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Appeared on: Thursday, December 10, 2009
LiteOn iHOS104 4x BD-ROM


1. Features, specifications

Today we will make some tests with Lite-On's latest BD-ROM drive, the iHOS104. The drive does not offer the writing capabilities found on more expensive units, but its relatively low cost could be attractive to users who need a BD drive in order to watch Blu-ray movies on their computers. The drive retails for about $70 in online stores.

Basic features inlcude 4x BD read speeds, reading of DVD's at 8x and CD's at 32x. Of course, the , the drive comes with CyberLink's PowerDVD software.

Features:

  • SATA interface, 5 ¼" Half-Height internal BD ROM drive.
  • Max. 4X BD-ROM/BD-RE SL and 4X BD-ROM/BD-R/BD-RE DL CAV reading
  • Max. 8X DVD-ROM/+R/+RW/+RDL/-R/-RW/-RWDL CAV reading
  • Max. 32X CD-ROM/R/RW CAV reading
  • Fast access time and high data transfer rate, could be vertical mounted (optional)
  • SMART-X function smartly adjusts CD-DA / VCD / DVD data extraction to a fastest allowable speed according to both data request rate from host and disk quality
  • Supporting DOS 6.xx, Windows XP/ 2003/ Vista and Linux Operating System
  • BD read compliant: BD data, BD video of 12 cm diameter
  • CD read compliant: CD-DA,CD-ROM, CD-ROM/XA , Photo-CD, Multi-session Video-CD, CD-I FMV, CD Extra, CD Plus, CD-R , and CD-RW discs of 8 or 12 cm diameter
  • DVD read compliant: DVD single/dual layer (PTP, OTP), DVD-R(4.7G), DVD-R multi-borders DVD-R Double Layer, DVD+R, DVD+R multi-sessions, DVD+R Double Layer, DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs
  • Flash ROM support on line programming capability
  • Serial ATA Revision 2.6, ATA-8, MMC-6 and SFF-8090 V7 compliant
  • MPC level 3, PC2001 System Design Guide, MultiRead/UDF compliant
  • Support Ultra DMA mode 5
  • AACS compliant (incl. Rom mark)

 

The retail package of the drive includes:

The drive sports a glossy finish, and has the typical single operation LED below the tray, following the design of LiteOn' ODD drives. The retail version of the iHOS104 also comes with a silver replacement bezel:

The rear panel is straightforward and and has a power connector and the SATA interface:

Let's take a look at the drive's internal board. It is recommended not to open the case of your drive since that would void the warranty.

The main board is small as you can see in the picture below.You can click on each picture for a larger view:

Click for HD image

The drive uses the Sunext SC6300B3 a single-chip all-format optical disc controller with integrated Serial ATA host interface. The SC6230 reads Blu-ray format, as well as all CD and DVD standards. Sunext Technology Company Limited is privately held and a supplier of semiconductor products for Optical Disc Drive (ODD) applications. The company is using ODD patents from Philips since a licensing agreement sugned between the companies in 2006.

The drive was connected to the PC via a typical SATA interface and was identified as "iHOS104".


2. CD reading

For our CD/DVD transfer rate tests we used the Nero Disc Speed utility and a set of data and audio CD-R/RW/ROM media. Here we test the maximum reading speed of the LiteOn drive (32x) for each type of disc. For comparison, we have included the corresponding reading results of two more BD-ROM drives, the LiteOn DH-4O1S and the Pioneer BDC-202.

-CD-ROM

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 24.85x 24.66x 25.46x
Random seek time 122ms 118ms 143ms

- US RW

The following CD Speed graph shows the reading performance with US-RW media.

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 24.71x 24.46x 19.01x
Random access time 120ms 120ms 157ms

- AudioCD

In the CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test, the drive's average speed was 22.84x with a quality score of 100.

