MSI DR16-B2 DVD±RW Dual Layer Burner: Repeated Success or New Heights?

We would like to introduce to you a new dual layer DVD burner from MSI, which boasts improved speed formula and is positioned as a direct competitor to the BenQ’s latest drive. It is quiet, inexpensive and provides excellent burn quality with most disc formats. Read more in our detailed review now!

by Vasily Melnik
09/27/2005 | 09:43 PM

The conditions of the modern high-tech market have made it unprofitable for the manufacturers to offer products of one kind only. Once known as a leading maker of mainboards, MSI followed the market trends and took up graphics card and then optical disc drive manufacture, too. MSI’s drives, from obsolete combo-models to advanced multi-format DVD-recorders, were always products of a highest quality.

 

The company’s previous model, DR-16B, also was received by the users warmly due to its exceptional speed characteristics and high burn quality (this fact is not to be wondered at because the model was based on BenQ’s DW1620 model which was praised by many independent sources and users as one of the best optical drives of its time). But even the most successful products require maybe not fundamental, but constant improvements for the users not to turn to the competitors’ product lines which are updated more regularly. These marketing considerations were the background behind the arrival of the MSI DR16-B2 drive that I am going to test today.

The DR16-B2 differs from the previous model in the improved speed formula alone. This way of making new products has already become a standard policy of many optical drive manufacturers, by the way. You just increase the write/rewrite speeds and correct some noticed errors in the tabled burn strategies, and a new device is ready to go! But after the release it’s now my turn as of a hardware tester.

I’m going to see if the improvements are as substantial as to justify an upgrade. Or maybe the previous model can do equally well? I would also like to inform you that MSI has already released the next model (with the B3 index), but we haven’t yet got a sample for our tests. The B2 and B3 models are positioned as opponents to BenQ’s new product, the DW1640 model. We are going to perform a comparative test session with these new drives to see if MSI is a really worthy opponent to BenQ in the optical drive market. But now let’s get closer to the DR16-B2.

Closer Look

The drive comes to you in a colorful retail package. Let’s see what it has inside besides the drive itself.

The box is designed in MSI’s traditional style – the previous model came in almost the same box, so it’s easy to confuse them at first glance. The user is first offered a list of the technical characteristics of the recent mainboards from MSI (this list is on the second, internal cover of the box). The box contains the following accessories to the drive:

So, you get everything necessary to use the drive, except blank discs. Well, write-once DVD media are so cheap now that you shouldn’t be very sad that they are missing here. But still the manufacturer might have included a dual-layer DVD+R blank or a few rewritable DVD discs at least. Well, this is just a consequence of the general trend towards making optical drives as cheap as possible – they didn’t even enclose interchangeable faceplates here! If things develop this way, OEM and retail versions of an optical drive will soon differ in one thing only – the retail version will still be shipped in a cardboard box!

 

Having the same design of the front panel, the MSI DR16-B2 drive resembles the DR16-B model much externally. The front part of the disc tray is designed in MSI’s traditional style and is embellished with the manufacturer’s logotype as well as the logotypes of the supported media formats. An Eject button, an emergency eject opening and a LED indicator are the only controls and indicators available here. The LED is quite informative, changing its color from green at reading to red at writing. The appearance of the front panel with its smooth curved lines is overall cute and eye-pleasing.

There’s nothing extraordinary on the rear panel – just a usual set of connectors. Well-readable labels for the connectors are placed on the plastic top of the rear panel, rather than on the top cover. Inexperienced users should appreciate this help as they install the drive on their own.

There are no vent openings in the rear panel. The lack of ventilation may lead to a higher temperature inside the case of the drive, but dust won’t get in, either. I should confess that the manufacturer was right in designing the rear panel this way – the drive doesn’t heat up much at work.

Now let’s see what it has inside.

Take note of the design of the bottom of the metal cover. As you can see, it is equipped with protecting foam-rubber pads that minimize noise and vibration (they do not serve as dust filters because of the lack of vent openings). The manufacturer also took care about cooling the hottest chips on the exterior side of the PCB. Since there is almost no ventilation inside the case of the drive, the only way to reduce the heat is to use the metal bottom panel of the case as a heat-spreader. To do so, contacting areas are printed out in the case opposite to the hottest elements and special thermal pads are used there to ensure tight contact between the case and the chips and to improve the heat transfer. By the way, this solution serves one more useful purpose. I mean that there can be strong vibrations in modern optical drives as they are working at their maximum speeds. When a chip is 60-70°C hot, the bonding area becomes up to two times more sensitive to physical damage, and this sensitivity grows up more at higher temperatures. Micro-caverns in the soldering points may also have a negative effect on the soldering strength. As a result, the chip may shift a little away from its seat on the PCB and lose contact with one of its legs. And the above-mentioned heat-conductive vibration-suppressing pads are expected to prevent this from happening.


