For those who had the opportunity to read my review of the Kenwood 72x CD-ROM drive, you already know that while it is fast, it's unreliable when it comes to reading burned media. That said, I decided to take the plunge and check out the Pioneer DVD-115 DVD-ROM drive. I have been hearing some great things about this drive, so I decided to go for the gusto and get one for a replacement of the old Kenwood unit.
I've never really been a fan of watching movies on my computer, and since very few programs are even available in a DVD format, I just never got interested in this sort of drive. But again, because of the great things that have been going around about this particular drive, I decided to get one anyway and see what all the hubbub was about.
Since I use a rather large monitor (Hitachi 21"), I decided to go with a hardware decoder card as well. There are a number available, and most of them are good, so I went with the Real Magic Hollywood Plus card. I just didn't figure that a software program would give me acceptable playback at full screen…and I was right.
DVD-ROM and Video (Single & Dual Layer);
CD-DA (Audio CD);
CD-ROM (Modes 1 & 2);
Photo CD (Single and Multi Session);
ATAPI (ATA/ATAPI-4, Ultra DMA-33)
Sustained Transfer Rates
DVD - 6.6x - 16x (8.91 MB/Sec - 21.6 MB/Sec)
CD - 17.2x - 40x (2.56 MB/Sec - 6 MB/Sec)
Seek Time (average/random)
85ms for DVD
70ms for CD
Access Time (average/random)
95ms for DVD
80ms for CD
Vertical or Horizontal
5-13/16" x 1-11/16" x 8-2/16" (148 x 42.3 x 207.5mm)
2 lbs. 3 ounces (1 KG)
Reliability - MTBF
100,000 Power on Hours (20% Duty)
When I first got this out of the box, I noticed that it had pretty standard connections on the back of the unit. One notable exception, however, was the missing connection for Digital Audio playback. I have a Digital Audio connection on the back of my CD Burner, so it's not a large issue for me. If you have need of this feature, then you may want to look at other options.
Installation went without a hitch. I had already removed the old drive, so it was just a matter of putting the rails on this baby, sliding it into the case, and hooking up the cables on the back. Windows had no problems at all detecting the fact that it was a DVD drive, so loaded up the appropriate drivers and off we went.
I had already prepared myself with my first ever DVD movie. I tossed it in the tray, closed the door, opened up the decoder cards program for viewing movies and then sat in wonder as the show started and I had no sound at all! It ended up being something that I had overlooked with the Hollywood card…when you install a separate card, you need to run a line from the decoder card to the sound card. it's then just a simple matter of going into the sound cards mixer program and setting the input to "Line-In".
I loaded up the movie again and then sat in wonder as I watched all these pretty green lines flicking all over the screen. I was starting to get a little perturbed by this point, so I took a bit of a break to keep myself from doing damage to my new toy.
After a bit of thought, I started going to the websites for both the decoder card and the DVD. I downloaded a new driver for the card, but it made no difference at all. Pioneer had a newer firmware revision available, so I downloaded it and then had to go into a DOS mode to install the updated firmware. It was pretty easy, however, since the firmware had a readme file that took you step by step through the process.
All right now…I have the most up to date drivers, the latest available firmware…now let's see what this drive can do!
Once again I loaded up the movie, switched to "Line-In" in the sound cards mixer program, and sat back to see what this was all about. This time as I sat in wonder, it was because I had never before believed that I would enjoy watching a movie on a computer. Let me assure you that I have completely reversed that opinion. The picture quality was astounding, the stereo sound coming from my faithful Sound Blaster Live card and Altec Lansing speakers was incredible, and the full screen mode was just out of this world. Sitting back and watching a show was almost like being in the theater.
As you can see, I was rather impressed once I got the setup right. But as well as it plays movies, it was a replacement for a CD-ROM drive. So on to the benchmarks.