Although I posted my first impressions of the MacResq Powerbook G4 superdrive upgrade a week or so ago in the news, I wanted to follow-up with some test results and more details. As mentioned before, the slotted superdrive from Macresq is a Matshita UJ-815 (1x DVD-R, 16x CDR, 8x CDRW, 24x CDROM, 8x DVD-ROM max rated). This sample had a manufactured date of July 2003 and firmware DWDB (later than even the Dantz posted DOCB firmware). This is the same mechanism that Apple ships
in the Superdrive equipped Powerbooks so it's fully supported in OS X 10.2.6 (iTunes burning, Discburner, iDVD, iPhoto, etc.). There's no iTunes support for OS 9 however, although ASP shows disc burning supported. I've not tried editing the MatshitaCDR file in OS 9 to add support for it since I use OS X all the time now on the PB G4. (Update: See the FAQ's CDROM/CDR or Powerbook section for a modified MatshitaCDR file for OS 9 iTunes burn support.) Toast 5 supports the drive of course in OS 9 as well as OS X.
Remember if using Discburner for burning DVDs, you need to have adequate free space (4.7GB, preferably more of course) on the hard drive since DB makes an image on the hard drive of the DVD disc to be burned. iDVD 3.0.1 as expected supports the drive for burning DVDs.
reason for buying this drive is the DVD burning/iDVD support, the higher CDR rating (16x Max vs 8x Max for the combo drive) is another plus. Total burn time isn't twice as fast since the burn rates are variable across the disc, but it was several minutes faster in burning a nearly full CDR disc in iTunes4 and Toast 5 (see test results below). Toast 5 showed 16x max speeds with my Memorex 40x rated CDRs (I mention this since some OEM combo drives rated for 16x max speeds have been reported to not show the max rates as an option in Toast.)
Like the OEM model shipped by Apple, DVD-R speeds are 1x, although the mfr specs on the
original drive I thought noted 2x max DVD-R rates (the UJ-815-B specs note 2x DVD-R and DVD-RAM ratings). Some thought the Dantz posted firmware would enable 2x rates on UJ-815 original models, but I have no feedback that is true (and this drive had later firmware).
The PowerBook used was a G4/800 DVI model running OS 10.2.6, 80GB toshiba internal drive (reviewed here previously) and 1GB of RAM. The original Combo (DVD-ROM/CDRW) drive in the PB was the Matshita CW-8121 which I had recently flashed to firmware version AA21 (from Dantz's web site as mentioned in the news page last month). I'm swamped in other work and reviews so I did not graph the results of tests, showing minutes and seconds instead. (Sorry about that.)
Toast 5.21 CDR Tests: (671.3MB of data/2,821). Times are noted as burn time/total time including closing the disc.
- Superdrive: 6 min, 38 sec.
- OEM Combo Drive: 9 min, 57 sec/10 min, 41 sec.
- Superdrive: 4 min, 24 sec.
- OEM Combo Drive: 4 min, 23 sec. (very noisy/buzzy during verify)
I was very glad to see (hear) that the Superdrive didn't have the very loud buzzing/noise
when verifying a CDR. My combo drive always does, even though the CDR disc did not have a heavy label and should not be unbalanced.
iTunes 4 Tests:
I selected 14 MP3 songs (appx 60 minutes total time) and burned to CDR media with the original Combo Drive and the Superdrive. (Prefs set to "Max" burn speed.)
Times listed are burn time/total time (incl. finishing/closing the CD)
- Superdrive: 6 min, 29 sec/7 min, 4 sec.
- OEM Combo Drive: 9 min, 2 sec/9 min, 46 sec.
DVD Recording Tests:
I burned a DVD-RW (I was out of DVD-Rs) in iDVD 3.0.1 using the old tip posted here previously (mounting the DVD-RW disc in the Finder before launching iDVD). I burned the Tutorial project and verified it played fine in my home DVD player (Zenith DVB-216).
To avoid all the encoding of movies/menus, etc. and time just the burn, I used Toast 5.2.1 to burn
4GB of movies/data files/apps to a DVD-RW disc after a 'quick' erase of the disc. (Discburner images to the hard drive before writing so it's much slower.)
- Write 4GB (7,158 files): 52 min, 8 sec(burn)/55 min, 46 sec total (incl. closing disc)
- Verify Burned DVD: 18 min, 49 sec
- 2x DVD-R Tests with 2x DVD-R Firmare Update: 26 min, 30 sec/28 min, 12 sec (incl. closing disc, verify OK)
CD Read Speeds: Like all notebook drives I've seen to date, both drives have a 24x (max) rating for CDROM Read and copying a nearly full CD to the hard drive in OS X showed literally identical times. (It really seems like the CDs are not being spun at their max speeds during these copies - as the combo drive gets very noisy when it's spinning at high speed and that was not heard during the entire copy test.)
Copy 671.3MB/2,821 files from CD to HD:
- Superdrive: 8 min, 40 sec.
- OEM Combo Drive: 8 min, 52 sec
I regret I didn't time DVD ROM copies with the combo drive (it's returned to MacResq now), but a test copy of 1.66 GB of video files from a DVD-ROM disc to the internal PB G4 hard drive took 9 min, 35 seconds.
Digital Audio Extraction Speeds:
I used Toast Audio Extractor 1.1 in OS 9.2.2 to test DAE speeds. Both the inner (slowest) and outer (fastest) track of the CD were tested. Overlap (safest) was selected and rates vary during the test but I recorded the max rate seen for the track. (This probably isn't the best test since it's so old but just posting as a FYI.)
