by Vasily Melnik
09/21/2005 | 11:49 PM
Internal optical disc drives of that brand have almost disappeared from shops and the manufacturer itself seems to have lost interest in such devices, focusing on notebook and external drives instead. It is yet uncertain if we ever see new IDE devices with the AOpen logo in the future, so the DUW1608/ARR model, the subject matter of this review, is perhaps the last optical drive from that brand to be tested in our labs.
If this comes true, there’ll be one player less in the optical drive market. It is sad since drives from AOpen used to perform very well, yet the decrease in the ranks of the manufacturers is quite natural. It has become very hard to survive in this market considering the dramatic reduction of the price of DVD-recording devices.
But let’s now have a look at the device about to be tested.
The AOpen DUW1608/ARR is not actually an up-to-date device. Its speed formula is typical for the previous generation of optical drives, yet its characteristics suffice for a majority of users even today.
We got an OEM version of the drive (i.e. without any accessories), but you can still find a retail version with such bonuses as software for burning discs (Nero Burning Rom) and reproducing DVD Video (PowerDVD), an installation instruction, fasteners, an audio cable, and an emergency eject wire. You don’t get blank DVDs, but the manufacturer includes white and black faceplates instead. The latter thing is probably the weightiest argument in favor of a retail rather than OEM version of the drive.
This device doesn’t try to impress you with its exterior – it has a standard front panel with a minimum of controls and indicators. Like many other manufacturers, AOpen has stopped to put a headphones socket on the front panel; the volume control is missing, too, of course. Besides the string of logotypes that confirm the drive’s ability to work with almost all existing types of optical media, the front panel carries an Eject button, an emergency eject hole and a green LED that informs the user about the reading/writing processes (this single-color indicator isn’t very informative, though). Overall, despite the certain austerity of design, the device looks nice, especially with a black faceplate.
The rear panel is perfectly standard, carrying digital and analog audio outputs, interface and power connectors, and a jumper with pins. The labels are located on the plastic top of the rear panel, rather than on the top panel of the case, and are well readable. Inexperienced users should appreciate this helpful feature if they are installing the drive on their own. There are no vent openings here, not to mention active cooling. This may result in a higher temperature inside the case of the drive, but dust won’t get in, either.
The drive is based on Ricoh’s new RL5E946 chipset. It’s all very simple inside, without any noise-reducing and dust-proofing pads. The chips lack heat-conducting pads, too. This model seems to have been designed in the cheapest way possible.
The basic technical characteristics of the drive:
Nero InfoTool and DVDInfo report the following info about this device:
As I said at the beginning of the article, the AOpen DUW1608/ARR model belongs to the previous generation of optical drives. It can burn DVD+R DL media only at the lowest possible speed (2.4x) and doesn’t support the DVD-R DL format altogether. It can’t burn DVD-Rs at 16x and rewrites DVDs at 4x only. But still, the speed formula of this drive should be quite sufficient for a majority of home tasks. If the drive produces discs of high quality, that is. And I am going to check this parameter in my tests.
I will first measure the performance of the drive in the synthetic CD WinBench 99 test:
The relatively low overall score in this test is due to two factors: the drive has a big access time (114 milliseconds) and a low speed on the innermost tracks of the disc (but accelerates towards the outermost ones). The access time is better than with the traditionally slow drives from NEC (about 130 milliseconds), but worse than the best results (90 milliseconds with Samsung’s and Sony’s models). So, the AOpen DUW1608/ARR is an average device as concerns speed alone.
Verbatim Datalife 52x discs (Moser Baer India, MID: 97m17s06f) were used in this test.
Despite the manufacturer’s claiming a maximum CD-R burn speed of 48x, the drive could only record the test disc at 40x. It also took more time to burn a disc at 24x speed than other drives we tested in our labs. At 16x speed the result is normal. So, we again get a confirmation of the sluggish character of the AOpen drive.
