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Appeared on: Thursday, July 03, 2008
LiteOn DX-401S


1. Specifications, features

The DX-401S is LiteOn's new External BD-ROM drive. This stylish-looking drive supports reading of all the CD/DVD/BD media currently available. Its specifications are good, with BD media being read at 4X, DVD±R at 12X, DVD±R DL at 8X, DVD-RAM at 5X and CD media at 32X.

The DX-401S is in fact based on the DH-401S LiteOn drive, bundled with a stylish case that supports external USB 2.0 connectivity, so that you can connect it to any PC, anywhere.

In the following pages we will examine the performance of LiteOn's new offering for Blu-ray discs, in terms of reading speed and reliability.

For comparison, we have also included the results of two other BD-ROM drives currently available on the market. The LiteOn DH-401S (internal) and the Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202.

But first, let's have a closer look at the drive's features.

- Specifications in detail:

BD Family Read
BD-ROM 4X
BD-RE 4X
BD-R DL 4X
BD-RE DL 4X
Access time 160ms
DVD Family Read
DVD+R/-R 12x
DVD+R/-R DL 8x
DVD+RW/-RW 8x
Access time 160ms
 
CD Family
Read 32X
Access time 160ms
PC Required Pentium 4 2.0GHz or faster CPU and 512MB or higher RAM are required.
> 30GB HDD available capacity.

For High Definition BD Playback & Authoring: (Only Windows XP SP2)
Pentium D 3.4GHz or faster CUP and 1GB or higher RAM are required.
GPU : nVidia Ge Force 7600GT / 7800GTX512 / 7900GX2 / 7900GTX /   7950GX2 and ATI X1600 / X1800 / X1900 series are recommended.
>60GB HDD available capacity.

HDCP capable graphics card with 256MB RAM, PCI Express x16, 1920x1200 resolution, 32bit color.
HDCP capable Monitor or TV for High Definition digital output.           
Compatibility Microsoft Windows 2000 SP4 / XP SP2 / Vista
General Environment
Operating 5°C to 50°C; Relative Humidity: 8% to 80%
Non-Operating -20°C to 60°C; Relative Humidity: 5% to 95%
Dimension 145.8(W) x 41.4(H) x 180(D) mm
Weight < 0.8Kg
Voltage Requirements
+5V +/-5% ripple: 100mVpp
+12V +/-10% ripple: 200mVPP

-Retail Box

The retail box offers the following items:

-System Minimum Requirements

The drive's case is neat and stylish, as you can see in the pictures below. Sized slightly bigger than an internal ODD and with a weight of less than 800gr. , the drive can be installed on your desk in either vertical or horizontal position.

The rear panel includes the USB 2.0 port, a DC input as well as a useful power switch.

Underneath the drive there are four rubber pads that helps keep the drive in place when it’s sitting down flat, and also helps to reduce any vibrations.

Installation

The drive was connected to the PC as a typical USB device and was recognized as "ATAPI BD O DH4O1S"

It's general specifications and features are available below:

DVD Info Pro

Nero InfoTool


2. Reading tests - CD

For our CD transfer rate tests, we used the Nero Disc Speed utility and a set of data and audio CD-R/RW/ROM. The drive can read CD media at a maximum speed of 32X, and has a typical access time of 160msec.

For each CDSpeed graph, you can click on the image to see the complete screenshot of the software, including the measuring results.

- CD-ROM

Below is a table comparing the reading speed of this drive, the Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202 and the LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM.

Drive

Average Speed

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

24.67X

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

24.66X

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

25.46X

- US RW

The following Disc Speed graph shows the reading performance with 32x US-RW media. For all the graphs, you can click on the image to see the full CDspeed snapshot.

Drive

Average Speed

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

24.45X

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

24.46X

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

19.01X

- AudioCD

Digital Audio Extraction or DAE is important when we try to read the files stored on an audio CD and store them in our hard disk drive. The procedure is not always that simple and the fidelity of the extracted data depend on the way each drive handles these data.

The majority of the software that support this procedure, commonly known as "ripping", will just read the audio files and store them on your hard disk. However, this approach is not recommended for all drives, since it may result to read or sync errors if your drive does not support report of C2 error pointer information and also what the author of the EAC (Exact Audio Copy) software describes as "accurate stream" and " non-caching."

According to EAC, the LiteOn DX-401S drive supports all of the "caching ", "Accurate stream" and "C2 error info" parameters. Accurate stream and C2 error reporting is always welcome and contribute to reliable and fast audio extraction. However, the "caching" feature makes audio extraction more complicated.

The Exact Audio Copy software - possibly the best audio extractor available - provides different reading modes for each drive, which should be selected accordingly based on the three parameters mentioned above. In our case, a secure extraction mode should be selected in order to "defeat" caching, resulting to a slower overall extraction compared to other extraction modes.

In order to have the optimum ripping quality, we have selected the secure mode for ripping a 74min audio CD to our hard disk. The drive read the audio tracks in 5.1X, which is a fourth of the drive's maximum speed.