The internal design of the MSI DR16-B2 (left) and BenQ DW1620 (right) drives

It’s easy to note that the internal stuffing and the layout of the electronic components is identical in both devices. The mechanical parts of the B2 version of MSI’s drive haven’t changed since the previous model. The manufacturer must have just made some improvements in the drive’s firmware and stopped at that. Thus, the MSI DR16-B2 is going to compete with BenQ’s previous model, while the MSI DR16-B3 will be a direct opponent to the updated BenQ DW1640 (for mor details on MSI's today's opponent you can see our article called BenQ DW1620A DVD±RW/R Drive Review: Joker in the Pack or a New Winner?).

The MSI drive is based on Philip’s new chipset, Nexperia PNX7860E, paired with an analog preprocessor Philips TZA1047HL. The BenQ DW1620 drive is based on the same chipset. The new versions of the drives from both manufacturers are going to use a modified chipset from Philips, too.

Unlike its predecessor that had a number of extra functions, the MSI drive can’t boast anything exceptional, although it has the same chipset. It offers the bare minimum of functionality which is expected and demanded from any modern optical disc drive.

Technical Specifications

Let's look at the basic technical characteristics of the MSI DR16-B2 drive:

The speed characteristics fully coincide with those of the BenQ DW1620, so it is correct to compare these two models.

Below is the information Nero InfoTool and DVDInfo report about the drive:

And now we can proceed to the tests proper.

Performance in CD WinBench 99

The synthetic CD WinBench 99 benchmark is our traditional opener.

The results of the two drives are almost identical in this test, the difference being smaller than the measurement error range. The only noticeable difference is that the MSI drive puts a bigger load on the central processor. If compared with other modern optical drives, these two have rather average speed characteristics, especially in such parameters as the access time and the data-transfer rate on the inner tracks of the disc.

Performance during CD-R Burning

Verbatim Datalife 52x blanks (Moser Baer India, MID: 97m17s06f) were used for this test.

And once again we have almost identical results. Both devices take about the same time to produce a recorded disc; there is no big difference between them at any of the burn speeds. Well, it takes the manufacturer “improving” the burn algorithms for any difference to arise between two optical drives that have identical speed formulas.

Let’s now see how the new model from MSI reads the disc it recorded at the maximum speed.

40x Speed

Reading the CD-R disc burnt at 40x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

The result is perfect – the graph is straight, without any slumps. The drive even surpasses its own specification, nearly achieving 42x speed instead of the declared 40x at the end of the disc. The BenQ passes this test in the same manner, though. There’s no difference between them so far. Maybe we will see it in other tests?

Yes, we’ve got some dissimilarity here. Firstly, the MSI drive’s average seek time is 5 milliseconds better than its opponent’s. Secondly, the BenQ DW1620 is much better in terms of ergonomics – it is only second to the Sony DRU-530A in the disc recognition time parameter. The MSI drive performed worse in that subtest. Save for these two instances, however, the difference between the two drives is negligible.

Well, let’s move on now. We’ve seen how the MSI DR16-B2 works with CDs, so the next step is to check it with CD-R media.

Burning the CD-R disc at 40x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

It would be impossible to guess which diagram belongs to which drive if there were no labels, so similar they are. The fluctuations of the graphs indicate that both devices use WOPC and BLER OPC technologies. So, they wrote the blank discs in the same manner, but what about the quality of these discs?

CD-R disc burning quality at 40x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

Curiously, the number of C1 errors is almost identical in both cases, the BenQ enjoying a small advantage of having 121 errors less. The manner in which those errors are distributed along the surface differs greatly between the two discs, though. The errors are evenly distributed on the disc recorded by the BenQ DW1620, excepting a small surge on the innermost tracks. The MSI also has a surge of errors at the beginning of the disc, but this surge is almost two times higher than on the BenQ’s disc and longer. So, even though the discs are similar in quality, the BenQ’s one is better. C2 errors are missing on both discs (if you disregard the single C2 error on the disc recorded by the MSI drive).

