I’m so glad I got it at a reputable retailer [Fry’s]!
I just went and exchanged it today. The drive works flawlessly after the firmware update.
Thank you all again for your help! All the advice was invaluable to a clueless PC user like me.
If anybody else has reading problems with the drive, I’d recommend that you have it replaced. Mine has worked without a problem so far [4 DVD burns]. I’m sure Plextor is aware of this problem so they will honor your request for an exchange. I knew that paying a bit more and buying at a retailer would pay off! You’re actually paying for services like this which you often cannot get from online dealers.