If you are sure about the physical condition of your audio CD and you need faster extractions, you may chose other utilities such as the CD DAE software. The same ripping task finished at an average reading speed of 23X, using CD DAE:

Drive

Average Speed

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

23X

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

23X

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

23.5X

Another test useful for the comparison of CD-ROM drives is CDSpeed's Advanced DAE quality test.

LiteOn DX-401S 's average speed was 22,94X with a quality score of 100.

Reading of Lead in and subchannel data of audio files as well as CD text support are also included in the drive's capabilities.

Drive

Average Speed

Quality Score

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

22.49X

100.0

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

22.94X

100.0

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

23.63X

100.0

- 90 mins Audio disc

- 99 mins Audio disc

The 90min audio CD was read successfully, while the 99min one produced an error at the reading process.


3. Error correction tests - CD

This series of tests checks the drive's ability to correct/conceal possible erroneous data after reading artificially scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

Specifically, a software compares two audio files using FFT analysis. The first audio file has been extracted by a normal audio disc. The second one is the result of the extraction of the another disc which hold the same audio track, but it also has specific defects on its surface. The similarity factor of the the two tracks unveils the error correction capabilities of the drive.

The differences between the two compared tracks are translated to a signal (noise) illustrated in the following graphs.

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total
Num : 1082189
Errors (Loudness)
Num : 53071
Avg : -73,6 dB(A)
Max : -34,9dB(A)
Error Muting
Num : 3466
Avg : 1.0 Samples
Max : 9 Samples
Skips
Num : 0
Avg : 0,0 Samples
Max : 0 Samples
Total Test Result

LiteOn DX 401S

76,6 points ( of 100.0 maximum )

C2 accuracy : 99,7%

LiteON DH-401S
47.5 points
Pioneer BDC 202

75.3 points

In the graph above, one can note that the drive's performance was average. As soon as we move to the defected data area many errors were reported. In addition, error hiding mechanisms of the drive failed to keep the errors under the -60 db barrier, which is considered as the limit that when exceeded, problems in audio playback may be reported.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total
Num : 0
Errors (Loudness)
Num : 0
Avg : -174,0dB(A)
Max : -174,0dB(A)
Error Muting
Num : 0
Avg : 0,0 Samples
Max : 0 Samples
Skips
Num : 0
Avg : 0,0 Samples
Max : 0 Samples

Total Test Result

LiteOn DX 401S

100,0 points (of 100.0 maximum)
LiteON DH-401S
47.5 points
Pioneer BDC 202
83.9 points

The second test disc was easier to overcome. The drive responded flawlessly and successfully corrected all read errors.

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

The CD-Check Test Disc is another 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 (e.g. 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
LiteOn DX 401S 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5
LiteON DH-401S 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5
Pioneer BDC 202
5/5
5/5
5/5
0/5
0/5

A good performance for the DX 401S drive here, successfully playing the first 4 tracks.


4. Reading tests - DVD

Now let's have a look at how the drive performs with DVD media. This time, a set of SL and DL DVD media was used. The drive is capable of reading at 12X maximum speed for single layer DVD ROM and at 8X for dual layer DVD ROM media.

DVD-ROM SL media -

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

9.12X

221 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

9.10X

197 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

9.42X

331 ms

PTP DVD-ROM -

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 its outer range.

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

6.13X

217 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

6.15X

217 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

6.27X

343 ms

A small drop in the reading speed of the second layer of the disc was reported at around the 7.75GB mark.

OTP DVD-ROM -

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 and progresses towards the inner part of the disc.

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

6.13X

209 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

6.14X

212 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

6.26X

344 ms

- DVD-R

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

8.93X

219 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

8.94X

218 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

9.34X

347 ms

- DVD-RW

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

6.15X

216 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

6.16X

235 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

6.29X

437 ms

- DVD+R

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

8.93X

228 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

8.94X

222 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

9.44X

354 ms

- DVD+RW

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

6.18X

233 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

6.19X

231 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

6.30X

360 ms

- DVD-R DL

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

6.17X

244 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

6.18X

232 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

6.30X

366 ms

- DVD+R DL

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

6.17X

251 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

6.18X

228 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

6.30X

365 ms

- DVD Ripping speed.

The ripping process of a DVD-ROM movie produced the following results:

Drive

Average Speed

Maximum Speed

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

8,145 KB/s (5,9X)

11,457 KB/s (8,3x)

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

8,19KB/s (5.9x)

11,36KB/s (8.2X)

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

5,206 KB/s (3.8x)

7,244 KB/s (5.3x)


5. Error correction tests - DVD

In the following tests, we examine the DVD reading capabilities of the drive (error correction) with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests, we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero Disc Speed. 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.

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.

Average performance in the two SL media , with the drive generating some speed fluctuations in order to overcome the defects.

- 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.

The reading process of the TDR-841 produced many read errors and in the end the drive failed to complete it.

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.

Average performance too in the TDV-545 PTP DL disc.

