OK, I picked up a 716A at Best Buy (Maryland, U.S.) earlier this month. It was a TLA 0203, manufactured in January 2005. I switched to the black face plate and tray end and have been burning happily away. It's been burning happily everything I throw at it, including 4X rated "RICOHJPNR01" (Memorex branded), 4X "CMCMAGF01" (HP branded), 8X "YUDEN000T02" (Fuji branded), and 8X "MCC 003" (Verbatim branded). These are all DVD+R single layer media. I've also successfully produced four "MKM 001" (Verbatim branded) dual layer discs at 4X speed. I produced no coasters, unlike I sometimes got with the media on my LiteOn 1633S drive (I always got coaster with the Ritek DL media on the LiteOn drive).
The only think I found that was strange was that I was able to reproduce what someone else in the forum found and confirmed with Plextor tech support - some audio CDs will only rip at 8X CLV speed. Strange considering there is only one session, and it's audio, and it's not copy protected. Speed read does not help.
So, I was pleased enough to go purchase another drive, this time I received a TLA 0304, manufactured in February 2005. I took out the 0203 and put the 0304 drive in the same computer to compare.
I burned a RICOHJPNR01 at 4X (I like to do all video normally at 4X, and usually only do data a higher speeds). All went well, and it finished up at a bit less than 15 minutes burn time.
Then I burned the same image (a nero .nrg DVD-VIDEO job) to a CMCMAGF01 and decided to try 8X since both Plextors offer that speed as a max. I had never tried burning this media at 8X on the TLA 0203 before. I noticed the burn didn't go right away, and the LED alternated colors for about 2 minutes before proceeding to burn and it finished up in just shy of 16 minutes....OK, so the TLA0304 did a media check and added this media to the autostrategy database as 4X max speed. Note that the 4X burns to this CMC media on the TLA 0203 produced great scans.... I then decided to throw in an MCC003 disc and burn that at 8X and I could hear it upshifting the speed, but later noticed it had slowed down! The burn ended up finishing in 12 minutes...unlike the 8 minute or less speed that 8X should produce.
To do a sanity check, I put the TLA 0203 into the machine again, and burned a CMCMAGF01 at 8X again (the autostrategy database was blank on this drive). Nero allowed it to burn at 8X, and the job finished in 8:27, and the CMC was NOT added to the autostrategy database at 4X max. Now when I looked at the disc, I saw two distinct burned regions on the dye, so I did a PIE/POF scan and it maxed out at 1400 PIE at the beginning of the scan for a while before falling to levels around 20 or so. I received no POFs.
For another experiment I tried an MCC003 in the TLA0203 at 8X, and this finished up in less than 8 minutes, as opposed to the 12 minutes that it took in the TLA0304 drive.
So, does this mean that the TLA0304 is NOT as good as the TLA0203 at burning certified (and good brand) 8X media? Or, from the CMC results, is the conclusion that the TLA0304 correctly identified the CMC media as 4X max and added it to the autostrategy database, while the TLA0203 burned it happily at 8X, but created a high error disc?
It bothers me that the TLA0304 could not burn the Verbatim 8X at 8X, which even my LiteOn 1633S could do while producing good scans. On the other hand, it bothers me that the TLA0203 happily burned a CMC at 8X, and did not determine that the autostrategy should set it to 4X max.
Which is the better drive????