DVD writers have dramatically fallen in price with the result that many of the smaller companies have been driven out of the market, leaving a handful of giants behind. The market leader is HLDS (a joint venture between Hitachi and LG) and in second place is TSST (another joint venture, this time between Toshiba and Samsung Electronics), while Sony and NEC has announced that they will start a joint venture in April 2006.
In the first two cases the Japanese company has the major share, presumably because it owns the patents and intellectual property, while the Korean company handles manufacturing and distribution.
Hopefully this preamble makes it clear that the Samsung SH-W162L is as much a Toshiba as it is a Samsung, and it also explains the extraordinarily low price of £30 inc. VAT for a bare drive or £35 inc. VAT for a full retail package, because huge companies can do that sort of thing. You’ll be aware that fast internal DVD writers are widely available for £30 but the Samsung SH-W162L also supports LightScribe so this really is a cheap drive.
It’s a regular internal ATAPI unit with a plain fascia that carries an Eject button, but no headphone jack or volume control, while on the back there’s an IDE interface and a pair of CD connectors. The drive has 2MB of buffer memory and supports BURNProof Buffer Under Run Protection, to reduce the chance of write failures.
The specification is impressive as it writes to DVD-R and DVD+R at 16x, DVD-RW at 6x, DVD-RW at 8x and DVD-R Dual Layer at 4x. There’s a bit of confusion about the DVD+R Dual Layer writing speed as the specification claims 5x but the box states 8x, so we suspect that a firmware update will raise the speed from 5x to 8x, but this is a minor point as Dual Layer media is currently rather slow.
On the subject of firmware, the software package includes a utility called Samsung LiveUpdate which checks whether firmware updates are available. The package also includes Nero Express 6 v6.6, InCD 4, Nero LightScribe and Nero Vision Express. The only ‘deficiency’ of the Samsung drive is the absence of DVD-RAM support, which will be a problem for some people and an irrelevance to most.
Our review sample shipped with firmware version TS01 and Samsung LiveUpdate told us it was the most recent version, which is what we would expect for a new product. However, Samsung’s website listed firmware version TS02, but we couldn’t download it.
In many ways this summed up the Samsung SH-W162L as it is a technically sophisticated product, but it’s not quite as polished as some of its rivals. You have to visit the Samsung Web site to download LiveUpdate as it isn’t included on the CD, and the same is true of the MagicSpeed utility which you can use to control the reading speed of the drive. This latter has two settings – ‘High Speed’ and ‘Silence’ – which are self-explanatory, but while we welcome the inclusion of the software we fail to see why it can’t be made more user-friendly.
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