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Appeared on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005
DVD Burners Roundup


1. Introduction

The latest releases from many major manufacturers has created a pressing demand for a comparison in which CDRinfo has gathered the eight best recently reviewed drives. Over the following pages, we will be comparing some of their primary characteristics such as transfer rate, error correction, ripping speed, as well as writing quality and writing times. Here is a list of the drives chosen in alphabetical order, along with their respective manufacturer logos ..

DRW-1608P
DW-1640A
SOHW-1693S
ND-3530A
DVR-109
PX-740A
TS-H552U
DRU-800A

- Specifications

First, lets have a look at each drive's exterior and the firmware release which was installed in the drive during the review period.

DRW-1608P DW-1640A
1.50 firmware release
BSHB firmware release
SOHW-1693S ND-3530A
KS04 firmware release 2.10 firmware release
DVR-109 PX-740A
1.09 firmware release 1.01 firmware release
TS-H552U DRU-800A
US03 firmware release KY01 firmware release

The following table contains some detailed specifications for the reviewed drives. Clicking on the name of any of these drives will take you to the respective review which has been released by CDRinfo over the last few months...

Model DVD+R/-R Writing DVD+R/-R DL Writing DVD+RW/-RW Rewriting DVD-ROM Reading CD-R Writing CD-RW Rewriting CD-ROM Reading
DRW-1608P 16X/16X 6X/6X 8X/6X 16X 40X 24X 40X
DW-1640A 16X/16X 8X/4X 8X/6X 16X 48X 32X 48X
SOHW-1693S 16X/16X 4X/4X 8X/6X 16X 48X 24X 48X
ND-3530A 16X/16X 6X/4X 8X/6X 16X 48X 32X 48X
DVR-109 16X/16X 6X/6X 8X/6X 16X 40X 24X 40X
PX-740A 16X/16X 8X/4X 8X/6X 16X 48X 32X 48X
TS-H552U 16X/16X 2.4X/- 4X/4X 16X 40X 24X 48X
DRU-800A 16X/16X 4X/4X 8X/6X 16X 48X 24X 48X

Now that we've introduced the drives and had a brief look at their specifications, it is time to move on to the comparison tests for all eight CDRinfo reviewed drives...


2. CD/DVD Reading Comparison Tests

Here we will be comparing the reading capabilities of all eight drives. The test media for each drive was measured with Nero CD DVD Speed utility and then the reported values were gathered together and presented in the following graphs, much like the procedure carried out in our standard drive reviews. For obvious reasons, the comparison will concentrate on "Speed Averages".

The BenQ, LiteOn, Plextor and Samsung drives were the fastest with Pressed CD media as reported be CD DVD Speed. So, three original manufacture drives (BenQ DW1640, LiteOn 1693S and Samsung TS-H552U) and the one OEM drive are vying for fastest drive with the LiteOn just edging out the Plextor for top spot.

Reading CDR media this time, the same four drives were again the fastest readers. The LiteOn remained at the top joined this time by the BenQ drive. Both drives reported the same average speed of 37.39X.

In this case, with 24X USRW media, the BenQ, NEC and Plextor drives achieved the best speeds, due to their supported USRW media reading speed of 48X maximum as opposed to 32X for the other drives.

- DVD Format

The comparison tables that follow, are once more created from measurements reported by Nero CD DVD Speed, this time using three Pressed DVD media, one single layer and two Dual Layered discs (one PTP and one OTP).

Using Pressed Single Layer DVD-ROM media, all drives reached their maximum supported reading speeds. It's a fairly even contest here and there are no significant speed differences between the drives.

"The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially with the drive starting reading from the inner part of the disc, which is the beginning of each layer, progressing towards the outer range for each layer." The Asus DRW 1608P and Pioneer DVR-109 drives managed to achieve the best reading speeds with 9.5X and 9.47X respectively. The BenQ DW1640 and Plextor 740A also reported fast speeds.

"The first layer of an OTP dual layer DVD-ROM is read exactly the same way as the first layer of the PTP disc we tested previously. The difference here is the reading strategy of the second layer on the disc. The beginning of the second layer is located in the outer part of the disc, so the drive starts reading from the outer tracks towards the inner part of the disc." In this case, the Plextor drive proved to be the fastest, reporting an average speed of 9.98X followed by the Asus and Pioneer drives.