The Beta graph, on the contrary, is straighter for the disc from the MSI DR16-B2 – the Beta graph for the BenQ’s disc has a small swelling on the innermost tracks. The MSI drive seems to have made a mistake when it began to burn the disc at a smaller laser power than the BenQ and this resulted in the surge of C1 errors at the beginning of the blank which we have seen above. So, the BenQ seems to perform the Optimal Power Calibration (OPC) procedure better than the MSI DR16-B2 in this particular case. The Jitter parameter is slightly better on the disc produced by the MSI drive.

So, both optical drives gave out high-quality discs. The disc recorded by BenQ’s model has somewhat better parameters, but the difference between the two devices is in fact negligible.

Now, let’s try 24x burn speed.

24x Speed

Burning the CD-R disc at 24x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

These two graphs are shaped so identically that they might coincide if I were to put them one upon another. The burn processes are absolutely the same in both cases. This is also confirmed by the fact that the duration of the burn sessions was almost the same (with a 4-second discrepancy). But will the quality of the discs differ as in the previous test?

CD-R disc burning quality at 24x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

I suspect the MSI DR16-B2 again suffers from some defects in its OPC algorithm – there is a small surge of C1 errors at the beginning of the disc, and some C2 errors appear, too. Otherwise, the quality of the disc from the MSI drive is higher than of the disc from the BenQ. For example, the average BLER for the BenQ disc is about 16, and for the MSI disc – less than 8. The total number of C1 errors is two times smaller on the MSI disc than on the competitor’s, too.

The Beta graphs are similar, but the BenQ again starts to burn the disc at a higher laser power. The Jitter rate is better on the BenQ disc and is simply terrible on the MSI disc – our reference optical drive even stopped to read the MSI disc in that test (I attempted to repeat the test a few times more, but with the same, negative, result). Strangely enough, the high Jitter rate on the disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2 is not accompanied with an abundance of errors.

Next goes 16x burn speed.

16x Speed

Burning the CD-R disc at 16x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

It’s not surprising anymore that the two drives burn discs in an absolutely identical manner at the lowest tested speed, too. Let’s check the quality of the recorded discs.

CD-R disc burning quality at 16x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

The total number of C1 errors is smaller on the disc recorded by the MSI, but this advantage is negated by the big spikes of C2 errors on the outermost tracks. Yes, C2 errors are present on the disc recorded by the BenQ, too, but they are not that numerous and are probably due to minor defects of the medium. If we suppose that the MSI DR16-B2 also supports laser power calibration at the beginning of the disc, a natural question arises: why did this function help its opponent to decrease the number of C1 errors in this area, while the MSI drive, on the contrary, produced C2 errors there?

And like at 24x burn speed, the disc recorded by the MSI drive couldn’t pass the Beta/Jitter test successfully. This time, however, there is an explanation – the numerous C2 errors didn’t allow our reference drive to read the disc to the end.

CD-R Performance Summary

Summing up the CD-R section of this review I should note the following. The MSI DR16-B2 at first seems to be a little better than the BenQ at writing blanks of that format, but a closer examination shows that it has serious problems with burning the outermost tracks of the disc at 24x and 16x speeds. These problems result in read errors. Thus, 40x burn speed is the only speed at which the MSI drive produces acceptable quality CD-R discs. The manufacturer should think about improving the burn strategies and the OPC function.

Performance during Work with CD-RW Media

From write-once CDs we will now proceed to rewritable discs.

The drives take the same time to burn a disc at 24x as well as at 32x burn speed. Well, it is expectable considering the identical speed formulas and the same burn algorithms employed in both devices. Let’s now compare the quality of the resulting discs.

24x Speed

Burning the CD-RW disc at 24x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

Once again there’s no difference between the two optical drives as concerns the burn process proper.

CD-RW disc burning quality at 24x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

The MSI drive doesn’t look good against the BenQ DW1620 in this test. It has a high C1 error rate at the beginning of the disc before reaching 24x burn speed, which results in a high total of C1 errors (about 3.5 times more than on the disc produced by the BenQ). This fact may be the indication of an imperfect laser calibration procedure (OPC). The error rate goes down afterwards, but the BenQ DW1620 still has much better results. I should also acknowledge that the BenQ didn’t perform so well in this test earlier, before the release of the version B7T9 firmware. It had a surge of up to 1200 C2 errors at the beginning of the disc. So, this is quite a curious situation: there were two similar imperfections, and one manufacturer corrected them and achieved a highest CD-RW burn quality at 24x speed, while the other manufacturer didn’t do so. Or maybe the MSI developers just couldn’t achieve the same burn quality as BenQ did.

