DVD Rip Challenge: 12 Popular Drives Put to the Test

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Which DVD Drive is the Fastest Disc Ripper? Our test of 12 popular drives proves you can’t predict performance based on the specs

Whether you’re copying your movie discs to your hard drive for archival purposes or queuing them up in HandBrake for a batch transcode, your optical drive’s performance can make a big difference in time spent on this menial chore. The trouble is, there’s no obvious way of knowing which optical drive will do the job fastest.

The optical drive spec that gets the most attention is the DVD+/-R write speed. It’s the spec that’s prominently featured on the packaging and often even integrated into the drive’s name. But if you assume that the newest drive with the fastest-rated write speed will also kick butt at copying the contents of your movie discs to your hard drive, you’re mistaken.

For this task, read speed is what matters. But even knowing that, you can’t judge a drive’s real-world performance at copying video files simply by looking at its read specs. Not only do the specs indicate maximum capability as opposed to average speed, but a drive’s read time with video files can differ from its read time with data files. To find out which is the fastest drive for DVD copiers, we grabbed a bunch of DVD drives, a copy of Batman Begins, and got ripping.

The Test

We gathered up the most popular DVD burners on Newegg.com, including Samsung’s SH-S223 (our current Best of the Best pick), Plextor’s 850SA, LG’s GH22LS30 (reviewed on page 86), and Lite-On’s iHAS422 —all brand-new 22x drives from those vendors. We also tossed in a couple Blu-ray burners and even added a couple ancient DVD drives to the mix for good measure. Our objective was to test each drive’s speed at copying a commercial video DVD’s VOB files to hard disk. We didn’t want OS or application clutter on the hard drive to have any bearing on the optical drives’ performance, nor did we want the speed of the hard drive to be an issue, so we copied the video files to a clean 10,000rpm Western Digital 300GB Velociraptor.

AnyDVD first removes the CSS encryption from a movie disc so you can easily copy the contents to your hard drive.

In each instance, we reformatted the Velociraptor drive, rebooted, then used AnyDVD’s disc ripping tool to copy the contents of a pristine double-layer DVD movie disc to the hard drive, and timed the operation. We then checked that the resulting file matched the size of the original disc. We recorded the average time of three runs.

The Results

Benchmark Results
Drive
Average Copy
Time of 7.18GB
DL Movie Disc (min:sec)
Samsung SH-S223
15:26/8:13*
Plextor PX-850SA 10:43
Lite-On iHAS422
10:16
Lite-On DH-20A4P
10:22
Sony-NEC AD-7200A
10:38
Pioneer DVR-116DBK
10:03
LG GH22LS30
20:24
Asus DRW-2014 15:14
LG GBW-H20L (Blu-ray drive)
15:19
Sony BWU-300S (Blu-ray drive)
20:23
Sony DDU1612 DVD-ROM (2003)
15:28/15:37*
Pioneer DVD-106S (1999)
16:19
*Time after firmware patch.

The results were enlightening. Pioneer’s DVR-116DBK drive took the prize with an out-of-the-box rip average of 10:03 (min:sec). A number of the other DVD burners performed comparably, with rip times of less than 11 minutes. But we observed some notable variance. LG’s new GH22LS30 drive, for instance, was one of the slowest drives at the task, taking twice as long as many of the others to copy the movie to hard disk. Interestingly, LG’s GBW-H20L Blu-ray drive was speedier than its standard DVD kin. In general, Blu-ray drives don’t feature the best DVD specs, so we expected those drives to lag behind the others in DVD reads—only Sony’s Blu-ray drive did.

Another surprise our testing uncovered was the lackluster performance of the Samsung’s SH-S223, which performed superbly in our standard optical drive benchmarks when we reviewed the drive in February. It all just goes to show you that you can’t judge a drive’s ability at copying discs based on its specs or performance in other areas.

Hacking the Firmware

One way to get improved performance from an optical drive is to hack its firmware—assuming a hack for your model exists. For instance, we caught wind of a firmware hack for Samsung’s SH-S223 drive on the CD Freaks forum . The forum discussion blamed a feature called Riplock for the drive’s relatively pokey read speed. According to the posts, Riplock is a concession to the movie studios in that it slows down disc rips in order to make the practice less appealing to consumers. (As of this writing, Samsung would not comment on Riplock.)

The forum thread included a link to Codeguys.rpc1.org, a repository of firmware patches for numerous LiteOn and Samsung optical drives, including the SH-S223. Often a firmware patch is a simple executable that, when launched, identifies your optical drive and updates it. The patch for the SH-S223 is actually a utility that lets you modify Samsung’s own latest firmware by offering a list of third-party features you can pick and choose from. One option was to remove Riplock from the firmware, so we tried that. But our drive performed exactly as before, taking more than 15 minutes to rip the movie disc. Next we tried patching the firmware with the option to increase the SH-S223’s dual-layer DVD read speed to 16x (from the official speed of 12x). This patch made a huge difference. Our movie disc copying time was cut almost in half to 8:13, surpassing all the other drives in this roundup.

A firmware hack helped the Samsung SH-S223 save face, although it voids the drive’s warranty.

Of course, we checked to verify that the file produced after the hack contained the same data as the file produced by the unhacked drive. (It did.) We also went a step further and tested the hacked Samsung with a well-worn Netflix DVD replete with minor nicks, smudges, and scratches, and the drive’s speedy performance held up. Again, it copied the disc in just a little over eight minutes and the file it produced was the same size as the file produced by the slowest DVD drive in the bunch. Still, it’s important to note that hacking a drive’s firmware does void the warranty.

Codeguys.rpc1.org also has a firmware patch for the Sony DDU1612 DVD-ROM in this roundup that purportedly increases the drive’s read speed, although in our tests, the patch did nothing to change the drive’s performance. We are unaware of any third-party firmware hacks for the other drives we tested.

The Data Difference

We got to wondering if there was any difference in a drive’s performance when copying video files to a hard drive versus transferring data files. After querying drive vendors and also running our own tests, we found that there’s no pat answer. Plextor reps, for example, said video transfers would take longer due to processes involved with codecs, region restriction removal, CSS matters, etc., but when we tested the Plextor drive using a data disc made from the same video files of our earlier test, there was virtually no difference in transfer times. On the other hand, LG’s GH22LS30, which was woefully slow at video rips, took half the time (10:52) to copy the data. And yet LG’s Blu-ray offering, the GBW-H20L, took slightly longer to copy data (16:24).

Asus reps told us there’s no difference between data and video reads and our experience with the Asus drive bore that out. Samsung reps wouldn’t comment on the matter, but our hacked SH-S223 was just as speedy with data as it was with video copying.

In the end, we decided that the only way to know for sure how fast a drive is at copying movies or data is to test it. Going forward, all of our optical drive reviews will include benchmarks for both.

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