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Lite-On LTR-16101B

  August 23, 2001 Author: Tim Zakharov  
Special thanks go to Lite-On Corporation for providing our evaluation unit.

Introduction

Lite-On is a Taiwanese corporation established in 1995. By 1998 they'd become the #1 CD-ROM manufacturer in Taiwan and #4 CD-ROM manufacturer worldwide. With factories in China, the United States and Europe, Lite-On continues to be a force in the optical drive market. More recent endeavors in DVD-ROM and CD-RW waters have brought increased attention to their product line.

Lite-On's latest CD-RW, a 16/10/40 unit, competes with drives like Plextor's PX-W1610TA and Teac's CD-W516EB. Lite-On does have a 24X burner in the works and we expect to take a look at it as soon as it's available. Until then, let's see what the LTR-16101B has to offer!

Specifications

Specifications according to Lite-On:

  • Maximum write speeds of 16X
  • Maximum rewrite speeds of 10X
  • Packet-writing speeds of 10X
  • CD read speeds of 40X
  • Digital audio extraction speeds not specified
  • Buffer size not specified but software reports 2048 KB
  • 120 ms average random access time
  • ATAPI/DMA Mode 2 interface
  • BURN-Proof
  • 1-year warranty
In addition, Lite-On reports support for over-burning and raw mode copying on their site. For more information, click here to see their online product page.

The retail box contents:

  • The drive
  • Fold out installation guide
  • Analog audio cable
  • Four mounting screws
  • Drive manual in .pdf format on installation CD
  • DOS driver on installation CD
  • Nero Burning ROM, InCD and Media Player
  • 1 Lite-On 650 MB CD-R blank
  • 1 Lite-On 650 MB CD-RW blank

Finally, the rest of the drive's vitals: The front face is generic with the exception of a printed "BURN-Proof 16x10x40x" on the right and a sticker on the left showing Lite-On's website address. The single LED shows green when reading and amber when writing. The light remains off when there is no disc in the drive or when there is a disc inside that's not being accessed. The rear of the drive includes a digital audio out in addition to standard optical drive connectors.

The drive arrived with firmware revision TS0L. Lite-On sent us the latest version (TS0T) prior to testing. This firmware revision recently became available on Lite-On's website. It may be downloaded here.

The LTR-16101B offers very quiet performance during both reads and writes. Unfortunately, the drive heats up quite a bit during extended use. While this doesn't adversely affect performance, those who strive to keep internal case temperatures at a minimum should keep it in mind.

Current online pricing is as low as $90 for the retail unit. In comparison, Teac's 16X retail box goes for $120 while Plextor's 16X retail unit sells for about $160. This prices the Lite-On well below the competition, threatening AOpen's bang-for-the-buck reputation.

For an overview on methodology, click here.

CD-ROM Performance Results

Low-Level Measurements

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Ziff-Davis' CD Winbench 99 measures sustained transfer rates and random access times.

The LTR-16101B fulfills 40X specs by pulling in 6060 KB/sec transfers at the outer edge of our test disc. Although it comes in third 3rd in this comparison, the Lte-On trails the leader by less than 1%, a statistical dead heat.

In the access time measure the drive ducks in under its 120 ms spec with an average result of 118 ms, good enough for 4th in the comparison.

CD-ROM Winmark 99

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CD Winbench 99's CD-ROM Winmark test runs through a timed script of routines from a variety of popular software programs. The presented score averages results drawn from four different test discs obtained from Ziff-Davis. This tests each drive's ability to read from a range of discs pressed with identical data.

With a score of 1130 KB/sec, the Lite-On's trails Ricoh's MP7200A by over 30%. It does outdo units from Plextor and AOpen, though. Scores deviate by only 5% between the four test discs, indicating the Lite-On reads a variety of pressed discs with consistency.

File and Disc Copy

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The file copy test emphasizes sequential transfer rates by copying a single 634 MB file. The LTR-16101B completes the task in a swift 2:45, trailing only the Ricoh.