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 22.87x 22.94x 23.63x
Quality score 100 100 100

- CD DAE

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 iHOS104 drive does supports "caching " and "Accurate stream" but it does not report "C2 error" pointer information.

Accurate stream and C2 error reporting is always welcome and contribute to reliable and fast audio extraction. Generally, if you select a drive for extraction better have a look that the drive does not cache audio data.

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. A typical ripping task finished at an average reading speed of 19.5X, using CD DAE:

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 19.5x 23x 23.1x

 

- 90 mins Audio disc

90min Audio disc

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed read error 11.42x read error
Random access time - 138ms -

 

- 99 mins Audio disc

99min Audio disc

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed seek error seek error seek error
Random access time - - -

Summary

The reading process of almost all CD media was completed without read errors and at speeds that match the drive's specifications. An exception to this were the 90and 99min CD-Rs, which are generally hard to be read and most of the drives fail in these tests.


3. CD error correction

This series of tests checks the drive's ability to correct/conceal possible erroneous data after reading artificially scratched / defective audio discs.

Using a CD-R in best shape to do the DAE test is generally not a safe way to test the drive's error correction capabilities. If your drive would not read audio CDs error free from an error free disc, you would probably bring the drive back to the vendor. It is far more interesting to see how a drive is behaving under critical conditions (which will also tell something about the DAE quality on CDs that have manipulated C2 error information on purpose). For that a special test CD like the ABEX discs from ALMEDIO can be used, that can be used to do a comparison between different drives. The ABEX test disc is actually an AudioCD that has artificial scratches and other physical disc error patterns on its surface.

Using a special software, we compare two audio files using FFT analysis. The first audio file has been extracted by a normal audio disc without physical error patterns on it . The second one is the result of the extraction of the ABEX test discs which hold the same audio tracks, 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. Each graph tells a lot about the abilities of the drive. The quality of the optical system (and/or of the error correction capabilities of the firmware) is shown in at which time index the error start. The error hiding qualities are shown when the wedge gets bigger. The X position of a grid line is always a start of a new minute position on the CD (in play time, up to 74 min). The Y axis shows the dB(A) value of the error in the extracted file. The 0 dB(A) baseline at the top is marked slightly different. So the graph shows a range of 6 dB(A) down to -120.0 dB(A). Each line represents 6 dB(A) of volume (6 dB(A) louder means that the sound is double as loud).

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total Num : 898320
Errors (Loudness) Num : 48277 Avg : -73.9 dB(A) Max : -35.9 dB(A)
Error Muting Num : 2872 Avg : 1.4 Samples Max : 598 Samples
Skips Num : 0 Avg :0.0 Samples Max 0 Samples
Total Test Result 76.6 points (of 100.0 maximum )

It is obvious that the LiteOn iHOS104 drive is actually muting the faulty samples rather than correcting them. Although the average value for the errors is not high enough to produce possible audible distortions to sound that will reach your speakers, some wedges are high enough (MAx -35.9 dB(A)).

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Total score 76.6 points 47,5 points 75.3 points

- ABEX TCD-726R

Errors total Num : 69290
Errors (Loudness) Num : 370 Avg : -28.3.0 dB(A) Max : -16.3 dB(A)
Error Muting Num : 140 Avg : 1.0 Samples Max : 2 Samples
Skips Num :0 Avg :0,0 Samples Max 0 Samples
Total Test Result 85.8 points(of 100.0 maximum)

The drive reacted badly as soon as it reached the first defected sectors of the disc, giving a high wedge. Other than that, the total score is adequate for the specific disc.

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Total score 85.8 points 47,5 points 83.9 points

- 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 iHOS104S 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5
LiteOn DH-4O1S 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5
Pioneer BDC-202 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5 0/5

As it was expected, the error hiding mechanism of the LiteOn iHOS104 drive as well as the drive's tend to mute faulty samples resulted to a flawless reproduction of all the tracks of this test disc.


