Thoughts

MSI's DR8-A became an instant favorite around the lab for two reasons: HD-BURN and price. Plextor's 708A still does a better job on 8X DVD+R write descriptors; although, hopefully, new firmware revisions on the DR8-A can compensate for this in the future. The inability to burn cheap media on either burner is unfortunate, but understandable. Our largest surprise was that the DR4-A and DR8-A, which look identical on the outside, perform so differently. The DR8-A is much more stable, supports more media and burns faster.

The main difference between the Plextor 708A and the MSI DR8-A is the price (remember, they use identical chipsets). The DR8-A does not have Plextor's PowerRec, but it does equal the 708A in virtually every benchmark. The MSI DR8-A delivers almost the same performance as the Plextor 708A for $40 less. We have seen several incredible drives for $100, including the NuTech DDW-081 and the NEC 2500A. MSI's DR8-A retails for a little more, around $120. The drive is priced a little high when compared to NuTech or NEC's 8X solutions, but if you are intrigued by HD-BURN or 99-min CDR, you may be able to justify the extra cost.

Also consider when buying a burner like the NEC-2500A or Sony DRU-530, you may have to spend extra on specifically marked "8X DVD+R" media, while burners like the NuTech DDW-081 and MSI DR8-A will burn 8X on most 4X discs. On the other hand, the Pioneer 107D has no problems burning on low quality DVD-R media, which plagues the Plextor 708A and MSI DR8-A.

Stay tuned as we have more 8X DVD+R and DVD-R drives in the next few weeks, as well as more info on HD-DVD, BluRay and DVD DL.

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