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Move on to a combo writer

Josey Puliyenthuruthel | April 08, 2004

Most computer-owning households in India, I'd hazard a guess, have a CD-ROM installed in their machines. And, several among these, I'll gaze into my crystal ball again, are in the market to install a DVD drive or want to be able to burn their own CDs with music, pictures or even the occasional video clip.

The PC user today wants more and more from his computer whether it is a data transaction or using the PC as an audio and video equipment. In a recent survey, users were asked about the problems they faced with their current PC and what more they wanted from it? A summary of the findings:

  • 90 per cent had problems with data on floppies and would prefer to use a CD;

  • 75 per cent owned a CD-ROM drive and felt handicapped as they were unable to "record" data;

  • 65 per cent wanted to "burn" their own music and create personal picture albums; and

  • 80 per cent wanted to watch DVD movies on their computers, but couldn't because they didn't have a DVD drive.

For such consumers, there are several "combo" -- short for combination -- drives in the market that encompass the functionality of a CD (read only) drive, CD-writer and a DVD-reader.

There are also products in the market that include DVD-writing functionality but they are slightly expensive and fail in the face of hardware-coded renditions of copyright laws. Some makers of combo drives include Sony, LG, Lite-On, Krypton, Plextor, CyberDrive, Asus and Samsung.

Today on review is a Samsung combo drive (model: SM 352 BRNS). The drive is aimed at home users, who are ever ready to buy all-in-ones to save both money and space. It features 52x CD read and write speeds, 16x DVD read speed, and 24x write speed for CD-RWs. These are fairly nifty speeds and among the fastest among combo drives in the market.

The Samsung combo drive has a 8 MB buffer memory, on to which data being transferred is copied before being transferred to a CD. This aids high-speed copying. The drive also comes with a Dynamic Vibration Absorber module, which is used to reduce vibrations emanating from high-speed motors in the drive, making its operation more silent.

The drive ships with cables for installation, the usual pair of blank media, Nero Burning ROM for burning CDs, and the PowerDVD XP software for watching DVD movies. DVD movie playback is smooth, with no visible dropping of frames. The Nero DVD Speed test showed no deficiencies in DVD playback or performance.

The combo drive is set as a master ATAPI device by default and the installation is no different than other internal drives. Software installation is also easy, and Nero Burning ROM presents a Windows Explorer-style interface as well as a wizard that walks you through the process of burning.

I was quite happy with the writing speed of the Samsung combo drive installed on a Pentium III desktop. I copied about 500 MB in about 2 minutes 30 seconds on to a new CD-R, the same assignment took a longer 3 minutes 45 seconds on a CD-RW disk.

It took 3 minutes 50 secs to create a 75-minute audio CD from WAV files, while a direct audio CD-CD copy took longer at nearly five minutes. When a DVD was used, it showed a maximum reading of 11x, less than its rated 16x speeds.

This is reportedly slower than other combo drives, but it suits my needs and is a shade faster than the CD-RW function on my laptop's drive.

Samsung has done a decent job of combining two drives into one. The fact that it keeps up to non-combo CD writers and DVD-ROMs all in one package tells you that Samsung has done its homework.

Also, remember that CD and DVD technology has reached a stumbling block which is the fact that these drives cannot read or write data any faster since the CD/DVD itself is not able to reach these high speeds. Any faster and will result in many reading and writing errors that can corrupt files.

The price (sub-Rs 5,000 at some online retail outlets) and one-year warranty that the Samsung drive sells at is attractive.

The writer works with content company perZuade. His views are personal and may not be endorsed by his employers, the company's investors, customers or vendors.


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