Plasmon UDO60D review

£1765
Price when reviewed

When Plasmon launched its first UDO (ultra density optical) drive in 2004, it was aimed primarily as a replacement for MO (magneto optical). However, in our review of the UDO1 drive (web ID: 59554) it failed to impress in the performance stakes, and we found it also suffered compatibility issues with Windows Server 2003. After a three-year wait, Plasmon now delivers UDO2 and, in an exclusive review, we bring you the low-down on its latest USB desktop drive.

Plasmon UDO60D review

UDO2 still uses a 405nm blue-violet laser, but has changed the numerical aperture from 0.7 to 0.85. This results in a smaller laser spot, which allows the double-sided media to offer a 60GB capacity, while speed gets a boost to 12MB/sec and 6MB/sec for read and write operations.

UDO2 has many similarities to Blu-ray, but Plasmon doesn’t want it put in the same camp, which it sees as a consumer storage technology. The UDO2 drive mechanics are more robust and have a higher duty cycle, while the media is protected inside sturdy cartridges. Consumer products also have a short lifecycle, making them unsuited to long-term data archiving, and it’s possible that consumer demands to drive down Blu-ray costs could affect media quality.

Plasmon offers three media types: standard rewritable, WORM and compliant WORM. The latter is designed to work with apps that manage archiving and data lifecycles and supports a shredding API call function. This isn’t supported on the desktop drives to stop media being removed from the management scheme and the data destroyed. Plasmon coins its write-once media as True WORM, because it uses a different molecular structure that causes permanent crystalline dots to be created in the substrate by the laser.

Installation of the UDO60D is easy, as the hotfix required for Windows 2000, XP and 2003 to allow them to support 8KB sectors is now applied automatically. You may find, as we did, that the drive causes your system’s BIOS startup routine to hang. Plasmon is aware of this and has released an update. After installation, the manual recommends a trip to the Device Manager to change the drive’s policy to optimise performance. Choose the option for quick removal at your peril, as this turns off caching and will reduce write performance.

With the drive connected to a Supermicro 3.2GHz Pentium D workstation, we saw it deliver some useful speeds. Copying a 690MB video file to and from the drive returned 11.5MB/sec and 5MB/sec read and write rates. Smaller files will reduce speed, as we saw a 420MB mixture of 100 graphics files drop read and write speed down marginally to 10.8MB/sec and 4.7MB/sec.

With Sony’s PDD (web ID: 59555) product line stagnant since 2004, there’s little to compete with UDO for archiving duties. Initial outlay for the UDO60D is quite high, but it would be foolish to compare it directly with hard disk storage. The price per megabyte may be lower, but once you factor in the cost of power, support, maintenance, cooling and the fact that hard disks aren’t suited to long-term storage it’s easy to see that UDO2 offers a more sensible and cost-effective solution.

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