Media Review: Bulkpaq Orange 8x Printable DVD-R

Couple of colleagues of mine provided me with a few Bulkpaq samples for analysis. I was keen for the task, since my experince with Tuffdisc, a product from the same distributor, were quite pleasing when compared to the rock bottom price. Bulkpaq is yet another brand from E-net Distribution. It promises to deliver highest quality and competitive prices and sources the media from various manufacturers.

UPDATED 27/04/2005: Bulkpaq has sent out a statement regarding the results of this test. Please read it HERE.

Test method

UPDATED 21/04/2005. This test has been performed with a limited amount of discs. We have received critique from the fact that only a single burner was previously used in this 'quickie-test'. As a response to this critique, I did what I could the gather more data about the disc.

The results are now verified with the DVD recorders:
LiteON SOHW-1653
LG GSA-4163B

Both of the recorders are behaving as reported below using this batch of Bulkpaq media, which my friends purchased from Nierle Media.

Test method is the usual: Discs were burned with a LiteON SOHW-1653 using the latest unmodified firmware, and scanned with Kprobe 2.4.2 software. Error rate scans are not a scientifically method for recordable media analysis, but real life experiences have shown that they do give a good idea of the media quality.

The company hype

On the company website they describe the product as follows:
When you balance the quality of these discs against its price, it is hard to beat. There are better quality discs available, but you pay lots more for them! The disc, which is manufactured using an exclusive dye formulation for Bulkpaq also as printable discs you can have any design printed on them.
These discs have been available for a few months now, and customer feedback has been excellent.
Uncompromising data integrity and reliability.

CMC MAG. AE1 by CMC Magnetics Corporation

The discs are made by CMC Magnetics, which is one of the largest media manufacturers in the world. The media code is CMC MAG. AE1 and there is a CMC serial number on the disc as well. During the CD-R age, CMC wasn't famous for their quality, but it seems that they have picked up in their DVD production. We have seen several good or decent discs using CMC's dye.

The discs were recorded at 4x, below the rated speed. From the small sample set of few discs, half of them failed to burn. The burning process was aborted near the end (85..95 percent) of the recording. At this point it started to look worrying. The error rate scan shows exactly what's going on. As we can see from the first half of the disc, the error rate is very low and comparable to the premium discs on the market. The CMC's dye is not bad, but these discs are definitely not A-grade quality. All of the discs of the set performed the same, with the exception of the ones weren't even able to record. Unfortunately, these discs are simply unusable quality.

Transfer rate

The transfer rate graphs shows how the disc is completely fine at first, but then very rapidly changes to totally unreadable. With such a result I expected to see physical defects on the disc, or that the dye was so unevenly laid that it could be seen, but surprisingly the discs looked perfectly fine when observed visually.

The printable media quality

The quality of the printable media on the market seems to be a bit problematic on a market wide scope as well. I have seen many reports about printable media, especially by the non-premium brands, being low or even unusable quality. Some time ago we discovered extremely low quality RITEK made printable media (read the article here) and there has been discussions on print media magazines as well. The reason for this market situation is unknown to us. It is hard to see what long term benefit the manufacturer of the distributor could have for selling inferior quality. In other words be exceptionally careful when choosing printable media and go for the absolute premium quality brands only.

The problem of variation

The biggest problem from the end users point of view is that they do not know what they are getting when they are buying. We have seen very good quality CMC made and E-net distributed media in our previous article. The graphs on the right shows a Prodisc made (ProdiscF01) Bulkpaq 8x DVD-R burned at 4x - the error rates are decent and the quality quite good. But the customer is left in a problematic situation as the quality of the products goes up and down in almost randomly manner. No bond of trust can develop in between a product or a brand and the customer.

This is why we recommend the very best brands for the critical recording tasks. These cheaper and lower grade products can be explored and used for less important purposes, but definitely not for storing any valuable data. Even though these discs are cheaper the savings are not worth the trouble if discs start failing totally. And as in this case only a portion of these discs are we even able to record, and the rest of them fail to play - you end up getting nothing for something.
Written by: Lasse Penttinen