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Appeared on: Monday, September 12, 2005
ASUS DVD-E616A


1. Introduction

CDRinfo had already tested the ASUS DVD-E616P2 DVD-ROM drive some months ago, and it proved to be a very fast and reliable reader. Now has ASUS pushed the limit even further. Their latest DVD-E616A reader promises even better compatibility, being able to read DVD-RAM discs.

- Features

The E616A has the same features as the E616P2, but Random Access times are reduced, the Data Buffer size is increased and of course, DVD-RAM media is now supported. Additionally, the Speed Auto Switch function controls the speed of the drive to achieve more reliable readings. Attention should be given to the Double Dynamic Suspension System and the Airflow Field Modification, features that are present in all QuieTrack series drives.

- Specifications

Sustained DataTransfer Rate 16X max:21640 KB/s (DVD)
48X max:7200 KB/s (CD)
Burst Data Transfer Rate 99.9MB/s (Ultra DMA/100 Mode)
66.6MB/s (Ultra DMA/66 Mode)
33.3MB/s (Ultra DMA/33 Mode)
16.6MB/s (PIO Mode 4 & Multi-Word DMA Mode 2)
Random Access Time DVD:110ms typical
CD:100ms typical
Interface ATAPI Specification
Disc Formats DVD
DVD-R, DVD-9, DVD-10, DVD-18, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-Video, DVD+R, DVD+RW
CD
CD XA(Video), CD XA(Audio), CD RW(Video),CD RW(Audio), CD RW(UDF), Multi-Session(Data), Multi-Session(Audio), Bootable CD, CD ROM, Karaoke CD, CD-MixMode, CD-Extra, CD-I, Photo CD
Disc Diameters 8cm & 12cm
Data Buffer Size 2 MB
Mounting Orientation Horizontal & Vertical
Compatibility Windows 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP, DOS6.xx, Linux
Audio Outputs Line out Output: 0.7V rms typical
Reliability MTBF:
100,000 Power On Hours (POH)
MTTR:
0.5 hr
Environment Temperature
Operating: 5~45° C
Storage: -20~60° C
Humidity
Operating: 20~80% (non-condensing)
Storage:15~85% (non-condensing)
Configuration Dimension: 14.85 x 4.26 x 17.3 cm (W x H x D)
Weight: 830g
Power Requirement Voltage:DC + 5V / DC + 12V
Tolerance:5% / 10%

The drive also uses the RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times.

- The package

In the retail box, you will find the ASUS DVD-E616A drive, one audio cable, a CD with DVD Playback software, a user manual, a quick installation guide and finally, the mounting screws.

The front panel on the drive is the same as that of the E616P2. The device that arrived at our lab was white, but the drive is also available in black and silver.

On the rear panel, you will see the analogue and digital outputs (SPDIF), the IDE connector and the power input.

We strongly advise against removing the drive's cover, as this will void the drive's warranty. Instead, use the following pictures if you are curious and want to see what is hidden inside. You can click on the mainboard picture for a higher resolution image:

click to enlarge!

- Installation

The drive was installed as secondary master and WindowsXP recognized it as "ASUS DVD-E616A". The drive arrived with firmware version v1.03.

There are numerous utilities available that allow you to change the default speed of the drive, in order to achieve more reliable or quieter operation. The following screenshots are from Nero DriveSpeed.

- Testing software

In order to perform our tests we used:

  1. Nero CD-DVD Speed v4.04
  2. CDVD Benchmark v1.21
  3. ExactAudioCopy v0.9 beta5
  4. Nero Info Tool v3.03
  5. KProbe v2.4.1

In this review, we will be comparing the ASUS drive with the Samsung TS-H352A and the LiteOn SOHD-16P9S DVD-ROM.


2. Transfer Rate Reading Tests

In order to confirm the drive's CD reading specifications, we used one CD pressed media, a copy on each of CD-R and HS-RW media. The results are given in the following graphs.

- CD Format

The overall performance of the ASUS drive was very good, being always slightly slower than the LiteOn reader.

- DVD Format

We repeated the same tests with DVD media this time.

Although the starting speed was low enough, at 5.61x, the drive immediately increased speed to almost 7x. The average reading speed was slightly slower than the other two drives, at just above 12X.

The following DVD is a PTP DVD-ROM where the two layers of 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 DVD-E616A was the fastest drive of all, with an impressive 7.71X average speed.

The graph shown below, indicates the reading performance of the three drives with an OTP dual layer media. 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 of 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.

As with the PTP disc, the ASUS drive was the fastest drive in this comparison with the OTP disc.

The two following graphs show the reading performance with recordable and rewritable media, where again the ASUS drive proved fastest, due to its higher supported speed.

With WriteOnce and ReWritable media, the ASUS reader, posted exceptional, high reading speeds.

We ripped the contents of a pressed Double Layer movie to the hard disk. The results are summarized below:

The E616P2 model is one of the fastest DVD rippers we have seen. The new E616A ripper reported very good ripping speeds, but unfortunately slower than the E616P2 and slightly slower than the other two drives in this comparison.

The ASUS and Samsung drives are the only drives that support DVD-RAM reading, a feature that differentiates the E616A from the E616P2:

-Appendix Nero CD-DVD Speed Graphs


3. CD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we check the drive's behavior when reading scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total Num: 1529431
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num:152079 Avg: -79.1 dB(A) Max: -35.8 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 5158 Avg: 1.0 Samples Max: 9 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 75.1 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy 99.8 %

We expected to see better performance from the E616A DVD-ROM, judging from the results of the E616P2, but since these two drives use different chipsets, it is logical to have some differences in the results. That aside, the E616A showed good performance with no skipped samples despite a high total error count. The total test result score of 75.1 is quite good

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total Num: 2380
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 518 Avg: -89.1 dB(A) Max: -54.2 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 91 Avg: 6.3 Samples Max: 46 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 82.9 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy 59.3 %

Usually, the TCD-726 test disc is much easier for burners/readers to read, with the best drives managing a perfect score. Surprisingly, the E616A reported some errors. We hope to see some improvement in this in a future firmware release.