The Beta graphs are overall good in both cases. The MSI’s is even perfect. The BenQ drive, however, got much better results by starting at a lower laser power and increasing it as it achieved 24x burn speed. The Jitter rate isn’t perfect in either case, but fits into the acceptable range.

Next I will check how the drives process CD-RWs at the officially unsupported 32x burn speed.

32x Speed

Burning the CD-RW disc at 32x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

The burn process proper hardly needs any comments, so let’s get right to the results of the quality check.

CD-RW disc burning quality at 32x speed

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

Neither drive is supposed to be able to burn discs of that type, so they both perform worse than with 24x CD-RWs. The BenQ, however, has better results than the MSI drive. It has 2.5 times less C1 errors and no C2 errors (780 C2 errors were found on the disc recorded by the MSI drive). I should note once again that the BenQ DW1620 only boasts such results with its B7T9 firmware. Before the release of this firmware version the drive produced absolutely unreadable 32x CD-RWs.

The Beta graphs have the same shape as with the 24x CD-RWs: a horizontal line lying at the zero mark for the disc from the MSI drive while the BenQ uses a higher laser power than the MSI. The Jitter rate is far from ideal on both discs, especially on the innermost tracks.

As you have seen in the CD-RW tests, BenQ was more successful than MSI in correcting the defects noticed in its drive. As a result, the BenQ DW1620 boasts a much higher CD-RW burn quality than its opponent, even though the results of the MSI DR16-B2 are good, especially at the officially supported burn speed.

Performance during Damaged CD-ROM Disc Reading

The CD-related part of the review is traditionally concluded with a test of the error-correction logic of the drive. We use a low-quality, scratched CD-ROM for that.

Reading a severely damaged CD-ROM disc

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

The MSI DR16-B2 took 3 minutes and 32 seconds to read the whole disc; the BenQ DW1620 did the same in 3 minutes and 41 seconds. In other words, the difference in time between these two drives is negligibly small. The number of unread blocks is the same in both cases (4 blocks). As a result, I can state that the drives have absolutely identical optical systems as well as error-correction algorithms.

The CD-related part of the review being over, the rest of it will be mostly dedicated to DVD media.

Performance during DVD Media Reading

Reading single- and dual-layer molded DVD-ROM discs

MSI DR16-B2

BenQ DW1620

The MSI drive had some problems at reading the single-layer molded DVD Video disc. Starting from the second third of the disc, the speed of the drive was fluctuating, the fluctuation being stronger on the outermost tracks. The BenQ also faltered once when it dropped its read speed down suddenly, but the drive then quickly restored its speed and finished the test without errors. The difference between the two drives is 22 seconds, but the fact that the read speed of the MSI drive is unstable is much more disturbing than those extra 20 seconds.

Both drives read the dual-layer medium with ease, producing straight and tidy graphs, without any noticeable slowdowns. And they took exactly the same amount of time – to a second – to read the whole dual-layer disc.

DVD Burn Quality

The following media were used in the tests:

The following table shows you the duration of the burn session for each format and speed:

The drives again take the same time to process any type of DVD media. The only difference is that the BenQ drive could burn an 8x DVD-R disc at higher burn speeds while the MSI burned it only at the speed the blank was rated for.

I will now discuss the quality of the recorded discs, starting from write-once formats.

Single-Write (Non-Rewritable) DVD Media

DVD+R Discs Burn Quality at 4x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620
 

The two discs differ in their quality, despite the drives having performed the burning in the same manner. The total number of PI Error blocks found on the disc from the BenQ is two times smaller than on the disc from MSI DR16-B2. This is the only success of the BenQ in this test, however. The total number of PI Failure blocks is smaller on the MSI disc by a factor of 30! Well, the average PI Failure rate is acceptable even on the BenQ disc (but it is close to the limit), but there is a high spike of PI Failures on the outermost tracks of the disc. The same goes for PI Errors, too, although not so dramatically.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test for the DVD+R disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 4x speed

The Beta graph is normal, with small and quite acceptable fluctuations. The Jitter parameter is acceptable, too. But looking at the results of the TA Test I should note that the MSI drive doesn’t maintain the required pit/land lengths at 4x burn speed. Jitter is overall small (it is only rather high for the small-lengths pits and lands), but the Peak Shift parameter is rather big. It means the drive makes the pits a little shorter and the lands a little longer than they should be.

