- Review Price: £57.00
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.
Of course, as I’ve mentioned, there is already a 12-speed DVD+R LiteOn drive available, so although the specs of the 832S are good, they’ve already been superseded by another LiteOn drive, not to mention the LG GSA-4120B that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. Now, even though I have still not managed to get my hands on any 12-speed DVD+R media, it’s clear from the burn times turned in by the LG, that the 12-speed ability does improve performance across the board.
Looking at the DVD+R results, the LiteOn took eight minutes 54 seconds to write the 4.3GB MPEG2 file compared with seven minutes 35 seconds on the LG. Performing the same test using DVD-R media produced a result of nine minutes 15 seconds on the LiteOn, with the LG turning in a time of only seven minutes 53 seconds. When burning rewritable media the LiteOn held its own against the LG, with neither drive really pulling ahead of the other.
When it came to DVD+R Dual Layer performance, the LG proved to be a little faster once again. But when you’re waiting over three quarters of an hour for a disc to burn, a difference of less than a minute doesn’t really amount to very much. Hopefully we won’t be waiting too much longer for four-speed DVD+R DL drives to arrive. If you burn a lot of CD media, you’ll be happy with the LiteOn’s performance. It managed to beat the LG in the CD-R tests, but the LG pulled back when using CD-RW media.
Nestling inside the LiteOn retail box you’ll find the drive, an audio cable, a set of mounting screws and a copy of Nero OEM suite. The lack of an IDE cable is always a disappointment as the last thing that a potential user wants is to get the drive home and realise that there’s no spare IDE cable inside their PC. The box said that there should have been some blank media inside, but since it looks like this drive has been around a bit, the media was long gone.
So, the LiteOn SOHW-832S is a decent enough dual layer DVD writer with reasonable performance. With a price of £57.31 inc VAT it’s not exactly overpriced, but you can buy an OEM version of the LG GSA-4120B for only a couple of Pounds more and then you’re getting better performance and DVD-RAM compatibility.
The LiteOn SOHW-832S hasn’t been around that long, but it’s already looking a bit long in the tooth. This isn’t a criticism of this drive, more an observation of how fast the DVD writer market is moving. Considering the price and performance, I’d definitely go for the LG GSA-4120B instead.
All tests were performed using Verbatim branded media. To find out more about Verbatim media click here.
Score in detail