In both cases, with DVD-R and DVD+R media, the best reading speeds came from the BenQ, Plextor and NEC drives, with the BenQ drive being a little bit faster in both cases.

Same behaviour with these test media, as the NEC, BenQ and Plextor drives managed to achieve the highest reading speeds, thanks to their higher supported maximum reading speed.

-DVD Ripping

We used DVD Decrypter 3.5.4.0 in order to rip DVD-ROM movie files and measure the ripping speed for each of the reviewed drives. The results are listed in the following table. The movie used was "The Matrix" DVD-ROM (original).

The Plextor OEM and BenQ drives managed to achieve highest ripping speed.

Summary

As an overall summation when reading CD-DVD media, we can say that the BenQ and Plextor drives are the fastest, although the LiteOn is still the fastest CD reader out there.


3. DVD Error Correction Comparison Tests

In this page, we will be comparing the eight drives to see how they face up with DVD error correction. We gathered together the results from all eight drives for each test and for the purposes of this review, we will only be posting the graph of the drive with the best result in each test case. For the tests, we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media comes from ALMEDIO.

- Single Layer media
ABEX TDR-821

This is a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with a 4.7GB capacity, and its surface has an artificial scratch of dimensions varying from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

The following transfer rate picture comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

The best reading with this artificially defective test media was reported by the LiteOn 1693S drive. As clearly seen in the above graph, the test went smoothly, right to the end without any drops in speed, while it maxed out at 16X.

ABEX TDR-825

This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM of 4.7GB capacity. The data structure of the disc is exactly the same as that of the TDR-821, with the difference that there are no scratches on it but instead, defective areas of dimensions ranging from 0.5 to 1.1 mm.

There are also fingerprints sized between 65 and 75 micrometers.

In this test, CDVD found the NEC drive as the best in reading this kind of defective media. It passed over the defective regions without a hitch, reached 16X reading speed without any drops in speed.

- Dual Layer media

ABEX TDR-841

This is an 8.5GB dual layer single sided DVD-ROM disc with artificial scratches of dimensions ranging from 0.4 to 3.0mm, on both layers.

While all drives managed to read this defective media without any errors, the Asus drive was the one that climbed all the way up to 14X speed, without reporting any drops in speed producing a flawless reading performance.

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc of a capacity of 8.5GB. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the first includes defective areas and fingerprints.

The dimensions of the defective areas range from 0.5 to 1.1 mm and the fingerprints are sized from 65 to 75 micro meters.

Once again the NEC drive proved to have an excellent error correction mechanism, with the test completing again without any speed drops, even though the transfer rate speed was halved in order for the drive to read this defective media.

ABEX TDV-541

The TDV-541 is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc, with a capacity of 8.5GB. The disc is based on the TDV-540 series which is designed for inspection and adjustment of DVD-VIDEO players. The disc checks the layer switch operation from layer 0 to layer 1 and also includes test pictures and test signals for DVD sound files.

The current TDV-541 also checks the error correcting capabilities of the drive and includes scratches from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

click to enlarge!

The BenQ 1640 drive is the winner in this test, as it managed to read both layers perfectly, without any speed deviations or drops and a smooth graph from start to finish. Note that the BenQ drive managed to read this disc, reaching 12X reading speed. We had cases as with the NEC drive that read up to 8X only with this test. The BenQ drive was the fastest and smoothest reader of them all.

ABEX TDV-545

The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the data surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It has also 65 - 75 micro meter fingerprints.

click to enlarge!

Again the BenQ drive proved to be the best in the comparison as once more it managed to produce an excellent graph, this time with the ABEX TDV-545 test disc.

- Summary

The LiteOn, NEC, Asus and BenQ drives proved to be the best drives in each of these error correction tests. All eight drives managed to complete these tests though and not even one drive reported an error message during the reading of these test media. Feel free to have a look at the entire set of error correction results for each of the drives, in their respective reviews in the links below.