4. DVD reading

DVD-ROM SL media

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.05x 9.10x 9.42x
Random access time 129ms 110ms 151ms

The LiteOn iHOS104 drive supports 8x for reading, making it a little bit slower than its competitors as you can see in the above table.

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.

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.14x 6.15x 6.27x
Random access time 126ms 124ms 164ms

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.

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.10x 6.14x 6.26x
Random access time 127ms 124ms 163ms

 

DVD-R

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.06x 8.94x 9.34x
Random access time 133ms 118ms 164ms

DVD-RW

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.06x 6.16x 6.29x
Random access time 137ms 125ms 174ms

 

DVD+R

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.06x 8.94x 9.44x
Random access time 130ms 119ms 169ms

DVD+RW

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.08x 6.19x 6.30x
Random access time 126ms 125ms 174ms

DVD+R DL

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.14x 6.10x 6.30x
Random access time 138ms 129ms 182ms

DVD-R DL

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 6.14x 6.18x 6.30x
Random access time 138ms 130ms 185ms

DVD Ripping speed

Ripping of a single layer DVD movie:

  LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average 8.013 KB/s (5.8x) 8.19 KB/s (5.9x) 5.206 KB/s (3.75x)
Maximum 11.214 KB/s (8.1x) 11.36 KB/s (8.2X) 7.244 KB/s (5.22x)

Summary

LiteOn iHOS104 is not that fast as the other drives when reading DVD-ROM SL media. So if speed is what you are seeking of, you may add this to the list of negatives for the drive. However, we think that the drive generally performed pretty well while it was also fast in accessing the discs, compared to the Pioneer drive.


5. DVD error correction

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 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 reading process was completed successfully and the defects on the disc's surface did not slow down reading.

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.

 

No reading problems here.

- 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.

Same as before, successful reading without any speed fluctuations or read errors.

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.

 

 

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.

Flawless reading here.

Summary

Overall, the DVD error correction mechanism of the LiteOm drive is quite good.


6. Blu-ray disc reading - page 1

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. For this test, we used many BD-R/RE discs burned at high speeds with the Pioneer BD-R 203 and the Sony BWU-S300 burners.

- BD-ROM SL (25GB, movie)

Disc BD-ROM SL 25GB
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

A typical reading of a BD-ROM SL disc. The iHOS104 drive finished the task in an average speed of 3.01x, a little bit slower than the Pioneer BDC-202 drive, which supports a 5x reading speed with BD discs anyway .

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 3.01x 3.14x 3.84x
Random access time 105ms 102ms 106ms

- BD-ROM DL (50GB, movie)

Disc BD-ROM DL 50GB
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S
Average Speed 3.00x 3.11x
Random seek time 102ms 99ms

- Blu-ray Disc Movie

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

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.

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.

- BD-R SL (25GB, data)

Here we test the reading capabilities of the LiteOn iHOS104 BD-ROM drive with various BD-R discs.

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Moser Baer India 25GB BD-R 6x - MBIR06 (000)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim 25GB BD-R 6x - VERBATIMe (000)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

The drive quit reading and gave a read error right after the 1Gb mark. The specific disc BD-R Sl disc was certified for 6x burning and was actually burned at 8x using the Pioneer BDR-203 drive.

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Panasonic 25GB BD-R 6x - MEI (RA1)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc TDK 25GB BD-R 4x - TDKBLDRBB (000)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim BD-R 25GB 4x - VERBATIMc (000)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc TDK 25GB BD-R 6x - TDKBLDRBD (000)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim 25GB BD-R LTH 2x - VERBATIMw (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

Some minor problems here with the reading of the Verbatim LTH BD-R disc. Although reading was resumed after each drop at the speed, these speed fluctuations could make your movie freeze during a possible playback of a video. In addition, they unveil possible problematic sections of the stored data that the drive cannot easily deal with them and could make the disc unreadable in the future.

