Modern HDTVs can read all kinds of technology; DLNA streamed files, external hard drives, flash drives and heck, even SD cards. One thing they can’t read is data from USB optical drives. Or rather, make optical drives one thing HDTVs couldn’t read: Plextor’s new PX-612U External Slim DVD/CD Writer connects via USB and can play information stored on discs, thanks to some technical trickery that convinces TVs that the device is actually an external hard drive.
We’ve been recommending Plextor’s B940SA 12x drive on our Best of the Best list for more than a year now, so we were delighted to receive a challenger that could shake things up—even if it was another Plextor drive. Hey, why not build on that good track record?
Our excitement waned, however, when the drive we received—Plextor’s PX-LB950SA—bore the exact same specs as its predecessor.
As the first quarter of 2011 rolls along, optical drive prices are expected to remain low and could get even cheaper as drive makers aggressively battle for market share, DigiTimes reports.
According to un-named sources, global optical drive shipments could reach 340 million units in 2011, a increase of around 7 percent from 2010. The number of shipments will continue to grow at least until 2015, sources say.
But a price war? If we ignore the cost of Blu-ray drives, it's not as though optical drives command a premium. You can already find several CD/DVD burners selling for around $20 shipped, and if a price war erupts, drive makers could end up shooting themselves in the foot rather than each other.
Are you wondering whether it’s finally time to spring for a Blu-ray burner? Lite-On’s iHBS212 might provide the best argument yet for taking the plunge. That’s certainly the case if cost is a deciding factor. At $160, the iHBS212 is the least expensive Blu-ray burner we’ve tested yet. That’s $40 less than our Best of the Best pick, Plextor’s B940SA—a savings you could put toward the purchase of Blu-ray media. And the two drives have virtually identical write-speed ratings: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD+/-R, 8x DVD+/-R DL, to name a few key specs. In fact, it’s likely the drives contain identical parts, given that Lite-On and Plextor use the same manufacturing line.
But even drives produced on the same line can achieve differentiation by way of firmware and performance tweaks, as happens to be the case here. While Plextor’s drive is tuned to reach 12x BD-R write speeds with both Panasonic and Sony media, the Lite-On iHBS212 favors only the latter brand. When testing the iHBS212 with a Sony disc, the drive managed to write 22.5GB worth of data in 12:04 (min:sec). With a Verbatim disc, our standard for drive testing, the iHBS212 filled a single-layer BD-R in 23:12. Those numbers aren’t as impressive as Plextor’s 12x drive: 10:57 and 11:13 for Sony and Verbatim, respectively.
Most people don't really think about it, but optical media, particularly the stuff you burn at home has a limited shelf life. Worse yet, depending on the quality of the disk, its probably a lot less than you might think. This is but one of many reasons why DVDs typically make lousy long term backups, that is of course, unless you have a burner from a new startup company called Cranberry. Its new optical technology called "DiamonDisk" claims to have a useable life of more than 1,000 years, or to put it in layman's terms, about 900 more than any of us would care about.
The durability of the disk is apparently a result of the media itself containing no dye layers, or adhesives / reflective materials that will deteriorate. Data is also said to be etched far more deeply into the disk using its proprietary burner. Currently a drive will set you back about five grand, but just in case you find this a bit extreme, you can also upload your data to the company's website and let them burn it for you.
Anyone considering this for a time capsule might also want to toss in a drive for good measure. 1,000 years from now a DVD is likely to be about as useable as an 8-track. Lets just hope they still use USB!
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.
It doesn’t matter a lick to us that Blu-ray has prevailed in the high-def format war if the hardware remains expensive and uninspiring. We have to admit, we thought the tide was turning when we reviewed LG’s GGW-H20L Blu-ray burner back in December. That drive represented a dramatic price drop (falling to $500 from its predecessor’s $1,200 price tag in a matter of months—and now settled at $400 MSRP), and its 6x rating for BD-R media resulted in burn times we could actually live with (22.5GB in a little over 20 minutes).
Sadly, Lite On has not followed LG’s lead. Instead, they've released a drive that's made zero strides since its aged predecessor.
One of the most obvious differences between an external optical drive and its internal brethren is in appearance. A device that’s going to sit out in the open for anyone to see, after all, has to look the part. Lite-On’s latest EZ-Dub optical drive accomplishes this with a fashionable white and black aesthetic that would surely do Apple proud. It’s an update from the more staid look of the previous EZ-Dub model, which was also nearly two inches longer and a half-inch taller. As with the older model, this EZ-Dub comes with a stand, so you can set the drive on its side to save desktop space.
So your DVD burner is getting a little long in the tooth and you’re ready for an upgrade, but you’re not all that keen on adopting next-gen tech. And who can blame you? Even the falling price of hardware doesn’t make up for the relatively slow burn times, costly media, and compatibility issues that plague Blu-ray burners (and the same would be true of HD DVD burners if you could even find them!). Trouble is, you’ve got a brand-new 27-inch LCD that’s just begging to display high-def movies. What’s a consumer to do? Well, you could buy a combo drive—one that lets you read next-gen discs and write data to fast, friendly CD and DVD, like the two models we review this month.
So your DVD burner is getting a little long in the tooth and you’re
ready for an upgrade, but you’re not all that keen on adopting next-gen
tech. And who can blame you? Even the falling price of hardware doesn’t
make up for the relatively slow burn times, costly media, and
compatibility issues that plague Blu-ray burners (and the same would be
true of HD DVD burners if you could even find them!). Trouble is,
you’ve got a brand-new 27-inch LCD that’s just begging to display
high-def movies. What’s a consumer to do? Well, you could buy a combo
drive—one that lets you read next-gen discs and write data to fast,
friendly CD and DVD, like the two models we review this month.