I thought I'd throw my opinions into the mix :bigsmile: !
1) Is it correct to assume the that G7K9 is older than G7L9?
Yes! Higher letters in here represent newer versions. It's usually best to go with one of the very latest versions since the firmware evolves over time. An exception seems to be G7Z9 - it would appear to be an older firmware. Users report that G7T9 is not the same as B7T9, and that it perhaps does not allow for proper CDSpeed scanning so beware!
2) Is it safe for me to flash to the latest version on the European site which is G7T9? (Does anyone know why this firmware isn't listed on the Canadian and U.S. BenQ sites?)
Yes, it would be safe to do so - but you may have issues since it's not the same as B7T9 as mentioned above. You can go back and forth between older and newer versions of firmware for the same family (either the "G" or the "B" families), so it's not a big deal to try out different firmwares.
3) My understanding is that the OEM and Retail versions are identical drives. Is this correct? If so, why is there a different series of firmware for OEM and Retail?
I believe this is a marketing decision that was put in place to allow BenQ to differentiate their drives. I think the idea was to allow for more advanced features in the "B" (BenQ) family over the "G" (Generic) family. Although there weren't any in the early firmwares, G7T9 appears to be perhaps walking this road.
I strongly recommend you crossflash and walk with the "B" family of firmwares. For me, it doesn't sense to stay with a second-rate Generic firmware when a top-rated one is freely available.
Yes, you can argue that there might be warranty issues, but it's very easy to just crossflash back to the "G" family should something happen. And these drives are so cheap right now that they are easily replacable - even without the warranty.
I have crossflashed my own drive. Everything you need is located here:
4) Can I safely cross flash to B7T or U9?
Absolutely! Highly recommended!
5) What is the advantage in doing so?
Always have access to the latest firmware since the "B" family is updated first. Always have access to the latest features for the same reason.
Finally, don't forget to apply the MediaCodeSpeedEdit speed patch http://club.cdfreaks.com/showthread.php?t=124905
This patch will allow you to double your read speed from the (mostly) standard 8X to a full 16X and turn your BenQ into one of the fastest rippers going!
A note to fellow Canadian readers...Future Shop has a $50.00 (Can.) rebate available for DW1620Pro drives which brings the price down to $89.99. I know I know, I hate Future Shop too but the price is pretty enticing!
Another choice that allows you to avoid the whole rebate issue: http://www.canadacomputers.com/cc/index.php?do=ShowProduct&cmd=pd&pid=005599&cid=CR.184 Note that this is in Canadian dollars.