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 3.04 3.10x 3.91x
Random seek time 120ms 100ms 90ms

BD-R SL (7.5GB, data)

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim 7.5GB 8cm BD-R 2x - VERBATIMa (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

Summary

The drive easily read the majority of the BD-ROM and BD-R discs of this test. Some problems might be identified with the Verbatim LTH BD-R as well as the recently introduced TDK and Verbatim BD-R SL discs certified for 6x burning. Playback of a Blu-ray disc movie was great and the drive was responsive to any navigation and FF/RW test we did while playing the movie.


7. Blu-ray disc reading - page 2

- BD-R DL (50GB, data)

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Panasonic 50GB BD-R DL 6x - MEIRB1(001)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc TDK 50GB BD-R DL 6x - TDKBLDRFD (000)
Burning speed 8x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim 50GB BD-R 2x - VERBATIMb (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc TDK 50GB BD-R DL 2x - TDKBLDRFA (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 3.04 3.16 2x
Random access time 121msec 101ms 95ms

- BD-RE SL (25GB, data)

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim BD-RE 25GB 2x - VERBATIM0 (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc TDK 25GB BD-RE 2x - TDKBLDWBA (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

LiteOn iHOS104 LiteOn DH-4O1S Pioneer BDC-202
Average Speed 3.04 3.18x 3.88x
Random access time 124ms 103ms 90ms

 

- BD-RE SL (7.5GB, data)

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc Verbatim 7.5GB BD-RE 8cm 2x - VERBATIM0 (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

 

BD-RE DL (50GB, data)

BD Burner Pioneer BD-R 203 Ver.1.10
Disc TDK 50GB BD-RE 2x - TDKBLDWFa (000)
Burning speed 2x
BD reader LiteOn iHOS104 ver.WL06

Summary

The LiteOn drive was accurate in this test and reading of the BD-R DL and BD-RW SL discs did not show any problems. The average access times for each disc was slightly higher than the rest of the drives. However, the drive did not manage to ready the TDK BD-RE DL disc.


8. Final thoughts

LiteOn's second generation BD-ROM drive is not as fast as we might desired with its 4x maximum supported speed but still, the drive will play back your movies and data BD discs.

First of all, the drive proved to be a good CD reader, performing all tasks with speeds according to specifications, and being able to complete them successfully. DAE tasks will be performed fast enough at approximately 20x, while the CD error correction is adequate, with the drive to sport impressive error hiding capabilities.

Next on, are DVD tests that we performed. Again the drive could be faster than the 8x max speed it offers but reading is reliable enough, even if your DVD discs are not in a perfect shape due to use.

The drive also deals with Blu-ray discs relatively well. Reading of BD-ROM SL and DL discs was smooth, as well as the reproduction of of a Blu-ray disc movie using CyberLink's PowerDVD software bundled with the package. The drive was responsive to any navigation and FF/RW test we did while playing the movie. On the other hand, we are a little bit concerned about the behavior of the drive when accessing specific BD-R and BD-RE discs. For example,we identified some small problems with the Verbatim LTH BD-R as well as the recently introduced TDK and Verbatim BD-R SL discs certified for 6x burning. The drive slowed down reading in some cases and gave a read error with the Verbatim BD-R SL disc for 6x. In addition, it could not finish reading of a TDK BD-RE DL disc. We cannot come up with safe results regarding the behavior of the drive with BD discs that have been burned at 8x or higher, since our tests were limited to no more than 20 such discs. However, it could be nice for Liteon to check these issues and possibly come up with a new firmware upgrade.

With all these in mind , the choice is yours as always. With the optical drive market to be stalled, it's nice to see LiteOn releasing new drives, especially when these retail online for about $70 - a reasonable price for a BD-ROM if you ask me. For those who want the ability to playback Blu-Ray content on their computers, media center PC's, and HTPC's but who don't necessarily want to buy a Blu-Ray writer or swallow the cost of a writer, a Blu-Ray reader could be an ideal choice.

 



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