by Andrey Kuznetcov
11/01/2005 | 04:02 PM
Although optical drives supporting Blue-Ray and HD-DVD media standards are about to attack the market, PC users are still interested in classic devices that do not support the new formats, but cost much less money and can process ordinary and widespread discs of the “plus” and “minus” standards. Today I’m going to talk about one such device, manufactured by LG Electronics. A special feature of this drive is its support of the DVD-RAM media format.
Our sample of the drive has a black faceplate. It has already become a tendency that DVD drives rarely have a button to browse through audio tracks and the reviewed model is an example of that trend. There’s only an Eject button and a LED indicator under the disc tray on the front panel. The classic appearance of the device is somewhat enlivened by the gray-painted symbols of the supported formats and the sunken LED zone. The shortened design of the case will permit you to install this optical drive into smaller system cases where a normal-sized drive might hit on some of the mainboard’s elements. The rear panel carries power and interface connectors, analog and digital audio outputs and a jumper with pins. The basic characteristics of the drive are listed below:
The device can be positioned vertically as well as horizontally.
We used the following programs and utilities to explore the operational parameters of the drives:
The testbed was configured like follows:
I tested the drive in the same state as I had received it (or as you would have it right after the purchase).
These utilities can report more information about the capabilities of the drive to us.
According to the info utilities, the drive supports nearly every function you might ever require from it, only excepting CD-G support.
As usual, I tested the drive in WinBench 99 using a molded CD-ROM and two its copies made on CD-R and CD-RW discs.
The drive could read all the three discs, but did so not very fast, judging by the CD WinMark score. Somewhat surprisingly, the measured access time was the biggest with the CD-R disc. This parameter was much lower and compliant with the specification in the other two cases.
I used five CD media to perform these tests: a molded CD-ROM enclosed with a computer magazine, 700MB data CD-R and CD-RW discs recorded by Nero CD-DVD Speed itself, a likewise prepared 800MB CD-R, and an Audio CD. Anticipating the diagrams below I want to say that the drive could not digest one disc of the five (the 800MB CD-R).
The remaining four discs were processed by the LG GSA-4167B quite normally. The results presented in the diagrams and graphs need no commends. Note only that the measured access time is smaller for all the discs than is specified by the manufacturer.
The second group of tests is concerned with DVD formats. I used six discs to get a fuller picture of performance of the drive: a DVD-ROM with a video movie and its copies made on DVD-R (Digitex), DVD-RW (TDK), DVD+R (Fujifilm), and DVD+RW (Verbatim) discs. Besides that, I used a dual-layer DVD+R from RIDATA.
The tested optical drive met no problems with the six DVD discs, but could not reach its specified 16x read speed on the DVD-ROM disc, however. Note also that the measured access time is noticeably smaller than specified by the manufacturer with all the tested discs.
Using the Advanced DAE Quality Test we will determine hardware characteristics of the drive pertaining to the audio ripping process. Two CD-R discs prepared by Nero CD-DVD Speed are used in this test. One audio disc is normal; the other has defects of the surface, imitating your trying to make a copy from a long-used, bad-quality audio compact-disc.
The first screenshot shows the results of the drive with the high-quality disc. As you can see, the LG GSA-4167B passes this test successfully, achieving a 100% quality score at a rather high average speed. The drive can read three types of auxiliary information out of four and is also sufficiently fast to perform “on the fly” copying at all of the speeds. The only thing I have gripes about is the rather big offset value. This will negatively affect the accuracy of copies of Audio CDs you will make on this drive.
And this is how the drive processed the bad Audio CD. The average speed was just a little lower, and the resulting quality score was very near to 100%. This is a highly satisfactory result, of course.
I ran the Advanced DAE Error Correction test with the bad Audio CD prepared in Nero CD-DVD Speed to check the drive’s ability to process errors that occur during the audio ripping process. The program determines how many C2 errors should be found by the drive and how many errors the drive actually finds, and then produces C2 Accuracy and Quality Score parameters which reflect the efficiency of the hardware error-correction logic in the given drive. Unlike the previous test, this one not only tells how many errors occur as the drive is reading an audio CD, but also evaluates the drive’s ability to find such errors.
The results presented on the screenshot show that the hardware error-correction logic of the LG drive is far from perfect. It is not a good finder of C2 errors, missing in average one error in each three. This can hardly be acceptable for working with damaged media. The results of the previous test also look dubious after this one.
Using this rather old, yet very simple utility, we measure the speed of the drives when they extract audio tracks from a normal audio CD and convert them into WAV-files. Each track is read two times to identify errors.
The drive was ripping the audio tracks at a rather high average speed and no errors occurred in the process.
The second audio-extraction program I use in my tests differs from Nero CD DAE in allowing the user to enable specific hardware features of the optical drive to achieve the maximum possible copying quality.
