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The front fascia of the drive is finished in matt black, as is the tray. There’s a single, round eject button, complemented only by an indicator light and a manual eject hole. Samsung supplied me with a full retail box which includes a Nero software bundle - Nero Express 6, InCD 4, Nero Vision Express, Nero BackItUp, Nero Showtime and Nero Recode. It was also good to see both a SATA cable and a Molex to SATA power converter in the box.
Samsung lists a number of advantages to its WriteMaster technology, one of which is “Minimal use of environmentally harmful materials”, although how green that actually is depends entirely on Samsung’s definition of “minimal”. That said, Samsung does guarantee that the SH-W163 has been constructed with lead-free solder, which is a step in the right direction. Another plus point in WriteMaster’s favour is the Firmware Live Update. This means that the drive will automatically update its firmware if Samsung releases a new version – obviously you’ll need to be connected to the Internet for this feature to work, but the chances are that any PC that this drive goes into will have Internet access.
It definitely appears that DVD writers have become commodity items over the past couple of years, and I wonder sometimes how manufacturers manage to make any money selling them anymore. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the Samsung WriteMaster SH-W163 is very reasonably priced, despite the SATA compatibility. However, I wasn’t able to find the retail version of this drive available for sale and the only price I could find was for the bare drive. At £29.99 including VAT for the drive alone, the SH-W163 is still good value, but you’ll have to factor in a SATA cable if you don’t have one, and a Molex to SATA power converter. If however you have a spare SATA cable and a power supply with native SATA power plugs, then the bare drive will look very attractive.
Samsung should be applauded for breaking into the SATA optical drive market; something that I wish all the other manufacturers would do. The SATA standard allows for tidier system internals, especially if you’re building a small form factor machine. The SH-W163 may be missing some of the features offered by other IDE drives, but if you want leave the older I/O standard behind for good, this drive is definitely worth a look.