Asus DRW 1608P BenQ DW 1640A LiteOn SOHW 1693S NEC ND-3530A
Pioneer DVR-109 Plextor PX-740A Samsung TS-HS552-U Sony DRU-800A

4. Games Ripping Comparison Tests

Here we will be comparing the ripping capabilities for protected game discs with the eight comparison drives. To create the image of the various protected titles to the hard disk, we used Alcohol 120% software and the appropriate settings, according to the protection type of the inserted discs. Below you can see the transfer rate in each case. Note here that higher is better.
the protected games used for the review...

In the case of the Playstation protected game, the BenQ, NEC and Plextor drives reported very fast ripping.

Surprisingly enough, in this case, only the Samsung drive managed to rip the SafeDisc protected game at a high speed. As the graph indicates, this is a protection scheme is difficult to rip and not always without errors.

SecuROM ripping proved to be an easy task for all the drives, without any significant speed differences.

Game Title Protection Scheme
PSX "NBA Jam Extreme" Lybcrypt
Serious Sam The Second Encounter v1.07 SafeDisc v.2.60.052
VRally II SecuROM v.2

5. DAE Comparison Tests

Here we will be measuring the DAE ( Digital Audio Extraction) speed and comparing the results between the drives. The measurements were made with Nero CD-DVD speed utility and the results are listed on the following tables...

With both pressed and CDR media, four out of eight drives managed to achieve maximum extraction speed. The BenQ, LiteOn, Plextor and Samsung drives reached all the way up to 40X and reported and average speed of 36.72X with Pressed CD (BenQ) and 36.56X with CDR media (LiteOn-Plextor), which are the highest average speeds in the comparison.

- Advanced DAE Quality

Here, the graphs were split in two and in the first graph we have the reported Quality Score, while in the second graph we have the Average speed - both values reported by the Nero CD DVD Speed Advanced DAE Quality test.

All drives except for the NEC, managed to achieve a 100 quality score according to CD DVD speed DAE tool, while the fastest drive proved to be the LiteOn 1693S with an average speed of 33.29X.

In the following table we can see some of the features for each drive as reported by Nero CD speed advanced DAE Quality test, and 90/99 min audio disc ripping capabilities.

Drives / Functions Lead In Lead Out CD Text Subchannel data 90/99 audio
Asus DRW 1608P        
BenQ DW 1640A    
LiteOn SOHW 1693S    
NEC ND-3530A      
Pioneer DVR-109        
Plextor PX-740A      
Samsung TS-H552-U    
Sony DRU-800A  

Overall

All drives performed well in this series of tests. Best average speed came with the BenQ, LiteOn, Plextor and Samsung drives with pressed and CD media while only BenQ, Plextor and LiteOn drives managed to achieve highest speeds in the second test. 90/99 min audio discs were not successfully ripped by all drives, while the Samsung drive was the only one capable of ripping both media.


6. Audio Protections Comparison Tests

Here we will be comparing the capability of each drive's mechanism to successfully rip protected audio discs. We will not explain the procedure in detail as it is already well known through our reviews. We will be performing the ripping with EAC (Exact Audio Copy) Version 0.95 which was used with all drives.

The tested protected Audio discs were:

Artist Protection
Celine Dion - New Day Has Come Sony's Key2Audio
Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island Cactus Data Shield 200
Aiko Katsukino - The Love Letter Cactus Data Shield 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a

The Cactus Data Shield 200 contains artificial errors that are not easily bypassed by the reader, while the Key2Audio contains a second session causing problems for readers when trying to read the Table Of Contents (TOC). The Cactus Data Shield 200.0.4 is a "special" CDS200 build, since it doesn't contain any artificial errors which create problems during the ripping process. Most problems occur when trying to write the ripped wav files, since the produced CD-R disc contains C2 and CU errors!

The test results are shown in the following table:

Legend
good Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison successful for all tracks
average Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison not the same for all corresponding tracks
bad Cannot rip or read contents of the disc

Almost all drives proved to be quite good readers with protected audio media and almost all drives managed to "beat" the protection and produce an accurate backup. In one case, with the Samsung drive, we did not manage to produce a backup since the drive could not read over the protection.

