LiteOn is a company that manufactures a lot of optical drives. In fact, if you’re been a PC user for a while, there’s a good chance that you’ve had a LiteOn drive in one of your systems, even if it hasn’t said LiteOn on the front. You see, LiteOn makes optical drives for a lot of other manufacturers and they will brand it with their own name, thus saving themselves the development and manufacturing headaches. But LiteOn does also produce optical drives branded with it’s own name, just like this one – the SOHW 832S.
I was first promised this drive at the same time that I was promised the NEC ND2510A, but whereas the NEC drive turned up as promised, this LiteOn unit took the scenic route to the TrustedReviews office. In fact, the 832S took so long to make the journey here that a newer drive is already available, but we’ll talk about that a little later.
The reason that I was originally keen to see this drive from LiteOn was because it was one of the first dual layer drives on the market. Now of course, most manufacturers have dual layer units available, but the 832S is still on sale, so it's still worth looking at.
One thing that may attract potential buyers to the LiteOn is that it’s a very small unit. Looking at it in profile you can tell that it’s not as deep as the average optical drive. This makes it particularly attractive to anyone building a small form factor system, where there might not be a great deal of room inside the case. Other than the physical dimensions, there isn’t anything too special about how the 832S looks. What is made clear is the fact that LiteOn builds drives for other manufacturers, since the only LiteOn branding on the front fascia is a www.liteon.com sticker.
The front of the disc tray proudly displays the DVD+R DL logo, along with logos for DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW. Below the tray you’ll find a single eject button, an indicator light, a manual eject hole, a headphone socket and a volume wheel. Headphone sockets and volume wheels are becoming very rare on optical drives. This is mainly because there’s no need to put a CD in the drive to listen to it anymore – most PC users will put a CD in the drive once, rip it to the hard disk and then listen to it from there. Also, the fact that so many PC cases hide the optical drives behind doors or flaps, makes plugging your headphones into them reasonably difficult. That said, it’s a feature that this LiteOn has that many other DVD writers don’t have.
Looking at the specs, the 832S will write to DVD+R DL at 2.4-speed, DVD+R/-R at eight-speed. DVD+RW/-RW at four-speed, CD-R at 40-speed and CD-RW at 24-speed. These are pretty healthy specs, and the fast CD burning capability means that there is little need to have more than one optical drive in your system – again a big advantage to the small form factor user. That said, I was surprised to find that the 832S refused to burn Verbatim branded DVD+R media at eight-speed when I took the drive out of the box. The fastest I could get the drive to write was four-speed, even though the retail box had eight-speed branding all over it. However, a quick bit of web surfing turned up a new firmware for the LiteOn, and sure enough it was happy to burn both DVD+R and DVD-R at eight speed after the upgrade.