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 drive failed to read the disc, as its error correction mechanisms could not overcome the defect.

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 also has 65 - 75 micrometer fingerprints.

A good reading here, no read errors reported.


6. Reading tests - Blu-ray disc

Let's now see how the drive performs with various Blu-ray discs. We remind you that the drive uses the 4x (CAV) speed for reading all the Blu-ray disc formats.

- BD-R SL (25GB, data)

 

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

3.17X

272 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

3.18X

274 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

3.91X

383 ms

-BD-R DL (50GB, data)

The reading graph was not so smooth here, although the disc was completely read.

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

3.15X

275 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

3.16X

269 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

2.00X

556 ms

-BD-RE SL (25GB, data)

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

3.17X

281 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

3.18X

272 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

3.88X

381 ms

-BD-RE DL

The drive failed to read a BD-RE DL disc. The specific disc was burned by another LiteOn product, the DH-4B1S.

-BD-ROM SL (25GB, movie)

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

3.13X

232 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

3.14X

233 ms

Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202

3.84X

375 ms

-BD-ROM DL (50GB, movie)

As it happened in the case of the 50GB BD-R disc, the LiteOn drive again had some problems reading the second layer of the BD-ROM DL disc.

Drive

Average Speed

Full Access Time

LiteOn DX-401S BD-ROM

3.10X

423 ms

LiteOn DH-401S BD-ROM

3.11X

418 ms


7. BD Movie Playback

In order to perform our BD Movie Playback tests, we used the "Casino Royale" (DL BD) movie.

The drive's minimum system requirements for BD playback are:

However, the recommended specifications for BD Playback and Authoring are:

Our testing system consisted of the following:

First, we connected our non-HDCP monitor with a typical analog (VGA) connector. The reason of us doing this, was our intention to check the expected downgrade on the image quality, when using an analog monitor instead of an HDCP-capable. For the same reason, we used the highest possible resolution with this monitor, which was also close enough to the High Definition specifications.

Then we connected the an LG L246WH-BN 24" Full-HD LCD monitor, which was HDCP ready and offers a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz.

Should someone want to watch a BD movie on an HDCP capable TV, he would have to connect the graphics card digital output to the TV's digital input, and also connect the output of the audio card to the adjacent TV/Home Cinema input.

The application we used to watch the movies was Cyberlink Power DVD v8.

Here are some photos of the monitor during playback:

In this frame PowerDVD shows us info about the movie and the video/audio bitrate for a specific scene. This varied from approximately 10Mbps to 45Mbps, depending on the complexity of each scene of the movie.

Playback was flawless with the CPU utilization to hardly reach the 25%, for the specific PC configuration. Forward/reverse operations were resumed without any problems throughout the complete movie.


8. Final words

The DX-401S is aimed to those who would like to have a portable drive that would enable them to watch BluRay movies and/or read BluRay media in general. The LiteOn drive can be connected to any PC, anywhere and that's the greatest of its features. You can use it at home to watch a movie, at work to read BD data media and even on your friend's PC.

The drive's stylish casing will add a lot to its evaluation points, successfully pleasing the eye of every owner.

Data transfer between the PC and the drive is made through the USB2.0 interface, ensuring that all read-out data will arive on time, even when playing BD movies, whose bitrate can reach 45 MByte/s .

However, as it is with all kinds of optical storage, the integrity of the read-out data plays a big role in the whole scene. Error correction and hiding mechanisms have to be as good as possible, while high reading speeds are always appreciated. Let's move on to the test summary to see how the LiteOn drive performed.

CD/DVD/BD media reading was fast, justifying LiteON's official specs. DAE was also fast enough for your everyday needs. Exception to this good performance is the reading process of the BD-RE DL disc, which could not be completed. The drive also had some minor difficulties reading dual-layerd BD-R and BD-ROM discs, showing some fluctations in the reading speed especially of the second layer of the discs. Hopefully, this was not translated into problems in the picture in the BD-ROM movie playback test. The reproduction was flawless, for both single and dual layer BD movies. Seek times were also low and the movie refused to "freeze" no matter our attempts to push it to its limits by pressing the FF/RW buttons. Good job for the LiteOn drive.

The drive is also practically silent while reading any kind of disc. Of course, this has to do with the drive's excellent build quality of the external case.

The error correction mechanisms of the drive were mediocre. Reading of our artificially defective discs many times produced read errors. Furthermore, the drive was not able to read the ABEX TDV-541 and the ABEX TDV-841 test discs.CD error correction mechanisms were average, not successfully hiding potential noise in the generated audio stream.

To sum up, the DX-401S' performance was adequate. Very nice reading speed, but, on the contrary, mediocre error correction mechanisms. Liteon's engineers could also do some tweaking in the reading of BD-RE DL and generally BD DL media, in order to offer smoother readings. However, when you mix these up with its relatively low price, the drive becomes a good buy. It's one of the few BD player that can be bought for about $200~150, while maintaining a decent overall performance.



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