Before I began to extract audio tracks from the disc, I entered the Drive Options menu to determine the hardware characteristics of the drives. Next, besides getting a general report about the drive’s properties, I used the bad Audio CD prepared in Nero CD-DVD Speed to determine the drive’s ability to process C2 errors. And finally I switched the most effective Secure Mode on and extracted audio tracks from the same disc as in the Nero CD DAE test, converting them into WAV-files.
The LG GSA-4167B drive does not cache audio data, supports Accurate Stream mode and can return C2 errors. Thanks to its hardware capabilities, the drive performed this test very quickly.
I took several DVD discs to check how well the LG GSA-4167B drive could burn DVD media. The discs were all recorded with Nero Burning Rom at the maximum possible speeds they were rated for by their manufacturers. The quality check was then performed in a Lite-On SOHW-1653S drive (firmware CS09) at 4x speed since the tested drive from LG could not work with the appropriate option of Nero CD-DVD Speed.
As for the disc quality criteria, the ECMA standards for DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW media say that the total number of PI errors in 8 subsequent ECC blocks should not exceed 280. This is the first limiting value I will base my judgments upon. Then, an ECC block must not contain more than four irrecoverable PI errors (an irrecoverable PI error is referred to as PI failure by the CD-DVD Speed utility).
DVD discs that have no more than 280 PI errors per eight ECC blocks and 4 PI failures per one ECC block should be considered acceptable-quality media. Besides these criteria, you should also note how the errors are distributed along the surface of the disc. Of course, it is the worst situation when the errors exceed the acceptable limits on the entire surface. Single and short-time spikes of errors are less dangerous.
I begin to check the quality of the discs recorded in the LG GSA-4167B from DVD+R media. The quality of the Digitex disc (represented by the screenshot above) is beyond my criticism. The maximums of errors of both types are very low and the errors are also evenly distributed along the surface of the disc. The total number of errors is small, too.
It’s not all clear with the RIDATA disc. The generally good picture is blemished by the PI Errors graph. The diagram shows that the ECMA norms are violated at one place of the disc, but the quality of the rest of the disc surface is quite acceptable.
The screenshot with the quality check results for the TDK disc represent a situation similar to the previous test. Again, the quality of the disc is generally high, but there is a single spot where the allowable maximum of PI Failures is exceeded.
The Verbatim disc is recorded just excellently. The maximums of errors of both types are very low; the total number of errors is small, too. The drive and the blank disc seem to match each other perfectly.
Now let’s switch to the DVD-R standard. The disc from Digitex passed the quality check rather successfully, having a small maximum and a low total number of PI Failures. The PI Errors graph is somewhat less stable but it still fits in the acceptable ranges described by the ECMA standards.
The reviewed drive performed well with this TDK disc, too. The errors of both types comply with the industry norms. The maximum of PI Failures is exemplarily low.
The quality of the “minus” blank from Verbatim is acceptable and meets the ECMA regulations. I want to note, however, that the PI Error rate and the total number of PI Errors are considerable, while the PI Failures graph shows a surprisingly low number of PI Failures.
Next go rewritable media formats. Unfortunately, I could not normally test Digitex DVD-RW 4x and Verbatim DVD-RW 4x discs recorded by the LG GSA-4167B since there was an initialization error message when I tried to start the quality check in our reference Lite-On drive (the discs, however, were quite normally read by the LG drive itself). That’s why I have to limit myself to the DVD+RW format only.
The screenshot referring to the Fujifilm disc shows a violation of the allowable maximum of PI Failures. The quality degenerates at the end of the disc, as you can see. This also refers to the PI Errors parameter, even though it complies with the ECMA standards.
Lastly I tested a TDK disc. Unfortunately, the recorded disc does not meet the ECMA requirements as concerns the maximums of PI Failures. On the other hand, the quality of the disc is uniform throughout its entire surface.
LG Electronics has climbed up very high in terms of quality of DVD-recorders it manufactures. The GSA-4167B model is an example of that. Burning DVD-R and DVD+R discs is the main strong point of this drive. Users will easily find recordable discs the GSA-4167B will work superbly with. The drive is less confident with DVD-RW and DVD+RW media, but most of the problems mentioned in the review will probably be solved in future firmware updates. The drive’s ability to work with DVD-RAM media, even though this format is not widely popular, also needs to be mentioned as its advantage. The speed characteristics of the drive are up to today’s standards; it also works well with bad-quality, damaged discs.
As for drawbacks of this device, the GSA-4167B has a big offset (bad for audio copies) and not very efficient error-correction logic (a low percentage of found C2 errors). The latter fact casts doubt on the drive’s results with the scratched disc.
Summing up my experience with the LG GSA-4167B, I recommend it to people who need a universal, multi-format, high-quality DVD-burner and who are not obsessed with the desire to listen to audio CDs through the headphones output on the drive’s front panel.