AOpen DUW1608/ARR reads a CD-R recorded at the max speed
The drive has no problems reading the disc it recorded at 40x – the graph is straight and tidy.
The average read speed with the recorded CD-R is comparable to that of other drives that have the same speed formula. The average seek time is better than in CD WinBench, being 95 milliseconds. The ergonomics of the drive – I mean the full disc recognition time – is rather poor. Frankly speaking, those 16 seconds is one of the worst results in this category of devices. You have to be very patient if you own a DUW1608/ARR.
But let’s move on with our tests. Next I will check the quality of CD-R discs recorded by the AOpen drive.
CD-R burning at maximum speed (40x)
It’s been a while since I saw a 5-zone Z-CLV algorithm employed for burning CD-Rs. And I never saw it implemented in a DVD-recorder. Why would the manufacturer prefer this algorithm to the ordinary CAV? Maybe to improve the quality of the resulting disc? You’ll see it right now.
Quality of the CD-R disc burned at 40x speed
Yes, the quality of the disc is astonishing. There are absolutely no C2 errors, while the small total of C1 errors (11754) and the low average BLER (below 10) are indicative of the highest quality the drive ensures at the maximum burn speed. The Beta graph is almost horizontal and also lies very close to the zero mark. The Jitter rate remains at nearly the same level along the entire disc and that’s good, too. Thus, the disc is recorded perfectly. Let’s see if we can enjoy the same quality at lower burn speeds.
CD-R disc burning at 24x
This time a 3-zone Z-CLV algorithm is employed. Why not a P-CAV or, at least, a 2-zone Z-CLV, like in a majority of modern optical drives? The manufacturer should know better, so I will just check the quality of the resulting disc.
Quality of the CD-R disc burned at 24x speed
The AOpen drive performs worse at the reduced speed, like many modern models do. The total of C1 errors is bigger than on the disc recorded at 40x, even though the BLER is almost the same. A more serious problem is that there are quite a lot of C2 errors which are obviously not due to a defect of the medium. The drive is to bear all blame for them. The Beta graph is still perfect – a straight horizontal line going at the zero mark, but the uniformity of the Jitter rate has degenerated. So, the burn quality is lower at the lower burn speed, even though the disc is not downright bad. Let’s see what we have at the minimal speed.
CD-R disc burning at 16x
The burn session ended successfully at 16x speed, and the employed algorithm – classic CLV – isn’t surprising. We could hardly expect anything else at 16x, though.
Quality of the CD-R disc burned at 16x speed
The quality doesn’t degenerate further at the lowest burn speed. On the contrary, it improves! The resulting disc is even better than the one recorded at 40x: a small total number of C1 errors, no C2 errors, and a low BLER. The excellent Beta graph and the uniform Jitter rate additionally testify the excellent quality of the disc. So, those minor problems at 24x burn speed must have been due to some errors in the burn strategy, but considering the current situation with AOpen’s optical drives, we can hardly hope the manufacturer will correct them with firmware updates.
Here’s a brief summary of the CD-R section of the tests: the drive produces excellent quality discs at the maximum (40x) and minimum (16x) speeds, but you should avoid 24x speed as the disc recorded at 24x proved to be worse than the other two. The drive didn’t reach the maximum declared burn speed of 48x, but this is hardly a serious drawback. You won’t want to compromise the quality of the disc by saving a few seconds, will you?
In this section I will check the AOpen DUW1608/ARR with rewritable CD media.
The drive is almost one minute slower than other devices of that class at 24x speed: a majority of modern optical drives burn a disc in less than 4 minutes at this speed, but the AOpen took almost 5 minutes. The same can be said about 32x speed – the full burn session time is almost the same as with the best optical drives at 24x speed. It’s easy to guess the reason – the manufacturer must be again experimenting with the burn algorithms. We’ll see shortly which algorithms are in use here.