Let’s now see if it’s different at 8x burn speed.

DVD+R Discs Burn Quality at 8x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620
 

Both devices perform well in this test – their very low PIE/PIF rate is indicative of the highest quality of the resulting discs. But if the drives are compared with each other, the BenQ DW1620 looks better as it has about 5 and 3 times less PI Errors and Failures, respectively, than the MSI DR16-B2. So while the quality of the disc recorded by the MSI drive is just excellent, the quality of the disc from the BenQ is near etalon.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test for the DVD+R disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 8x speed

The Beta graph is almost the same as at 4x burn speed. Beta is fluctuating just a little stronger, and the laser power is increased at the end of the disc. The Jitter rate has become more uniform throughout the disc than at 4x speed.

The improvements I have singled out are confirmed by the TA Test results. Jitter is minimal. The Peak Shift is still rather big, though. In other words, the average length of the pits and lands is not exactly as it should be. Yet the overall quality of the disc is very high.

DVD+R Discs Burn Quality at 12x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620 
 

Once again I can’t but praise the results of both models. But if we compare them with each other, the BenQ DW1620 will seem noticeably better than the MSI, its average PI Error rate being about 3 against the MSI’s 8. The total number of PI Error blocks differs by a factor of five (you can easily guess which drive has more of them). The difference in the number of PI Failure blocks is not as big as at 8x burn speed, though. It is only 9 blocks. So, we again get one excellent and one very good result.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test for the DVD+R disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 12x speed

The Beta parameter fluctuates stronger here than at 8x burn speed, yet it always remains within the actable range. You can see that the MSI DR16-B2 still reduces the laser power of its write head at the last quarter of the blank. The Jitter rate remains on roughly the same level throughout the disc, even though with some deviations. The TA Test results prove that the Jitter rate is higher for this disc than for the 8x DVD+R, but not much high, and only for the small-length pits and lands. The Peak Shift is the same as at 8x speed.

DVD+R Discs Burn Quality at 16x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620 
 

And finally we got to the maximum, 16x burn speed. The MSI DR16-B2 has shown good results so far, but it couldn’t do the same in this test. The PI Error rate is normal, but higher than at the lower burn speeds, and the density of PI Error blocks is higher, too. The same is also true for PI Failures. At the end of the disc, however, the level of PI Failures exceeds the norm. I should note that the BenQ DW1620 also had problems at this burn speed with its older firmware versions. But like with CD-RWs, the release of the version B7T9 firmware changed the behavior of the device dramatically – now this optical drive delivers an excellent burn quality at 16x speed.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test for the DVD+R disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 16x speed

The Beta and Jitter graphs indicate that the disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2 drive is far from perfect. The reduction of the laser power at the outermost tracks didn’t led to catastrophic consequences at the lower burn speeds, but now it results in a dramatic outburst of errors, a growth of jitter and ultimately to the total unreadability of the outermost tracks. The results of the TA Test agree with that: Jitter is very high for small-length pits and lands, and the Peak Shift value is big, too. So, until the manufacturer corrects these problems in firmware updates, there’s no sense in using the maximum burn speed since it brings you a very small time gain over 12x speed, but worsens the quality of the resulting disc too much.

Dual Layer DVD+R Discs Burn Quality at 4x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620 
 

This is the test where the MSI DR16-B2 makes up for its poor performance with 16x DVD+R media. It burns dual-layer discs much better than the BenQ DW1620 does. Moreover, this is one of the best dual-layer discs any optical drive has ever produced in my tests. The PI Error rate on the disc from the MSI drive is 5-6 times lower than on the disc from the BenQ. The BenQ disc also has a rather lengthy surge of PI Failures on the innermost tracks which is not observed on the disc recorded by the MSI drive. By the way, the BenQ team didn’t manage to correct this problem even in the new firmware update. You have seen above that some other defects of the drive were corrected in the new version of the firmware, but dual-layer discs are still recorded with rather average quality by the BenQ DW1620.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test (Outer, layers 0 and 1) for the DVD+R DL disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 4x speed

It’s better to talk about each layer independently when it comes to dual-layer media. Here, the first later is recorded perfectly: the Beta graph is a horizontal line and the Jitter rate is uniform throughout the entire disc. These parameters change on the second layer – the laser power grows up as is represented with a “step” on the diagram. The Beta parameter begins to fluctuate a little, and the Jitter rate is less uniform on the second layer. Yet the results are overall good. This is also confirmed by the TA Test – the quality of the disc is high considering that we deal with a dual-layer medium. Yes, Jitter is higher than on single-layer discs, but is still acceptable. The Peak Shift isn’t very big, either.