Toast Audio Extractor 1.1 Tests (PB G4/800, OS 9.2.2):
- Superdrive: Outer Track: 1.537MB sec/Inner Track: 939MB/sec
- OEM Combo Drive: Outer Track: 1.722MB sec/Inner Track: 1.05MB/sec
The drive was bootable from CD (Techtool Deluxe 3.0.3 CD tested).
Retrospect Notes: I don't currently use Retrospect, but this drive model is noted as supported by Dantz.
DVD-RAM Test: Although MacResq (and Apple) don't list DVD-RAM compatibility, I though the original Matshita/Panasonic UJ-815 specs listed it, so I bought an $8.99 (best price I could find on sale locally) 4.7GB DVD-RAM type 2 disc (removable from cartridge) to see if even Toast 5 would allow writing to it - it didn't. The Finder kept ejecting the disc. (I launched Toast5 first and then inserted the DVD-RAM disc - same thing happened). I did not have any written DVD-RAM discs to check for read compatibility.
Personally I don't care about DVD-RAM compatibility after using a SCSI DVD-RAM drive for a day some years back (it was horribly slow - with real-world write speeds not even 1/10th of it's 'rating' - but maybe things have changed with later drives/later OS versions).
Personally as far as DVD recording, I'll be using DVD-RW discs since the prices have come down on them and I like the ability to erase a DVD. (All slotted Superdrives to date are 1x max DVD-RW rated, even those rated for 2x DVD-R.)
Although this PB G4/800 isn't the fastest PowerBook G4 available, I've been happy with its overall performance. I had previously upgraded to 1GB of RAM and an 80GB internal drive but the main feature I missed over a new model was the internal Superdrive. With this Superdrive upgrade, I'm going to postpone buying a new Powerbook until there's a future model that offers a lot more performance than what's available in models as of summer 2003. I have not tested the new 2x DVD-R/DVD-RAM rated PB drives like the one recently announced by MCE, so I can't comment on them but since I can leave iDVD in the background when burning the 1x DVD-R rate isn't that big a factor for me. (And if using DVD-RWs, even the new 2x rated DVD-R drives are still 1x DVD-RW rated.)
Pricing and Availability:
Macresq offers the drive either for you to install (drive only is $299, plus $50 if you prefer not to return your original DVD-ROM or Combo Drive) or they'll install it for $399 including overnight shipping each way. See these links for more info:
Site sponsor OWC also sells these drives, see this page for pricing and rebates for your original DVD-ROM or Combo drive. (Up to $85 back for a combo drive as of this review date.)
Notes after Firmware Flash for 2x DVD-R Support: (copy of the Aug. 12th, 2003 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page posting follows)
"Thought you might be interested in this.
(Forum thread on slotted superdrive UJ-815 flasher to enable 2x DVD-R, also see the main page for the firmware at http://superdrive.cynikal.net/ for more info, warnings and screenshots.-Mike)
I just accelerated my mac to 2x DVD-R & 16x CD-R burning, for free.
Read the warnings, etc. in the readme first (there's no guarantees on this - use at your own risk). After reading the linked page, reports, etc (and readme) - I took the plunge and flashed the UJ-815 (1x DVD-R model, with DWDB firrmware as noted in my recent review. It already supported DVD-RWs and allowed 16x CDR speeds, but was limited to 1x DVD-R writes, verified by Toast 5.x.).
After the reboot it's now reported as a "UJ-815A" (was just "UJ-815" previously) and the firmware (device revision) is now listed as "D101". After the reboot I ran Toast 5.2.1 and inserted a 2x rated DVD-R and it does allow selecting 2x as the write speed - I later timed a burn at 2x in Toast 5.2.1 and it was literally twice as fast as before (at 1x). I always wondered if Apple (and pre-UJ-815-B models) limited DVD-R burns to 1x for heat reasons, but that remains to be seen.
I'll post back if I see any problems with 2x DVD-R burns, etc. (but if the higher heat from 2x burns shortens the life only time will tell that.)
Update - I just tested for DVD-RAM support, not there, but the 2x option for DVD-Rs is welcome. Shortly after posting this the author of the firmware sent a mail also:
Hi, I recently was playing around with a firmware flasher written for a PC
to be used on the UJ-815-B, the 2nd revision of the superdrive that
came with my Powerbook. I spliced it into an existing OS X UJ-815
firmware patcher using a hex editor and flashed my firmware for my
The results are that it upgraded the drive to OEM capabilities.
The information is outlined on
I've been testing it over the last week and a few days ago released to
a small group of people for testing. Here are some results:
I thought maybe your readers would find this interesting, but I
understand if you feel this isn't newsworthy information as it has
risks involved. Or maybe you may want to wait a few days and watch the above thread for any horror stories.
In any event, if you decide to post this on your site, please include a
disclaimer (there's one on my page, the first link). If you feel it's
too soon to post this, i'll understand.
It's the least I could do for the Mac community, hopefully it will save
some fellow mac people some $$ who may have been desperate to purchase
a 2x drive to replace their 1x drive from MCE/MacResQ. (MacResq currently doesn't sell the 2x DVD-R/DVD-RAM drive, only MCE.-Mike)
And thank you for your great source of mac news :)
Best Regards, Alex
Thanks Alex - hopefully there are no downsides but for those that are not willing to risk it, wait awhile to see if there are any negative reports. I've created a page specifically for Feedback on the 2x Firmware.