Breaking the 16X barrier

New Samsung rewritable DVD drive is fast'and quiet

Samsung SH-S182D

|GCN Lab Reviewer's Choice|

Performance: A-

Features: A

Value: A

Price: $67

Reviewer's comments: The 5-percent performance gain in write speeds may not seem like much, but it is the first motion we have seen in this area in years. Plus, the drive isn't very expensive.

Contact: Samsung Semiconductor Inc.

San Jose, Calif.

(800) 726-7864

www.samsung.com

Sometimes computer technology moves ahead in great leaps, and sometimes it takes small steps. The new SH-S182D DVD from Samsung falls into the latter group, but is impressive nonetheless.

For several years now, we have been wondering whether 16X speed for re-writable DVDs would always be a ceiling. We have even read a couple studies that suggested that spinning a CD or DVD too quickly could result in the glue holding the layers together to break down, with explosive results as the disks flew apart.
But as it turned out, 16X wasn't even close to that physical barrier. Still, not much has changed until now.
The Writemaster SH-S182D tentatively steps over the 16X line by achieving maximum speeds of 18X when recording data onto single-layer DVDs. You can also do dual-layer recording if you want to achieve a maximum drive space of 8.5GB per disk, but your write speed drops to 8X.

In terms of real-world performance, this technology advance could save you about five seconds per gigabyte of data, according to our tests. We transferred 1GB to the SH-S182D and it took 41.6 seconds. Using a standard 16X drive, the same amount of data took 46.8 seconds to transfer. Obviously, we're not talking about huge savings in terms of performance unless you're using DVDs to archive multiple gigabytes. Even then, the current limits of DVD capacity mean you'll save less than a minute per disk. Still, Samsung has raised the bar modestly for other vendors to try to top.

'Safe operation'

Depending on the media you use in the drive, it will change speeds for what Samsung calls 'safe operation.' This helps the drive work with the many different formats that have developed over the years, such as DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD+R. In terms of performance, this means the read speed for a CD-ROM is going to be about 48X while the read speed for a CD-RW is 40X. However, for those of you who like to live on the edge, the drive ships with a program called Magic Speed that lets you override the safeties (for read times only) and spin the disks faster. This tends to make the drive noisier and make the disks more susceptible to damage.

The drive itself is fairly quiet. There is a groove in the front of the door and also on the bezel that helps subdue read-and-write operations. Most of the time, the SH-S182D is a bit quieter than other drives we've tested. Even when running at an 18X recording speed, it sounds almost exactly the same as a 16X drive doing the same operation.

The SH-S182D is fast enough that it could almost be used as a second, removable hard drive. And it's perfect for quiet data backups. Only time will tell if 18X will become the new DVD speed barrier, or if the SH-S182D is just an opening shot in a protracted speed war. But considering the SH-S182D ships for just $67, we see no reason not to buy the drive over its slower competitors.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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