Summarizing the performance of the two optical drives with DVD+R media, I should say that they both burn them excellently. However, the results of the BenQ DW1620 are better (excepting the DVD+R DL disc) than those of the MSI DR16-B2. On the other hand, both these devices go beyond the requirements of an ordinary user as concerns burning discs of this format, save for 16x burn speed at which the MSI drive had some serious problems. And if you need high burn quality with dual-layer DVD media, the MSI DR16-B2 has in fact no real alternatives.

The competing DVD format will be examined next.

DVD-R Discs Burn Quality at 4x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620 
 

Like in many other tests in this review, the MSI DR16-B2 produces a high quality disc here. The only thing you can find fault with is the increase of the PI Error rate closer to the outermost tracks. It is not as high as to seriously affect the readability of the resulting disc, though. That said, the results of the MSI drive pale before those of the BenQ DW1620 which has an average PI Error rate of less than 8. The BenQ disc has no error spikes on the outermost tracks and the total of PI Error blocks is almost two times smaller than on the disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2. The BenQ drive also has fewer PI Failure blocks, too.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test for the DVD-R disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 4x speed

The Beta graph has two small fractures as the drive adjusted the laser power during the burn session. The overall quality of the disc is high. Jitter remains at about the same level throughout the entire disc. Like on the discs of the DVD+R format, Jitter is only big for small-length pits and lands. The Peak Shift value is big again. Let’s see if the DVD-R disc recorded at 8x speed is as good as the one recorded at 4x.

DVD-R Discs Burn Quality at 8x speed

MSI DR16-B2
  

BenQ DW1620 
 

The manner the errors are distributed on the disc in is similar between the DVD-R discs recorded by the two optical drives. There is a high level of PI Errors at the beginning of each disc, but the PI Error rate is then going down towards the outermost tracks. The disc from the MSI DR16-B2 is somewhat better than the one recorded by the BenQ, but the difference between them is small. So, both devices produce discs of average quality at this speed. By the way, this is one more case when the new firmware version doesn’t bring any positive improvements into the behavior of the BenQ DW1620. The problems the drive had with the older firmware remain with the new version, too.

Beta/Jitter and TA Test for the DVD-R disc
burnt by the MSI DW16-B2 at 8x speed

You can clearly see three points on the Beta graph at which the drive changed the laser power. As a result, the graph is somewhat uneven, but the deviations are still within the acceptable limits. The Jitter rate remains roughly on the same level throughout the entire disc, with minor fluctuations.

According to the results of the TA Test, the Jitter value is bigger than at 4x burn speed, but only as concerns the lands. The Peak Shift parameter is the same as at 4x, i.e. it is rather big.

So, the results of the two optical disc drives in my DVD-R tests are the following: both models produce average quality discs at 8x burn speed and high quality discs at 4x speed. Some defects in the firmware of both devices are evident. The BenQ developers already tried to correct the problems but without much success so far. MSI is to make its own try in the next firmware update for their drive.

Next I will check the quality of the rewritable DVD discs recorded by the two devices.

Rewritable DVD Media

DVD+RW Discs Burn Quality at 2.4x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620
 

And once again we see the errors distributed in the same manner on the surface of both discs. The error rate is increasing closer to the outermost tracks. PI Failures occur rather frequently, and the PI Failure rate is near the acceptable limit, sometimes even exceeding it. You should note, however, that we deal with rewritable media and burn quality requirements are less strict for them than for write-once formats. Despite the similar distribution of errors, the burn quality is higher on the disc recorded by the BenQ DW1620. It has fewer PI Errors and Failures in total. The average PI Failure rate is somewhat higher on the disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2, too.

