Special thanks to Newegg for supplying hardware for this comparison test.


How much faster will optical drives get? CD-ROM drives and CD burners topped out at 52X after years of jumping up the ladder from the original 1X speeds, and it seems as though DVD-ROM drives and DVD burners are following the same path; obviously, there is a trend here. Beginning at 1X, then raising the bar to 2X/2.4X just like the old days of CD burners, DVD drives have made it to 16X speeds in only a matter of a few years, thanks to the research that the big name companies performed during the compact disc hype. Two competing standards probably don't hurt acceleration development either.

Before the world takes on the newly-forming standards for high definition discs, like Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs, the life of current 4.5GB/9GB DVDs still has a ways to go. Current audio/video content does not have a high demand for storage space and since there is only a small amount of hardware that can play high definition video, current 4.5GB/9GB DVDs will suffice for a while. Backwards compatible HD-DVD drives are already slated for deployment next year, and Blu-Ray isn't far behind either, but those standards will take a while to be fully adopted. So, we continue our quest to push the limits of current technologies in use today.

Back in August, we looked at Pioneer's 16X burner, the DVR-108D, and compared its performance to that of Plextor's 12X PX-712A, not as a fair competition, because obviously they are of different speeds, but rather as a general measure of how much faster 16X burners are compared to their 12X predecessors. The DVR-108D performed extremely well and carried great features like Dual Layer +R read/write and DVD-RAM read capabilities. Dual layer writing capabilities have become a standard in newer DVD burners. If there is a 16X burner introduced, it had better have the ability to write to a dual layer disc with at least 2.4X speeds, or it most likely won't make it in the market. Many of the big name manufacturers are seeing this as a standard and will not put a stripped down drive in stores for that reason. Other features such as a PI/PO read back ability as well as the newly-introduced bitsetting feature, which we will explain in a bit more detail later, are becoming just as popular as the dual layer feature.

We had mentioned before that as soon as we got our hands on more 16X models from various manufacturers, we would compare each drive's performance, and we have done just that. We pitted Pioneer's DVR-108D against BenQ's DW1620, MSI's DR16-B, NEC's ND-3500AG, Sony's DRU-710A, NuTech DDW-163, LG GSA-4160B and LiteOn's SHOW-1633 to see which unit will rule them all!

Picking the Right Drive
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  • yourdeardaniel - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    the PO graphs dont work for me.
  • CrazeeHorse - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    Yeah, Belzer is right. NEC have not allowed overspeeding of MCC003 anywhere, your read transfer speeds have been mis-mentioned as your write speeds. MCC003 stays at 8X!
  • Belzer - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    WTF. The write speed tables for 8x MCC DVD±R show the read transfer graph not the write speed.
    Here are the correct tables for some of the drives (pictures are missing for the LG and the rest are OEM versions so I don't bother to check them):
    MCC 02RG20
    Time Speed Drive
    6:33 10.44x BenQ
    6:33 10.22x NEC
    6:49 10.01x Pioneer
    9:29 7.05x Lite-On

    MCC 003
    Time Speed Drive
    6:26 10.47x BenQ
    6:46 10.01x Pioneer
    8:11 7.96x Lite-On
    9:47 6.72x NEC

    And it's the time not the average speed that is interesting so for MCC 004 (again pictures missing for several drives in the zips):

    Time Speed Drive
    5:50 11.38x BenQ
    6:04 11.68x LG
    6:50 10.00x Pioneer

    Also the BenQ does not cost $90, it costs $67 for the OEM version at Newegg (and you're taking the price of the OEM versions for other drives). Now if you also had bothered to update the firmware to the latest the BenQ would have had the by far best media support too making it the clear winner imo especially as a 4x DVD+R DL firmware update is expected to be released later this month for free.
  • Maverick215 - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    Ok now I can do even less... will check back tomorrow to see if its working then
  • Maverick215 - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    >I find that comment inaccurate. Pioneer USA's website is generally *months* behind the Japanese or European versions.
    I'm not sure what you're trying to say; and perhaps I wasn't clear since you don't seem to understand what I was saying. I am not familiar enough with pioneer's releases to really give you a certain answer. Though my experience with most of my personal hardware is that it is true one country will lag behind, but often times they end up posting the SAME exact firmware, unless there are language changes(do you really think pioneer USA is further certifying xyz firmware release or even recoding it from scratch? or did I miss you point all together?). Seems especially true for larger multinational corporations (left hand doesn't know what the right is doing) so you'll often see the earliest release on the "mother land" website. There will of course be a gradient of this effect since some companies are more tightly knit.
    My point was that nutech seems to have used plain vanilla OEM/Bulk firmware in their drive. So updating it with a newer firmware from the same line (not "forked" or otherwise customized) made by the same people would be the same as updating any other OEM'd drive with G series firmware. and the same as updating a retail drive with with the H series firmware.
  • Maverick215 - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    not letting me post large comments breaking them up:
    [ok I lied :)]
    I thought as much on the 3 drives issue as soon as I posted, sorry I got on a roll :)
    >>I think if it's official enough to be on the OEM's website that should be good enough to prove its quality.
  • Maverick215 - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

  • Bozo Galora - Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - link

    Well< I got back from BestBuy and what do you know - they had them. Three on the shelf, I scooped them up and paid and out I went. The whole thing took less than 5 min.

  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, November 1, 2004 - link

    Maverick215: You are correct, those dates are exactly the dates we worked on those images.

    There are a lot of things in the editorial process that take some time to wade through, although we did the best we could.

    >I must also wonder why you chose 3 of the same drive.

    Some of those drives we did not expect to be the same when we received them. The NuTech we obviously thought was based on a Sanyo chipset (this was detailed in the review). We had no knowledge of the MSI's chipset before we asked for a review sample.

    >I think if it's official enough to be on the OEM's website that should be good enough to prove its quality.

    I find that comment inaccurate. Pioneer USA's website is generally *months* behind the Japanese or European versions.

    >BTW how did you accomplish bitsetting with the 3500..

    The official firmwares past 2.16 (our tested version) support DL bitsetting automatically, anything past 2.26 supports SL bitsetting as well. Since the drives are OEM, they almost always ship with the newest firmware available, and we thought the review should reflect that. Obviously though, we could only test on 2.16.

  • Maverick215 - Monday, November 1, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the zips. I am obviously blind.
    As I said I understand you can't TEST the latest and imediately post the review. But typing one or two sentances that outline updated firmware changes (esp if those changes occurred several weeks before your submission) wouldn't take much time (unless you type REAL slow) You obviously had to go back to look at the results of the drives that you already tested to do your final comparison. Wouldn't drastic differences warrant a little more investigation rather than to just say NEC/etc is more mature, end of story?
    These dates are the apparent test dates (yes I know modified != created, but it's the best we have)
    Pioneer 10.13-10.20
    NEC 10.13-10.21
    BenQ 9.17-9.28
    MSI 10.12-10.13
    LiteOn 10.13-10.20
    Sony 10.5-10.12 (pics of drive 9.27)
    LG 10.20-10.21
    Nutech 10.20-10.21
    While I imagine you were busy with other things, that's quite a gap.
    I must also wonder why you chose 3 of the same drive.
    From the review it seems BenQ, MSI and Nutech are all using the same hardware, differing only by firmware.
    BenQ B7J9 9.24.04 (beta, from what I can gather)
    MSI M1.4 (can't find directly but others say it's 10.12.04; harder to change this firmware but can still be done, I won't go into it here since it's beyond the scope and likely MSI is more likely to be altering the oem firmware compared to nutech)
    Nutech G7H9 8.25.04 (first release solely for 1620 series drives, from what I can gather)
    http://www.nu-global.com/1_english/3_products/01_i... no new firmware apparently; though G7H9 would correspond to B7H9 (G is an indication of OEM/Bulk drive supposedly no difference among same revision they also seem to post to benq's european website within a day or so of each other.
    (this ftp is what you are redirected to from the official website, the ftp houses the older revisions though)
    b7h9.zip 8/25/2004
    b7k9.zip 9/29/2004
    b7l9.zip 10/13/2004
    b7m9.zip 11/1/2004
    g7k9.zip 9/30/2004
    g7l9.zip 10/13/2004
    g7m9.zip 11/1/2004
    What the heck does all this rambling mean!?!?!??!
    in short you could have easily upgraded your nutech to G7K9 (OEM released firmware) and tested it since you apparently didn't test it untill later in october, well after G7K9 was released, perhaps you might have even squeezed in G7L9.
    Yes, you might say that it's not an "official firmware" it will void your nutech warranty!!
    But when the manufacturer refuses to update their website, what choice does the consumer, who wants the most out of his/her hardware, have.
    from nutech's website:
    "This warranty is void if: (yatta yatta) If the unit is repaired, modified or altered, unless such repair, modification or alteration is expressly authorized in writing by NU.
    (yatta yatta)"
    I must say it is worth noting that none of the firmware downloads from NU's site that I looked at contained any such written authorization.
    I think if it's official enough to be on the OEM's website that should be good enough to prove its quality.
    On a side note, one might wonder "is such an upgrade a modification or alteration?" I'm inclined to call it a repair :)
    BTW how did you accomplish bitsetting with the 3500.. To my knowledge NEC hasn't released a tool to do this (when I say NEC, I mean dl'able from nec.com, not mdmm.com(oem'd)) and if done in nero I was under the impression that there is a limit to the number of times this can be done (an enforced limit, ie it's coded in like RPC changes rather than the memory "wearing out") just wondering.
    ok three very long posts that rehash the same thing.. unless there's something new I yield.

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