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

The CD-Check Test Disc is a very useful tool for evaluating the Sound Reproduction / Error correction capabilities of a CD player. The disc offers a signal combination with disc error patterns to rate the drive's abilities to read music and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a sequence of progressively more difficult tests. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

The tracks are reproduced through a software multimedia player (i.e. Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone is smooth, continuous without interruptions, skipping or looping. The higher the Check Level passed, the more reliable the sound reproduction of the tested drive.

Error Level 1 2 3 4 5
ASUS DVD-E616A 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 4/5

Excellent performance with this test disc, common of drives using this chipset (such as LiteOn models).


4. DVD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we examine the DVD reading capabilities of the drive with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media came from ALMEDIO.

- Single Layer media

ABEX TDR-821

This is a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with 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.

If you have a look at the "Transfer Rate Reading Tests" a few pages back in this review, you will see that in some cases, the E616A drive starts reading a disc at 5x (or even lower), but immediately increases its speed to 7x. This is what happened with the TDR-821 test disc. The disc was read without problems and there were only some speed fluctuations at the end of the reading process.

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.

The speed fluctuations that were observed with the TDR-821 disc were again present with the TDR-825 disc. Again, no errors were logged during the reading process.

- 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.

 

In this case, the drive needed to lower its speed a little when the reading the scratches on the second layer. The Auto-Switch control automatically increased the speed once the errors were overcome.

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc with 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 micrometers.

The ASUS reader had no problems reading this disc either.

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 upon 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.

The drive had some difficulties reading this test disc. Fortunately, no errors were logged, while only the speed was reduced to ensure safe reading.

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 disc's surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It also has 65 - 75 micrometer thickness, fingerprints.

The TDV-545 test disc was no problem for the E616A. It took only 13:58 mins to finish the reading process for both layers, while no speed drops were introduced this time.

An overall good, fast and reliable reader. There were no errors with any of the DVD error correction test discs we used with this drive.


5. DAE Tests

- Pressed and CDR AudioCD results

This ASUS drive supports up to 48X DAE speed. The following results were reported when using Exact Audio Copy.

The Samsung drive supports only up to 40X DAE speed, and this is why it was the slowest of all in this comparison chart. The LiteOn and the ASUS readers support the same DAE speed, but the ASUS model was slightly slower. EAC also reported the following information for each drive:

- Advanced DAE Quality

The results we had with the Nero Suite, simply confirmed the results we saw with EAC. The LiteOn was still the fastest drive.

- Ripping 90mins AudioCDs

- Ripping 99mins AudioCDs

Unfortunately, the drive cannot read/rip 90 mins or 99 mins discs.


6. Protected AudioCDs

For the test procedure we used three audio discs with different audio copy protections. The ripping process performed for all protected Audio discs performed with Exact Audio Copy v0.9beta5.

The tested protected Audio discs were:

The Cactus Data Shield 200, contains artificial errors that are not easy to bypassed from the reader, while the Key2Audio contains a second session, causing problems to readers when try to read the Table Of Contents (TOC).

The tested tasks are:

All drives recognized up to the 13th Audio track of CDS200 disc,

and with the "Retrieve Native TOC" option removed, the 13th Data track was also recognised.

The test results are shown in the following table:

ASUS DVD-E616A Key2Audio CDS200
Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison successful for all tracks CD works with Windows Media Player, ripping process completed with EAC which reports timing problems. Read&Test CRC comparison was unsuccessful for most of the tracks

None of the three drives managed to play both of the tested discs.

This is a "special" CDS200 build, since it doesn't contain any artificial errors 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! This "problem" is rumored to be connected to specific chipset weaknesses.

ASUS DVD-E616A CDS 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a
Reading performed without any errors

7. Protected Disc Tests

- Reading Tests

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 duration of each process as well as the transfer rate in each case.
Game Title Protection Scheme Duration Reading speed
PSX "NBA Jam Extreme" Lybcrypt 00:47mins 1898 sectors/sec
Serious Sam The Second Encounter v1.07 SafeDisc v.2.60.052 01:09:16 mins 555 sectors/sec
VRally II SecuROM v.2 02:37mins 2225 sectors/sec

When it comes to game protection, the ASUS DVD-E616A can read/rip accurately all copy protection schemes with no problem, and considerably fast too. In this comparison, the ASUS was the fastest of the three drives.


8. Conclusion

ASUS is known for producing high quality products, especially when it comes to motherboards and graphics cards. In this review, we put ASUS to the test in a sector of the industry ruled in general by other companies. ASUS not only managed to take on the competition, but in many cases dominated.

With a full set of features which includes DVD-RAM reading support, the new E616A has become a very attractive choice if you are looking for a good and reliable reader. The DVD error correction mechanism was excellent, producing no errors with any of our test discs. So don't worry about those old scratched discs, since along with the Auto-Switch mechanism which adjusts the speed accordingly, the drive produces the best possible results.

On the other hand, CD error correction can be further improved and we hope to see this in a future firmware release. CD and DVD reading/ripping speeds were among the fastest, compared to other drives available on the market today.

Game and Audio protection schemes were easily read with the E616A drive. The drive is priced at around US$24.00, making it a very attractive buy.



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