Drives / Protection Key2Audio CDS200 CDS200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a
Asus DRW 1608P good good Reading performed without any errors
BenQ DW 1640A good good Reading performed without any errors
LiteOn SOHW 1693S good good Reading performed without any errors, writing produces few C2 spikes
NEC ND-3530A good good Reading performed without any errors
Pioneer DVR-109 average average Reading performed without any errors
Plextor PX-740A good good Reading performed without any errors
Samsung TS-H552-U good bad Reading performed without any errors
Sony DRU-800A good average Reading performed without any errors, writing produces few C2 spikes

As we can see, protected audio discs are not an issue for the reviewed drives, especially the latest ones. A good rip and quality backup is ensured with almost any drive used. Note that speed is not important here, because what we need in this case is quality ripping and not fast ripping.


7. DVD Writing Quality with Verbatim media

Here, we will be comparing the writing quality of the eight drives with specific media. After checking our reviews on all the drives, we settled on Verbatim (MKM)-Mitsubishi Chemicals media since it was the media that had been used with all the drives. The test will also include one media brand from each drive which produced the best quality burn.

For the testing we used...

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

Media Brand Media ID
Verbatim(MKM) MCC03R G20
Mitsubishi Chemicals MCC 004

Asus DRW 1608P

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

BenQ DV 1640A

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

LiteOn SOHW 1693S

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

 

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

NEC ND-3530A

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

Unfortunately this media was not present in our database.

Pioneer DVR-109

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

Plextor PX-740A

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

Samsung TS-H552U

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

Sony DRU-800A

Verbatim (MCC 03R) 16X DVD-R

Verbatim (MCC 004) 16X DVD+R

Overall

Throughout this page we saw a variety of scans, ranging from very good to average, as well as some not so good ones. In the next page we will see a sample of the best burns for each drive and their overburning potential.


8. Best Burning Comparison Tests

Here we will be posting the results of the best burned media for each of the drives. Once more, we chose to present the results of media burned during the full reviews for each drive. All reviews are available on the CDRinfo web site.

For the graphs we used :

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

Asus DRW 1608P

TY DVD+R 8X @ 12X

BenQ DV 1640A

Ridisc DVD+R 16X @ 16X

LiteOn SOHW 1693S

Maxell DVD+R 16X @ 16X

NEC ND-3530A

Maxell DVD+R 16X @ 16X

Pioneer DVR-109

Verbatim DVD-R 8X @ 8X

Plextor PX-740A

TY DVD+R 8X @ 8X

Samsung TS-H552U

Verbatim DVD-R 4X @ 4X

Sony DRU-800A

TY DVD+R 8X @ 8X

Now that we've had a look at the best burns for each of the drives, lets take a look at the following table were the overburning capabilities of each drive are listed.

Drives /Overburning DVD+R DVD-R
Asus DRW 1608P no no
BenQ DW 1640A no no
LiteOn SOHW 1693S no no
NEC ND-3530A no no
Pioneer DVR-109 no no
Plextor PX-740A no no
Samsung TS-HS552-U no no
Sony DRU-800A no no

Unfortunately, none of the drives support the DVD overburning feature.


9. DL Writing Comparison Tests

We burned some DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL discs with DVD-Video content. The source disc was "Gladiator Movie - Special Edition" disc1 with a total size of 6.86GB. First we transferred the movie to the hard disc with DVD Decrypter as ISO format (single file). We used Double Layer media provided by RiDisc and Verbatim (MKM).

We then used the latest CopyToDVD, and specifically the "Movie & Pictures" option, and then "Write DVD Video". The software prompts us to select the Video_TS/ISO image folder.

Now lets see how the drives performed with specific media, in this case MKM 001 DVD+R DL media.

Asus DRW-1604P

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 6X

BenQ DW1640

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 8X

LiteOn 1693S

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 4X

NEC ND-3530A

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 6X

Pioneer DVR-109

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 6X

Plextor PX 740A

Maxell +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 8X

Samsung TS-H552U

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 6X

Sony DRU-800A

Verbatim +R DL media (MKM 001) @ 4X

Now lets gather the results and compare the burning times. Best time was with MKM 001 Maxell media and the Plextor drive, in this comparison and overall.

