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Despite the fact that SATA has been with us for some time now, the IDE market is still pretty strong. There’s no shortage of IDE hard disks still available, and optical drives seem to be entrenched in the older standard. I was therefore quite surprised when Samsung asked me if I’d like to review the World’s first SATA DVD writer. I was surprised for two reasons – one, because Samsung had produced a SATA drive and two, because Plextor had produced one over a year ago.
So, the Plextor PX-712S aside, this is one of the only SATA DVD writers currently available. The SH-W163 is also quite a short drive, so it’s ideal for small form factor systems where space is a premium. Add to this the fact that SATA cables are far more compact and tidy than IDE ones, and this drive makes a good case for itself in Shuttle boxes and the like.
But there are more advantages to a SATA DVD writer than tidier cables. For a start, there’s no slave and master issues to worry about – I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve installed a second optical drive and forgotten to switch one of them to slave. Finally, a SATA DVD writer is another step towards the legacy free PC, which can’t be a bad thing.
Putting the SATA connection to one side, the specifications of the SH-W163 are pretty much par for the course. The drive will burn DVD+R and DVD-R at 16x, DVD+RW at 8x, DVD-RW at 6x, DVD+R DL at 8x, DVD-R DL at 4x, CD-R at 48x and CD-RW at 32x. Conspicuous by its absence is DVD-RAM support, since more and more drives are going down the Super-Multi route these days. That said, DVD-RAM is pretty much a niche market these days, mostly used be people who always have used it, like myself.
When it comes to performance, the Samsung puts in a pretty good show, but it still can’t live with the NEC ND-4551A, which also supports DVD-RAM and can burn LabelFlash discs. However, the Samsung did manage to beat the NEC in a few of the tests, like the 7.9GB burn to DVD+R DL media, although the NEC pulled back when burning 8.1GB of digital images to the same type of disc. The Samsung didn’t perform anywhere near as well with DVD-R DL discs where it lagged behind both the NEC and the Asus DRW-1608P2S. DVD-RW times were reasonable, but again no match for the NEC, while DVD+RW results were similarly middle of the road. The SH-W163 did prove to be one of the fastest drives I’ve seen when it comes to CD-R media though.