Whether it is to "backup" your movies or music collection, or create a backup and restore disc for your PC you just can't beat the 8+ GB capacity of DL media. Prices for the media are steadily dropping, I picked up a 3 pack of Memorex DL media for $9.99 at CompUSA, about half of what it was just a few weeks ago. Match that up with a DL burner, some of which are down below $50 and you have a great back up solution.
The burner on the bench today is the from ASUS. It supports multiple formats including DVD±R/ 8X DVD+RW/ 6X DVD-RW/ 6X DVD±R (DL).
Unfortunately I have lost track of the package and photos (unexpected format) So all I have is a stock photo of the box. The box gives you details on what formats the burner supports and what speeds it is capable of.
The bundle packaged with the drive is what I would call the "standard issue" that you see with most new CD/DVD ROM drives. Cable Set (IDE Cable*1pc + Screw*4pcs + Audio Cable*1pc) , Nero Software and Ulead DVD MovieFactory, Emergency Eject Pin (previously known as an unfolded paper-clip) and Instruction Slip as well as instructions in multiple languages. One thing you wont find, and I think should be required on all new optical drives is at least one blank disk. How many people have gone out and bought a new drive and not been able to find media as fast as the drive supports?
The drive itself is pretty plain, it comes in one color and that is beige. The front of the drive lists what it is capable of as well as having an activity LED and an eject button. There is also a hole for the Emergency Eject Pin, or paper-clip... whatever you prefer. The rear of the drive doesn't offer anything new or exciting, not that we were expecting anything new or exciting from an optical drive. 40 pin PATA connection, power connection, audio output connection and master/slave/CS jumpers.
I'll be using Nero's drive test feature of the Nero 6 software to test the drives speed when burning and reading different types of media. Nero also offers a pretty handy tool that provides info like drives speed, features, supported media, firmware revision etc. The firmware for the drive is easily updated using the Nero software as well.
The test setup will be ECS PF21 Extreme mobo, Pentium 4 3.4 LGA775, 2 X 512MB Patriot PC2-5600+ DDR2, HIS X800XL, 2 X WD 74 GB Raptor HDD, Windows XP Pro w/SP2, Catalyst 5.6 video drivers.
The comparison drive is a Lite On DVD +/-RW that supports 16X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 4X DVD+R DL 16X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW. However, since I don't have any 16 or 8X blank media but I do have 4 stacks of blank 4X media, all DVD burn tests where at 4X.
First we'll take a look at the read speeds of the drive using Nero's drive tools
Blue October's Argue with a tree disc two is what I used to test the speed with. As you can see the drive comes real close to reaching the 40X read mark, had the CD been a few minutes longer it probably would have made it. The spikes, or should I say drops in read speed I can't explain. It happened on any audio CD I tried. The CPU usage at 4X increased by a HUGE margin and would not even register at 8X, and again this occurred on any audio CD I tested.
Reading a DVD movie results in a lot smoother transition in speeds, with the speed topping out at just over 5X, seek time and CPU usage also fall more in line with the results we have seen on other DL drives. You can see the results from our MSI DR16-B review here.
This drive really seemed to have a hard time with data DVD's The Dvd used contained multiple files ranging from 4MB up to 1.2GB. It started off well but then took a nose dive, however the EXACT same disc in the Lite On drive flat lined at 4.05 and never got any better, and it was unable to complete the rest of the test. I burned a 2nd and a 3rd disc and tried testing them with the same results, so I'm thinking it is a problem with the media and not the drive. Both drives read the discs fine, but drive performance was bad on both parts.
I used CDeX to rip the contents of Blue October's : Argue With a Tree CD 1 to my hard drive times are in minutes:seconds and the lower the better.
The ASUS drive just beats the Lite On drive when it comes to audio extraction, lets see how it fairs when it comes to burning.
Burning CD Media
For the CD media test I burned a CD containing files ranging in sizes from 1MB to 120MB. Generic CompUSA media was used and both drives were tested burning at 40X, the total size ended up being 688MB.
This time the Lite-ON came out on top, completing the CD burn almost a full minute faster than the ASUS A minute may not seem like much time, but if you have a LOT of data that needs to be backed up on CD those minutes add up.
Burning DVD media single layer
The DVD media test used files ranging in size from 4MB to 1.2GB with a total size of 4.01GB when complete. As mentioned previously I have a stack of 4X DVD -R media on hand so that was what was used.
Again, the Lite-On drive edges out the ASUS by almost a minute.
Burning DVD media dual layer
Again files of varying sizes were burned to the DL media, this time ranging in size from 4MB up to about 2.5GB at a speed of 2.4X. Since the Lite-On drive is not DL capable it was not used, however you can compare it to the results of the MSI drive I mentioned earlier here.
When compared to the MSI drive and the HP drive it was tested against, the results for burning DL media on the ASUS fall in right along side the others.
When it comes to DL performance the ASUS is right on par with similar drives, single layer and CD burning it fell slightly behind the Lite-On drive. As for the read speeds, especially for the DVD data read test, I'm having a hard time believing it is a problem with the ASUS drive considering the Lite-ON couldn't even complete the test with the exact same CD. Obviously you get what you pay for, since in this case the reason I have stacks of 4X DVD-R is because I bought them on closeout.
As I said before, both drives had no problem accessing the data, the speed tests just gave flaky results. All media that was burned using the ASUS drive was easily read by any drive we put it in. Data CD and DVD's were tested on 3 other computers DVD movies were tested on the 3 computers as well as 3 different set top DVD players and all worked flawlessly.
The inclusion of Nero 6 should ensure that you will be able to do everything you would expect to do with a DVD burner
Pros: Well priced, about at the time of this review. All CD/DVD's were able to be read by a wide assortment of devices, Nero 6 included
Cons: Slower than some a lot of the other drives on the market, erratic performance in data DVD and audio CD read tests.
Bottom Line Although there was a bit of erratic behavior in some of the speed tests, the ASUS drive still worked like it should, and as far as DL goes it was right on par with other drives we have tested. It's possible that a future firmware update (can be updated using Nero's) could correct these issues, if in fact it is the drive and not the media that caused us problems. Regardless, if you are looking for a name brand DL capable DVD burner "on the cheap" the ASUS at least deserves a look.
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