Drive Time (mins)
Asus DRW-1608P 16:27
BenQ DW1640 14:14
LiteOn 1693S 22:30
NEC ND-3530A 17:48
Pioneer DVR-109 16:29
Plextor PX 740A 13:52
Samsung TS-H552U) 18:13
Sony DRU-800A 22:48

10. Bitsetting Comparison Tests

The Booktype Setting allows the user to alter the current setting of the pre-burned media to DVD-ROM in most cases, in order to maximize compatibility with other stand alone players. For the Booktype setting to work, the drive must support such a function. Almost all drives on the market support this setting. Unfortunately some do not, or some support it partially (it has been noted that some drives support bitsetting only as far as DL media is concerned). On this page, we will have a brief look as to whether the reviewed drives support the bitsetting function and with which utility the change can be accomplished.

Asus DRW 1608P

The Asus 1608P unfortunately does not support the Bitsetting function.

BenQ DW 1640A

The BenQ 1640 supports booktype change through the "Booktype Management" utility included in the Qsuite, a collection of usefully utilities for BenQ drives which comes bundled in the retail box.

LiteOn SOHW 1693S

Owners of the LiteOn drive can change the current booktype to the preferred one easily, with the aid of the LiteOn Booktype utility which can be downloaded from LiteOnit.com.

NEC ND-3530A

NEC supports the Booktype setting change through the Nero CD-DVD Speed utility and DVD Info Pro. Unfortunately, the 3530A supports this function only for DVD+R DL media.

Pioneer DVR 109

Just as with the NEC drive, the Pioneer DVR 109 supports the Booktype change only with DVD+R DL, which prior to burning the inserted media, changes its setting to DVD-ROM for maximized compatibility.

Plextor PX-740A

The Plextor drive supports Bitsetting through various utilities like Nero CD-DVD speed, DVD InfoPro, as well as the BenQ Qsuite utility since the Plextor and BenQ drives share the same chipset, the Plextor drive being an OEM drive.

Samsung TS-HS552U

Unfortunately, the Samsung drive does not support this feature...

Sony DW-800U

The Sony drive supports this function through several utilities like KProbe, DVDInfo Pro and DVD Dectrypter.

 

-Quality Scan capabilities

Drives /Quality Scan Yes No
Asus DRW 1608P  
BenQ DW 1640A  
LiteOn SOHW 1693S  
NEC ND-3530A  
Pioneer DVR-109  
Plextor PX-740A  
Samsung TS-HS552-U  
Sony DRU-800A  

Only two out of eight drives do not support the quality scan feature, neither with Krpobe nor CD Speed Utility.


11. Conclusion

Throughout this review, we compared eight of our most recently reviewed drives. We compared reading speed, ripping speed, error correction capabilities, backup capabilities and drive features. We saw how all eight drives perform with specific media and the best burns from each of the drives. What we have is a general idea of what the drives can do and how good a quality burning devices they are.

The term "Best Drive" is subjective and in truth, very much depends on the needs of each buyer. Writing quality with CD or DVD media is an important issue, since we are talking about DVD burners. However, many people might think that CD burning quality is not an important criterion for basing a decision on which drive to purchase. And while for many, reading speed is something important, it has to be combined with good error correction. It is very common for a drive to offer a higher reading speed but with inadequate error correction. Many of the latest drives however have succeeded in combining both and this is an advantage. Bitsetting is another strong feature which we highly recommend you look for in a drive since it increases compatibility, mostly with older standalone, non PC players and not only.

DAE ripping speed, ability to play and rip audio protected discs or create working backups of protected games, overburning, region free utilities, strong official/unofficial firmware support, ability to measure the writing quality of burned media and many others, are features which can make a DVD burner better and/or more attractive than the competition. However, it is very difficult to be good at everything and this is the main reason we believe there isn't a "Best Drive". Finally, for most buyers, the price in most cases is what will determine if a burner is worth buying or not.

So, we won't recommend which drive you should buy. This is something you'll have to decide for yourself. What we would recommend is that you look at what needs you have and find the most suitable burner for the job. We hope this comparison has helped make your decision a little easier :-)

Feel free to discuss this review here.



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