CD-RW disc burning at 24x
The 4-step Z-CLV burn algorithm leads to the drive’s taking an unusually big amount of time to burn a disc at 24x speed. Well, it pays to wait even for a minute if the resulting quality is high.
Quality of the CD-RW disc burned at 24x speed
Not bad. The total of C1 errors is normal, for a rewritable medium. Moreover, after the first third of the disc (on which the drive seemed to be groping for the optimal laser power) the C1 error rate goes down to below 20, which is a good result even for CD-R media. C2 errors are missing altogether. The Beta graph is an ideal horizontal line. The Jitter rate only fluctuates much at the beginning of the disc where there’s a high level of C1 errors. Overall, the drive passes this test quite successfully, but some other drives produced better results in it. Let’s now see what we have at 32x.
CD-RW disc burning at 32x speed
The use of the same 4-zone Z-CLV burn algorithm leads to the drive’s being slower than other drives that use a P-CAV algorithm or a Z-CLV with fewer zones. As a result, there is no real advantage in time over 24x speed. Otherwise, the burn session went off normally, without any unexpected slowdowns. What about the quality of the resulting disc?
Quality of the CD-RW disc burned at 32x speed
The results are quite typical for a 32x CD-RW disc. All optical drives produced bad or very bad discs at that speed in my tests. This time there’s a peak of errors on the outermost tracks of the disc which includes not only C2, but also CU errors which are unacceptable. I rechecked this with another CD-RW disc and there was a peak of errors again of the same height and at the same spot of the disc. So, I don’t blame the disc, but the drive for that problem.
The Beta graph is normal, but the Jitter rate is fluctuating too wildly throughout the disc. That’s why I don’t recommend you to use 32x speed for burning CD-RWs in this optical drive, especially since this speed doesn’t give you any time gains over 24x speed, but is accompanied with a considerable quality loss.
The CD-related part of the review is concluded with a test of the drive’s error-correction logic with the help of a damaged CD-ROM disc.
The drive took 7 minutes and 10 seconds to read the test disc and found 5 blocks unreadable. That’s an average result. While reading the disc quite quickly, the drive doesn’t show good error-correcting skills (it’s rather too much to have 5 read errors).
On passing the first problematic point, the drive’s speed becomes chaotic. It suddenly accelerates or slows down almost to a halt, producing an irregular read graph and unread blocks on the outermost tracks of the disc. Thus, this drive can work with low-quality media, but you shouldn’t expect it to read very bad discs.
Reading a single-layer (left) and dual-layer (right) DVD Video discs
Unfortunately, the drive couldn’t read the single-layer DVD-ROM at its maximum declared speed. It reached 10x speed but then slowed down suddenly. After an unsuccessful attempt to speed up, the drive stopped at 4x and finished reading the disc at that speed. The dual-layer disc provoked no troubles – the maximum read speed was achieved without any slowdowns.
The following media were used in the tests:
Let’s first check the duration of the burn session for each type of the medium and for each burn speed:
DVD-R : The drive shows its sluggishness again, now working with media of this type. It takes more time than other drives to burn a DVD-R disc at 4x and 8x speeds. The difference is small at 4x (less than a minute), but big at 8x (about 3 minutes). You’ll see the reasons for this difference below.
DVD+R : Like with the DVD-R format, the drive is slower than many of its market competitors. Moreover, it could only burn the 8x blank at 12x speed whereas many modern devices successfully burn such blanks at 16x. Note also that there’s a very small difference (less than a minute) in the duration of the burn session at 8x and 12x speeds.
DVD+RW and DVD-RW : There are no surprises with these two formats. The drive takes a typical amount of time to burn them.
Next I will check the quality of discs recorded by the AOpen drive. Single-write formats come first.
Quality of the DVD-R disc recorded at 4x
The burn session was completed successfully, but the graph above is jagged, indicating that the drive was recalibrating the laser power throughout the process. The quality of the resulting disc is high, with a low rate of PI errors and failures (there are several peaks of up to seven PI failures on the disc, but they are not as long as to affect the overall burn quality).