Regrettably, the DVD+RW disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2 at 2.4x speed didn’t pass the Beta/Jitter and TA tests, even though it was read by several other optical drives I tried it in. So I don’t publish the diagrams for these tests.

4x burn speed is to be examined next.

DVD+RW Discs Burn Quality at 4x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620
 

The difference between the devices can be seen with a naked eye. The results of the MSI DR16-B2 are quite satisfactory considering the type of the medium. The parameters are all normal. Despite the rise of the PI Error rate towards the end of the disc, the maximum number of PI Errors is still acceptable. The average PI Failure rate approaches the top limit but doesn’t cross it. So, the overall quality of the disc is satisfactory. But the results of the competing drive prove that this blank can be recorded much better: the BenQ DW1620 has four times less errors than the MSI. I want to remind you that the BenQ had serious problems with burning media of this format. As you see, these problems were successfully solved in the new firmware.

Unfortunately, the DVD+RW disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2 at 4x speed didn’t pass the Beta/Jitter and TA tests, although it was successfully read by several drives I tried it in. So I don’t publish the diagrams for these tests but move on to DVD-RW discs.

DVD-RW Discs Burn Quality at 2x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620 
 

It looks similar, yes? Both drives have serious difficulties with discs of that type at the minimum speed. Even the new version of the firmware doesn’t help the BenQ DW1620 here – this drive doesn’t deliver satisfactory quality. The MSI DR16-B2, on the contrary, performs quite well. Yes, the level of errors is rather high, but it is not above the acceptable limit and the recorded disc was read successfully in the MSI as well as in other drives.

Unfortunately, the DVD-RW disc recorded by the MSI DR16-B2 at 2x speed didn’t pass the Beta/Jitter and TA tests, even though it was read by several optical drives I tried it in. So I don’t publish the diagrams for these tests but move on to the DVD-RW 4x format.

DVD-RW Discs Burn Quality at 4x speed

MSI DR16-B2
 

BenQ DW1620 
 

But here both drives produce discs of roughly the same and good quality. There are fewer errors on the disc recorded by the MSI drive, but the difference is too small to be taken seriously. I don’t publish the results of the Beta/Jitter test and the TA Test due to the same reasons as above.

Summarizing the performance of the two optical drives with rewritable DVDs, I should confess that neither of them is really good at processing such media. The MSI drive managed to produce a normal DVD-RW 2x disc, while the BenQ couldn’t do so even with the new firmware. The BenQ, however, is much better than its opponent at burning DVD+RW discs at 4x speed.

To conclude this review I will check these drives at extracting tracks from Audio CDs and at copying protected discs.

Audio Capturing

The rather big read and write offsets and the inability of the drive to read the Lead-out information do not allow me to recommend the MSI DR16-B2 for serious work with audio data. Otherwise, the results are good enough, though. The drive can perform “on the fly” copying at speeds up to 16x inclusive. It can also read the sub-channel data and extract audio tracks at a rather high speed. The average access time is maybe a bit too high.

As for supported audio-capture related features, the lack of caching is an obvious advantage of the reviewed device, but the inability to return C2 errors (at least, in the most popular audio grabbing applications) can increase the total disc copy time considerably.

The new optical drive from MSI performed well in the real audio extraction test, processing both the normal and bad Audio CDs at a high speed. It doesn’t lose much speed on the damaged CD.

Sheep Test

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:

  1. No sheep at all. The device cannot make copies of Safe Disc version 2.0 and higher without certain software tricks.
  2. One sheep. The drive can copy versions 2.0-2.4.
  3. Two sheep – the drive can copy discs protected with Safe Disc version 2.5.
  4. Three sheep – the drive can copy all the possible weak sectors .

The MSI DR16-B2 is a zero sheep drive in this classification. It means that this drive is completely unsuitable for copying protected discs.

Conclusion

Although this test session produced expectable results in general, I still found a few curious things. In fact, the MSI DR16-B2 is a slightly perfected version of the DR16 or the BenQ DW1620 models, but these two drives behave a little differently at real work. The BenQ wins some of the tests, but the MSI is better in the others. It’s hard to tell which one is the overall winner, but the BenQ seems to have a high overall score and better functionality. On the other hand, this review was about the new MSI drive rather than about how it compares with the BenQ DW1620, so below you will see a brief summary of its good and bad points (I don’t mention the lack of blank DVD discs in the package and the not very informative LED indicator among the lows of the device since these are just minor imperfections).

Highs:

Lows: