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Appeared on: Sunday, February 17, 2002
DVD-Rom Roundup Vol1


1. Introduction
16x/48x DVD Round-up - Page 1

- Introduction:
When the DVD format became a reality for home users, nobody could imagine the success it would meet in such a short time. Nowadays, there are many users who prefer to buy a DVD-ROM unit instead of the traditional CD-ROMs. The price difference between those two isn't worth mentioning, especially when the buyer considers that the DVD-ROM offers home theater capabilities to his system. Even on the laptop sales business, almost 1 out of 3 systems are sold with a built-in DVD reader instead of a CD-ROM.

Unfortunately, there are some considerations that must be studied carefully by the potential buyer. Especially by the ones that push their CDROM drives to their limits, and expect the best results possible. Most DVD-ROMS don't have a performance to be proud of with CD formats compared to the CD-ROMs, at least when DAE comes to play. That was a fact in the past, but what about the latest batch of 16x/48x of DVD-ROMs? How do 3 of the best selling DVD-ROMs perform in both CD/DVD format? Can they really replace their ancestors, the CD-ROM devices, and be good at it in every aspect and characteristic? Follow us and let's find out...

- Round-up Contestants:

Let's get acquainted with the tested drives (in alphabetical order):

- AOpen DVD-1648: This is the second 16x DVD reading speed model by AOpen, and it has an improved reading speed over its predecessor (the 1640Pro). It supports 16x DVD and 48x CD reading speeds. Something worth mentioning is the fact that it supports the UDMA66 interface, which will give you lower CPU usage in the various tasks, at least theoretically. The drive comes with 256KB of cache buffer and supports almost all DVD and CD formats: DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-Video, CD-DA, CD-ROM/XA, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-I, Video CD, Photo-CD, CD-Extra. Its price is $100 and it will soon be available for sale at the stores.

The retail package contains: the drive itself, a short manual, an audio cable, screws and the out-of-date PowerDVD v2.55 as the main DVD playback software. The front of the drive doesn't have anything special embedded on it to show us that the drive is an AOpen one, since it only has the "16x" and "DVD-ROM" logos on it. You will also find the usual connectors: headphone jack, volume control, power-on busy led, play/next/load/eject buttons and last the emergency eject hole:

On the back of the drive we have the power/ide connectors, the analog/SPDIF audio connections and 3 jumpers on the left hand side, which are used for setting up the DMA connection mode. As we said earlier, the drive does support up to DMA66 connection mode, and you only have to remove the middle jumper to enable this, as the following picture demonstrates:

We installed the drive as MASTER on the secondary IDE BUS at DMA66 mode. The drive identified itself on both DOS and Windows as "AOPEN 16XDVD-ROM/AMH". We enabled DMA and after rebooting we checked the region status of the drive. It was an April 2001 model with firmware R02 revision. According to what "Drive Region Info" software reports, the drive has no region protection!

This is something that will definitely attract users, especially the ones who have a collection of various DVDs from different regions and swap them frequently.

- LiteOn LTD-163: This is the first LiteOn attempt in the 16x DVD reading speed race. The drive supports 16x DVD and 48x (CD) reading speeds. It comes with 512KB of buffer cache and supports most CD/DVD formats: DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-Video, CD-DA, CD-ROM/XA, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-I, Video CD, Photo-CD, CD-Extra. Its price is around 70$ and is available for quite some time now in the market.

The retail package contains: the drive itself, a quick installation guide, an audio cable, screws and PowerDVD v2.55 as the main DVD playback software. The front of the drive has the LiteOn website link on it, and includes the "DVD-ROM" and "CD" logos. You will also find the usual connectors: headphone jack, volume control, power-on busy led, play/next/load/eject buttons and finally the emergency eject hole:

On the back of the drive we have the power/ide connectors and the analog/SPDIF audio connections. We installed the drive as MASTER on the secondary IDE BUS at DMA33 mode (default). The drive identified itself on both DOS and Windows as "LiteOn DVD-ROM LTD163". We enabled DMA and after rebooting we checked the region status of the drive. The drive was a March 2001 model with firmware revision GH4B.

After a quick check over at the LiteOn website we found out that a newer firmware revision (GH4F) was available, which we downloaded and installed successfully. This fixed some identification problems we had witnessed with 90/99minute CDs, caused by the GH4B firmware. According to what "Drive Region Info" software reports, the drive has RPC 2 region protection, which means you can only change the drive's region 4 times.

- Matsushita SR-8586: This is actually a 16x DVD-ROM by Matsushita/Panasonic. The drive is unbranded (no "Panasonic"-Logo; only the name of the "mother"-company MATSUSHITA is mentioned) and its version is the BULK one (no screws, no handbook, no software etc.). The label on the drive has only "SR-8586-B" printed on it, but "BTK" is also there, just a bit more to the far right of the label. This may sometimes causes a bit of confusion amongst the end users, because the "SR-8586-B" is a 12x40x model. However, "BTK"-model is actually a 16x48x. The drive is sold mainly to OEM-customers (like Compaq, VOBIS, Maxdata etc.) and you probably won't be able to find it widely sold at your local computer store. It's current list price according to the Pricewatch is around 65-70$.

Panasonic has stated that perhaps a retail version of the above mentioned drive will hit the market in the near future. The drive comes with 512Kb of buffer size and, like both the aforementioned, supports a wide range of CD formats but lacks to support DVD-R, DVD-RAM (2.6GB / 4.7GB) and newest DVD-RW format. However a newer model is out with the codename: SR-8587-B. Last but not least, it supports the UDMA33 interface connection.

The drive came as bulk version (no software, cables..etc) and the front of the drive is what we call a "Generic" one. You won't find any logos of Matshushita/Panasonic, since it is targeted towards OEM customers. However, you will notice the "DVD-ROM" and "CD" logos, with the usual connectors: headphone jack, volume control, power-on busy led, play/next/load/eject buttons and last the emergency eject hole:

On the back of the drive we have the power/ide connectors and the analog/SPDIF audio connections. We installed the drive as MASTER on the secondary IDE BUS at DMA33 mode (default). The drive identified itself on both DOS and Windows as "MATSHITA DVD-ROM SR-8586". We enabled DMA and rebooted. The drive was a December 2000 model with firmware revision 3Z24.

We also checked the drive's region status. According to what the "Drive Region Info" software reports it has the expected RPC2 region protection. (Advanced users will find a RPC1 region free firmware over here, based on the original 3Z24 firmware. To be installed correctly, a drive region code must be selected before using the patched 3X24 firmware).

- Test Machine:
WinMe OS
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
ATI AIW 128


2. Data Tests

16x/48x DVD Round-up - Page 2

Data Tests

Test Method:
- SCSI Mechanic v3.0: This was used to compare the various DVD-ROM's  I/O performance (see charts). We used a pressed CD containing PlexTools v1.08 for all of the tests.
- Nero CD Speed v0.83 beta was also used to check the drive performance with pressed CDs. For that test we used PlexTools v1.08 original CD.

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0 results:

The LiteOn LTD163 seems to be the fastest drive among our 3 contestants. The drive managed to give an "Average Sequential I/O throughput" of 5393kb/s, while the AOpen 1648 came second (5267Kb/s) and the Matsushita was last with 5211Kb/s. The Matsushita had a superb performance in the "Average Same Sector I/O throughput test" and came second in the "Average Random I/O" test. LiteOn has the worst "Average Random I/O" and "Average Same Sector I/O" tests.

- Nero CD Speed 99 v0.83 results:

Using Nero CD Speed 0.83, we confirmed our previous test. The LiteOn LTD163 is the fastest drive, the AOpen 1648 comes second and Matsushita third, but by a very narrow performance gap (0.01X).

In the Seek Times test, the Matsushita SR-8586 earned the best overall results with a seek time of under 80ms. The LiteOn comes second in the random test, but finishes last in the 1/3 and full stroke test. The AOpen 1648 seems to perform steadily and very close to Matsushita SR-8586.

- PSX Pressed Media

In order to fulfill a request made by some of our frequent visitors, we have included a test with mixed mode CDs (mainly PSX). For these test we used the PSX game 'NBA Jam Extreme' and we ripped the image to HD with CloneCD. We measured the reading times and we can say for sure that the Matsushita SR-8586 simply rocks the competition...The LiteOn drive needs 5:15mins, while the Matsushita SR-8586 needs only 1:31mins, and the AOpen 2:59mins:

- CDR Media

The LiteOn LTD163 proves its superiority with CDR media. The interesting thing about this is that the Matsushita SR-8586 gets the second place now, since the AOpen drive kept slowing down by the end of the disc.


3. RW reading tests
16x/48x DVD Round-up - Page 3

RW reading tests

- Nero CD Speed 99 v0.83 Test:

For the RW tests, we used TDK's HS-RW media. All tested drives have a maximum of 24X reading speed, so the performance is way better from what we are used to with CD-RW drives. The AOpen 1648 is the fastest drive in this test and both the other two contestants are struggling really hard to keep up:

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure:
We used CloneCD (v3.0.5.1) and 5 original CDs - Euro 2000 (SafeDisc 1), No One Lives For Ever (SafeDisc 2), Rally Masters (LaserLock 1), Desperados (LaserLock 2) and V-Rally 2 Expert (SecuROM 2) - in order to test the reading time of our DVD-ROMs. We also tested their reading performances with backups of the original CDs, since reading speeds vary between original and backup media.

- SafeDisc 1/2 Results:

The LiteOn LTD163 is the champion with SafeDisc 1.0 protected CDs. The Matsushita SR-8586 needs about one hour to make the image of the disc and AOpen 1648 earns the second place, even at a quite low performance.

The Lite-On continues to lead the race among the three tested drives. The Matsushita SR-8586 gets the last place once again, while the AOpen comes second.

LaserLock 1/2 Results:

The situation seems to change, as far as the LaserLock 1 tests are concerned. The Matsushita SR-8586 gets the first place, the AOpen model comes second and the Lite-On is last.

In the LaserLock 2 test, things become more complicated than they were. The AOpen 1648 gets the first place with the original CD, but Lite-On comes retaliates by winning first place on the backup CD test. The Matsushita SR-8586 doesn't perform good enough with the original CD, but gets the second place with the backup CD.

SecuROM Results:

The LiteOn LTD163 supports reading of SubChannel data from both Data and Audio tracks, and very fast, according to our tests. The Matsushita doesn't support reading of 96bytes of Subchannel data, which means you will not be able to read CD+G CDs. Last of all, the AOpen 1648 doesn't support reading of SubChannel data at all :(


4. DAE Tests

16x/48x DVD Round-up - Page 4

DAE Tests

- Test Method:
We used CD DAE 99 v0.21 beta and EAC v0.9 prebeta 11 in order to check the DAE performance of the various DVD-ROMs with various AudioCDs (both pressed and CDR). The posted DAE results are the average of both applications, but the CPU usage is only measured during the use of CD DAE 99, since EAC occupies the system a lot more. As a last note, we used the "BURST" reading mode of EAC. We made a full CD Rip starting from the first to the last track of the CD. The Average DAE reported speed along with the CPU Usage is displayed in the test graphs.

- Pressed AudioCD results:
The LiteOn is the absolute king of the DAE ripping tests. The drive managed to reach around 31.9X of average DAE ripping speed, which is the fastest we have ever measured for a DVD-ROM drive. The AOpen 1648 comes second with 22.8X average and the Matsushita finishes last at only 15.5X:

- CDR AudioCD Results:
The LiteOn LTD163 continues to lead the race even with CDR media. The drive actually performed better and reached 33.4X. The AOpen 1648 continues to come second and the Matsushita SR-8586 is once again the last one:

- Advanced DAE Quality:

The Lite-On and AOpen drives completed the CD Speed 99 "Advanced DAE test" successfully, and got perfect score (100). The Matsushita SR-8586 produced 35 data and 1 sync errors and got a score of 99.2.

- Bad CDR Media results:

Despite the fact that CD Speed 99 Advanced DAE test stretches a drive's mechanism to the max, we decided to do real life tests with a scratched disc. The disc was dirty and with some light scratches, enough to cause problems to most of the tested drives. We used CD DAE 99 software to rip the whole disc (756539616 sectors) and the results are quite interesting:

Average Speed (X)
Errors
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
LiteOn LTD-163
25,5
15310
0.0%
Matshita SR-8586
16,0
77542
0.01%
AOpen 1648
23,1
54425
0.01%

As the tests showed, the Lite-On LTD163 not only is a top performer but it can also produce very good quality wav files. The AOpen 1648 comes second with 54425 errors and the Matshita SR-8586 comes last with the largest amount of errors.

- Ripping 90 and 99min CDs:

AOpen 1648: The drive stops reading our 90min CD at 88mins and our 99min CD at 98minutes as Nero CD Speed v0.83 reports:

>>

Lite-On LTD163: The drive reads both 90 and 99minute CDs without any problems:

>>

Matshita SR-8586: The drive reads 90min CDs without any problems, but refused to perform the test with 99min CDs:

>>


5. DVD Tests

16x/48x DVD Round-up - Page 5

DVD Tests

- Test Method :
We used Nero DVD Speed v0.52 to run DVD tests (DMA enabled on all drives). All tests were performed at least 3 times with the same DVD title (we took the worst results). The DVD Speed author suggests avoiding the use of dual layer DVDs since performance might be lower than the actual one. For that purpose we used a single-layered DVD title, taken from PC Magazine.

- Nero DVD Speed results:

The LiteOn continues to lead the race with DVD-ROM discs just like with ordinary CD-ROMs. The drive gave back around 15697Kb/s and the AOpen 1648 comes second with 15447Kb/s. The Matsushita comes last with only 14443 Kb/s.

In the Seek times test, the AOpen 1648 seems to perform slightly better than the Matsushita, and wins the first place. The LiteOn gets the last place, since its performance is very far from the ones of the other two drives.

- DVD Ripping Tests:
We measured the DVD Ripping speed using Matrix DVD and DVD Decoder v0.2. The LiteOn LTD163 performed very good and once again earns the first position:

- Movie Tests:
We tested the DVD-ROMS with many DVD titles and our overall impression was very good. All 3 drives didn't have any problems with any DVD title we tested, and the average CPU usage was around 45% using PowerDVD v3.0 Build 0421. An important thing to keep in mind here is the fact that the AOpen 1648 is the only 16x DVD drive with RPC1 status :-)


6. Conclusion

16x/48x DVD Round-up - Page 6

Conclusion

This time the final verdict isn't easy. Each one of the tested drives has its own positive and negatives features, which are listed below:

LiteOn LTD-163

Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- Seems to be the fastest 16x DVD around
- Very good CloneCD reading performance, compared to the other tested drives
- Reads SubChannel data from data/audio tracks
- Best Data/DAE performance around
- Very good DAE quality
- Superb DVD ripping speed
-Supports 90 and 99min CDs without any problems
- Good price (75$)

- Higher seek times than the competition
- Very slow when reading PSX CDs
- Region-locked in hardware (RPC2)
- Noisy when reading at full speed!

AOpen 1648

Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- The only region free 16x DVD-ROM (RPC1)
- Fair CloneCD reading performance
- Good Data/DAE performance
- Very good DAE quality
- Low Seek times
- Low noise when operating!

- Some problems with 90/99min CDs
- Low DVD ripping speed
- Cannot read SubChannel data
- Slow when reading PSX CDs
- Higher price than competition

Matshita SR-8586

Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- Good CloneCD performance, with some CD protections
- Reads PSX CDs very fast!
- Very Good Seek times
- Very Good DVD ripping speed
- Reads SubChannel data from data/audio tracks
- Very good Seek times
- Supports 90min CD
- Low price 65$

- Region-locked in hardware (RPC2)
- Cannot read 96bytes of SubChannel Data (CD+G)
- CloneCD reading performance is not satisfactory
- Cannot rip 99min CDs
- DAE quality is not perfect
- DAE ripping speed is slow
- Doesn't supports reading of DVD-RAM and DVD-R (4.7GB) discs
- You won't find it easily in the stores

If you are looking for the best price/performance combo then the LiteOn LTD163 seems to be the ultimate solution for you. It is beyond any doubt the fastest of the the three tested drives in both CD/DVD formats, and has a high DAE ripping speed which comes in pretty handy for cooperating with your 20x/24x ultra high speed recorder. The noise levels are a bit high, and a drawback which might disappoint the user is the low reading performance with mode2 (PSX) CDs.

The AOpen 1648 is a safe buy and its region free status and noiseless operation will be greatly appreciated by all users. CloneCD fanatics will not like the drive, since it doesn't read SubChannel data and skips errors very slowly.

Lastly the Matsushita SR8586 seems to be an interesting alternative solution, but only if certain features, such as DAE quality/speed, are to be improved on a future firmware revision. The drive does have the fastest seek times around and reads PSX CDs as fast as hell. Last it supports reading of SubChannel data.

To end this roundup, before you go in front of your local computer store, smile at the seller, take your wallet out, and spell the magic words "Hello! I would like to buy a ..... DVD-ROM drive", you had better think twice about what you need it for. Do you need the best DAE and DVD ripping speeds? Then the LiteOn should be your choice. Do you own a vast collection of different region DVDs? Then pick the AOPen. Do you fancy a cheap PSX and various protection scheme beater? If you can find the Matsushita, then go for it. Not enough cash? Heh, stick to the traditional CD-ROM drive, but this is not a thing we would advise you to do :-)



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