Samsung SH-B022 BD Writer review

£490
Price when reviewed

Given that the SH-B022 BD Writer looks similar to every other internal DVD drive on the market, it’s hard to believe that it represents the future of the humble optical disc. DVD writers are by no means dead, but given the ever-increasing quantities of data stored on PCs it’s clear that backing up 4.7GB of data at a time is impractical, and that’s aside from Hollywood demanding more spacious formats for high-definition content. Blu-ray discs will allow up to 50GB of data to be stored on a single-sided, dual-layer disc – significantly more than the 15GB per layer of the competing HD DVD format.

Samsung SH-B022 BD Writer review

Installing the SH-B022 requires nothing more exotic than a standard IDE cable for data and a Molex connector for power. Inside, there are two lasers: one red, one blue. The latter is the most significant, as its shorter wavelength allows more information to be written in the same amount of physical space – like writing on the same-sized paper with a much smaller pen. The red laser allows backwards compatibility with existing CD and DVD formats. Although our pre-production unit could only write to Blu-ray discs, final versions of the drive will be able to write to both CDs and DVDs.

There are three kinds of Blu-ray media available: BD-ROM, write-once BD-R and rewritable BD-RE. We were supplied with a beta version of Nero 7 to write to our BD-RE TDK media. Although the stated capacity of the discs is 25GB (with 50GB available in the near future), the maximum amount of data we could fit onto a disc was 22.22GB due to a restriction in Nero. Filling the disc to this capacity at 2x took 46 minutes, 30 seconds, equating to 8MB/sec – 2MB/sec slower than an average 8x dual-layer DVD writer. Durability was originally a concern for Blu-ray media, with early prototypes requiring sturdy cartridges to protect the discs. Since then, technological advances mean that the cartridges have gone, and our samples were still writable after we left a few fingerprints on them.

Our drive was supplied region-free, and Samsung tells us this is how its initial batch of drives will be supplied, but the technology is so new that even this hasn’t yet been finalised. The current plan is that once you load your first Blu-ray film, the drive will detect the region and switch to that one. You’ll then be allowed five changes before the hardware locks to the most recent selection, just as current DVD players do.

For movie buffs, a visit to www.blu-ray will reveal a list of 107 films making their way to the new format in the near future, and support from film studios like Warner Brothers, Paramount and MGM means there will be plenty more forthcoming.

If you’re prepared to wait for content, the SH-B022 is ideal for early adopters to get a jump on the next wave of high-definition entertainment.

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is going to be a hot topic for the new wave of optical drives, with film-production companies making decisions on which format to back based largely on content protection. Our drive was hand-finished before Blu-ray DRM was finalised and as such had no hardware DRM built in, but this isn’t how the finished version will ship.

Blu-ray content will be encrypted using AACS (Advanced Access Content System). This means your hardware will automatically update its DRM capabilities as previous iterations are cracked.

If pure capacity is what you’re after, it’s worth considering that you can buy six of Lacie’s A-Listed 250GB external disks, equalling 1.5TB, for the cost of this drive.

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