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the disc recorded at 4x speed
The Beta graph looks almost like a horizontal line, thus confirming the high quality of the disc. The Jitter rate is uniform. The TA Test results also show that the drive can maintain the required pit/land lengths (there are almost no overlaps on the diagram). The Peak Shift parameter is normal, too. So, we’ve got a high-quality disc at the output. What about 8x burn speed?
Quality of the DVD-R disc recorded at 8x
Once again, for some unknown reason, the drive uses a Z-CLV algorithm. Well, this algorithm has no downsides, except that it increases the total time of the burn session. The session went off successfully, so we can now check the quality of the result.
And the resulting disc is similar to what we have seen in the previous case. The PI error rate is low, although higher than at 4x burn speed. The same is true for the PI failure rate. There are still peaks up to 7 PI failures high, but they are not long and don’t affect the readability of the disc.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the disc recorded at 8x speed
The Beta graph isn’t as perfect as with the disc recorded at 4x. The moments at which the burn speed was increased can be clearly seen – it’s where the Beta value changes suddenly. The uniformity of Jitter has got worse, too, yet it is still acceptable. The TA Test results prove that the device maintains the necessary pit/land lengths well enough at 8x speed: there are no overlaps on the diagram and the Peak Shift value is small.
So, the drive works well with DVD-R media. If you don’t care much about its taking more time than other drives do to burn a disc, then the DUW1608/ARR is blameless. Let’s now see how it processes DVD+R discs.
Quality of the DVD+R disc recorded at 4x
Like with the DVD-R recorded at 4x speed, no problems arose during the burn process proper, only the vacillation of the burn speed is stronger now. The quality of the resulting disc is different, however. There are no high peaks of PI failures and the PI error rate is low, too. The small total number of PI error blocks on the disc (12671) is another sign of the high quality of the recorded disc.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the DVD+R disc recorded at 4x speed
The Beta graph is normal, with minor fluctuations at the beginning. The second half of the graph is a horizontal line that closely approaches the zero mark. The Jitter rate remains roughly the same on the entire disc. Judging by the results of the TA Test, the drive finds it difficult to maintain the necessary lengths of small pits/lands (3T and 4T). The Peak Shift is rather big, too. The average length of the pits and lands is a little shorter than it should be. So, despite the small number of errors, the quality of this disc isn’t ideal. Let’s switch to 8x burn speed now.
Quality of the DVD+R disc recorded at 8x
The burn process is identical to what we’ve seen in the DVD-R 8x test. The same burn algorithm is employed, making the whole burn session last longer. The drive only began to work at 8x speed at the middle of the disc, while modern models that use a P-CAV algorithm reach this speed as soon as they pass one fourth (or, sometimes, one third) of the surface of the disc.
The quality of the resulting disc makes you forget about the small time loss, though. The PI error and failure rates are very low; the total of PI errors is very small, too. Yes, there are two surges of errors on the second half of the disc, but they aren’t lengthy and won’t affect its readability.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the DVD+R disc recorded at 8x speed
The Beta graph betrays the moments when the drive switched between the zones of the Z-CLV algorithm, but the fluctuations are small and remain within the acceptable range. This “step-like” burn algorithm affects the uniformity of the Jitter rate, too, but again not as strongly as to mean any possible troubles. The drive still has problems with maintaining the necessary lengths of small lands/pits, but makes them somewhat better than at 4x speed. The Peak Shift remained as big as at 4x speed. So, the quality of the disc is high, but not perfect.
Quality of the DVD+R disc recorded at 12x speed
And once again the drive uses a Z-CLV algorithm consisting of four zones, so less than a quarter of the disc is actually recorded at 12x. That’s why the drive takes almost the same time to produce a recorded disc at 12x and 8x speeds. And of course, it is much slower than its market competitors.
As for the quality of the resulting disc, it is high, with a very low rate of PI errors and failures and a small total of PIE blocks. There’s a single peak of four PI failures at the second half of the disc, but it’s too small to affect its readability.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the disc recorded at 12x speed
The Beta graph allows you to see the moments when the drive increased its burn speed (curiously enough, the drive reduces the laser power rather than increases it as it switches over to 12x speed). Overall, the fluctuations of Beta are within the acceptable limits. The Jitter rate is changing along the surface of the disc, growing up at higher burn speeds, especially on the outermost tracks (which were recorded at 12x). This is also clear from the TA Test results for the outermost tracks. The drive can’t accurately maintain the required lengths of pits up to 10T – you can see overlapping lobes on the diagram. The Peak Shift value is rather big, too. Despite all this, however, the overall quality of the disc is quite high. It’s not ideal, but you are unlikely to meet any problems with the readability of the disc.
To finish with the DVD+R format I will test a dual-layer medium.
Quality of the DVD+R DL disc recorded at 2.4x
The drive recorded the blank successfully, without slowdowns. But the jaggedness of the speed graph we have noticed above can be observed here, too.
The quality of the resulting disc is far from perfect. Even at the minimal burn speed the PIE/PIF rate on the first layer exceeds the acceptable limits, especially at the beginning of the disc. The situation becomes normal towards the middle of the first layer where the error rate becomes acceptable. A minor surge of PI failures is observed then as the drive switches from one layer to the other. The second layer is recorded excellently, with a low rate of PI failures and errors and total lack of error peaks.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer, layers 0 and 1) for the DVD+R DL disc recorded at 2.4x speed
The Beta graph is normal, being nearly horizontal. But you can see that it is divided in two parts at the point where the drive went over from the first to the second layer, accompanying this with a minor increase in the laser power. The Jitter rate is uniform within the same layer, but differs between the two layers as you can also see on the diagram.
The TA Test results show that the drive burns the pits and lands of the necessary length on the first layer: adjacent lobes do not overlap on the diagram and the Peak Shift is very small. Jitter quite expectedly grows up on the second layer of the disc, but the Peak Shift, on the contrary, is smaller than on the first layer.
Summarizing the results of the drive with write-once media, I should note that it met no serious problems with any of the media formats. There are some minor imperfections like inaccurate pit/land lengths, but they do not affect the overall quality of the discs much. However, the drive performs worse with dual-layer discs than with single-layer ones, despite the low burn speed it works at – the error rate is much higher than normal on the first layer. The manufacturer will hardly release a firmware update to correct this issue, so you should keep this fact in mind if you want to purchase an AOpen DUW1608/ARR.
Next we will check the rewritable formats.
Quality of the DVD-RW disc recorded at 2x speed
The drive performed the burning successfully and the quality of the disc is quite high. The PI error rate grows up somewhat towards the outermost tracks, but still fits into the required range. On the rest of the disc’s surface, the PI error rate is 10 in average – an excellent result for a rewritable medium. There are rather many PI failure blocks, but the average rate of PI failures is only 2, with several peaks of 3 failures. That’s a good result, too.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the DVD-RW disc recorded at 2x speed
The high quality of the disc is confirmed again: the Beta value changes but slightly and always remains within the acceptable range. The uniformity of Jitter is acceptable, too. According to the TA Test, the drive maintains the required pit/land lengths and the Peak Shift is very small. Will we see the same quality at 4x burn speed?
Quality of the DVD-RW disc recorded at 4x
The burn session was completed successfully and the quality of the resulting disc is high. The PIE/PIF rates (8 and 2, respectively) are much lower than at 2x burn speed. The total number of PIE/PIF blocks is very small, too.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the DVD-RW disc recorded at 4x speed
Beta fluctuates more, but is still within the acceptable range. Note that the drive is reducing the laser power from the innermost towards the outermost tracks of the medium. At the end of the burn session the asymmetry becomes close to zero. The Jitter rate is uniform, but is worse than at 2x burn speed – there are two splits on the graph that spoil the result somewhat.
According to the TA Test, the Jitter rate is higher than at 2x burn speed. The Peak Shift remains unchanged, so the quality of the disc is roughly the same as at 2x. Now let’s see what we have with DVD+RW media.
Quality of the DVD+RW disc recorded at 2.4x
Once again the burn process proper provoked no troubles: you see a smooth and clear graph without slowdowns or jaggedness. It’s not so good with the quality of the resulting disc. The PIE/PIF rates grow up at the outermost tracks. The PI error rate is close to the acceptable maximum, while the PI failure rate exceeds it by a factor of five. Alas, I can’t consider this result as satisfactory.
Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer) for the DVD+RW disc recorded at 2.4x speed
It’s strange but these results suggest that it’s all right with the Beta and Jitter parameters of the recorded disc. The TA Test, however, shows that the drive doesn’t maintain the required pit/land lengths on the outermost tracks of the disc: Jitter is higher there and the Peak Shift value is far from perfect. If you again return to the Beta graph, you can notice that the laser power was increased at the area where the number of errors is high. The drive must have made a mistake, deciding to increase the laser power on the most problematic section of the disc. It shouldn’t have done so. Let’s see if it did the same mistake at 4x burn speed?
Quality of the DVD+RW disc recorded at 4x speed
The burn session was again completed successfully, but we’ve already seen that this fact alone doesn’t guarantee anything. And you can really see a huge amount of errors (the PI error and failure rates are five and fifty times, respectively, above the normal level) on the entire surface of the disc, so the quality is unacceptable and the disc is in fact unreadable. I can’t show you the Beta and Jitter graphs just because the disc couldn’t pass the test.
Summing up the tests performed in this section of the review I should note that the drive burns DVD-RW discs almost ideally, but has serious problems with the DVD+RW format. At the min burn speed it produced a disc of an acceptable quality (the quality would be even good if it were not for the outermost tracks), but the disc recorded at 4x speed turned to be unreadable. This is a serious fault of the drive which makes one think of alternative products. On the other hand, everything is all right if you don’t work with DVD+RW media.
The non-zero read and write offsets are compensated with the drive’s ability to read the auxiliary areas of the disc, so it is possible to make an accurate copy of an Audio CD on the DUW1608/ARR. The drive has a good access time when working with audio discs and also supports “on the fly” copying at speeds up to 16x.
The drive can return C2 errors, but the caching of audio data isn’t necessary for audio grabbing as it only increases the total copy time.
The AOpen DUW1608/ARR is quite good at actual extraction of audio tracks. Even though it is not the fastest device available, it is quite fast for everyday work. The caching took some time in the Secure Mode, but not too much to be considered a serious drawback. An indisputable advantage of this model is the minimal speed reduction when it works with a scratched Audio CD.
The tested drive is rather average at returning C2 errors and reading a damaged disc. You should disable C2 errors reporting for serious work with audio. It will make the process longer, but you’ll get a more accurate copy in the end.
You can read the description of this test here . In brief, its point is simple: the ability of the drive to copy discs protected with various versions of Safe Disc is tested. The developers of the popular CloneCD program have the following classification of optical drives, according to this test:
The AOpen DUW1608/ARR is a three sheep drive in this classification. It read all test files and proved that it is one of the best devices for hardware copying of protected discs.
Despite its not the best speed formula for today, the AOpen DUW1608/ARR can serve its owner well for a long time yet. It may be not the etalon of an optical drive, and it is not the best in terms of burn quality and functionality, but it is still going to make a good drive for everyday work. I was pleased with the quiet operation and low temperature of the device (despite the total lack of vent openings in its case). The not very informative LED indicator and a long disc recognition time are its minor drawbacks.
You will want to consider other and more advanced models if you’re shopping for a new optical drive. But if the DUW1608/ARR is already installed in your system, you shouldn’t hurry to replace it.