LG GSA-H10N review

Price when reviewed

Fully featured optical drives are now so cheap it’s easy to assume they’re all the same. We’ve put six of the latest models through their paces to reveal the pick of the crop. While speed differences aren’t massive any more, it does make a difference: a 6.4x speed translates into 16 minutes to burn 8GB of data, whereas an 8.8x speed burns it in 11 minutes.

The cheapest drive here is the LiteOn SHM-165P6S-02C, which can be found for just £26 yet comes with the most generous bundle. Not only do you get both Nero Express 5 and PowerDVD 5 in the box, but also replacement black and silver fascias to match your case. Using CDSpeed (www.cdspeed2000.com) and Verbatim media, we saw write speeds close to LiteOn’s claims, with dual-layer +R and -R DVDs writing at 6.9x and 4x respectively.

We’ve often seen Plextor drives leading the pack when it comes to burn speeds, but not so with the PX-760A. Dual-layer speeds were behind the fastest here, although still respectable at 8.6x for +R and 6x for -R. It fell further behind on single-layer DVDs, though, with speeds of 11.5x and 11x. Despite costing £58, the highest price here, Plextor only bundles PlexTools Professional, an IDE cable and black replacement drive front. It does have a trick up its sleeve with the PX-760SA version, though, which uses a SATA interface to dispense with the cumbersome old ribbon IDE cable. It won’t improve performance, but does reduce clutter.

Both the NEC 4551A and HP dvd840i drives offer proprietary optical etching for “professional disc labelling”. Special photo-reactive media is available, which reacts to the laser in a LightScribe or LabelFlash drive, allowing you to “print” monochrome labels on the non-data side once the disc has been flipped. But these discs currently cost around three times as much as standard media and around twice as much as printable discs. It also takes several minutes for either technology to burn the image, and the monochrome results aren’t particularly impressive. Printed discs will not only have more impact, but are faster to produce and, even with ink costs factored in, will be cheaper. Neither drive was particularly fast when dealing with standard media either.

The Sony DRU-820A is another drive that sits in the middle of the field for both performance and cost. It managed average speeds in each of our tests, falling just short of its quoted specifications. There’s a respectable bundle included, with Nero Express 6 and a black replacement drive front.

But it’s ultimately eclipsed by the LG GSA-H10N. At £34, it was easily the fastest drive on show. Single-layer discs burnt at 12.7x for both +R and -R, and dual-layer DVDs at 8.8x and 6x. It’s available in beige, silver or black and comes with an excellent bundle of Nero Express 6, BackItUP and CyberLink PowerDVD 5. It’s a brand-new drive, so you may have to wait a couple of weeks for delivery – just make sure you don’t buy the similarly named (but notably slower) GSA-H10A by mistake.

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