The disc copy test introduces random accesses through the multiple files and folders on the test CD. Here the Lite-On again performs respectably with a copy time of 3:25. Only drives from Teac and Ricoh (hands down the two fastest-reading burners) defeat the LTR-16101B in this test.

Digital Audio Extraction

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SR measures DAE using two programs: CDSpeed99 and CDDAE99. CDSpeed99 measures low-level DAE capabilities, while CDDAE99 is an actual audio ripping program that converts audio tracks on CD-DAs to .wav files on the hard drive.

CDSpeed99 reveals that the Lite-On is a P-CAV audio extractor like Teac's drive. In fact, results are nearly identical to the CD-W516EB with speeds averaging 28X. Lite-On's drive consistently extracts at full speed even with scratched media and is rewarded by CDSpeed99 with perfect extraction quality. However, CDSpeed99 occasionally reports that the Lite-On does not support accurate streaming. Accurate streaming relates to hitting the correct location when randomly accessing audio and does not necessarily yield poor extraction quality. In the majority of cases, even drives with no support for accurate streaming provide acceptable extraction quality since most correction abilities are far-reaching enough to mask a "missed" random access. We have no explanation for why CDSpeed99 sometimes reports support for accurate streaming and sometimes does not.

With CDDAE99, our CD is ripped in 2:26 for an average speed of 27X. This is equal to the Teac and only 6 seconds slower than the Plextor. CDDAE99 also reports perfect extraction quality with zero errors found in various trials with different audio CDs. Informal listening tests with extracted audio tracks confirm CDDAE99's quality results - no abnormal sounds are detected during playback.

CD-DA Error Correction

Digital Recordings' CD-CHECK tests each drive's error correction abilities with audio CDs. CD-CHECK is a reference disc with five levels of error gap sizes, each isolated to its own track. Error size and other details may be viewed here.

In each track, a continuous 20-second tone plays. The larger the error gap, the more difficult it is for the drive's error correction to mask the error without an audible pop or click occurring during playback of the tone.

All drives are tested by playing each track five times with each successful playback (no audible pops or clicks) noted. A result of 5/5 indicates that no pops or clicks were heard in 5 out of 5 playbacks of a particular track. A result of 0/5 indicates pops or clicks occurred during all 5 playbacks of a particular track. Digital Recordings indicates the following interpretation of results:

  • Level-1 Pass: player meets minimum requirements
  • Level-2 Pass: Average error correction
  • Level-3 Pass: Good error correction
  • Level-4 Pass: Very good error correction
  • Level-5 Pass: Excellent error correction
CD-Check Performance
Error Level 1 2 3 4 5
Lite-On LTR-16101B 5/5 5/5 3/5 0/5 0/5
Plextor PX-W1610TA 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5
AOpen CRW1232A 5/5 5/5 4/5 0/5 0/5
Ricoh MP7200A 5/5 5/5 0/5 0/5 0/5
Yamaha CRW2200E 5/5 0/5 0/5 0/5 0/5
Teac CD-W516EB 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5

The Lite-On delivers perfect error correction up to Level-2. At Level-3, error correction drops to 60% successful and falters to 0% by Level-4. No test drive has yet completed even a single pass at Level-5. While not up to the level of the Teac and Plextor, the Lite-On does provide better playback error correction than the Ricoh and Yamaha.

CD-R Media Compatibility and Performance

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Low-level performance measurements on duplicates of the pressed test CD assess a drive's ability to read from a variety of CD-R and -RW media.

Lite-On's drive improves to 6110 KB/sec at the outer edge with CD-R media. Again, most of the 40X readers group tightly together in transfer rate performance. Lite-On's access times improve slightly to 116 ms. There are no read issues with a variety of CD-R media of different brands and speed ratings.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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With CD-RW media the Lite-On drops to 10X-20X CAV transfer rates - easily the slowest of the bunch. The rest of the competition reads CD-RWs at 32X CAV speeds or higher. Access times regress to 123 ms. No issues arise when reading from a variety of different CD-RW brands.

Write/ReWrite Tests

CD-R Based Duplication

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Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM measures how long a drive takes to duplicate audio and data test discs when burning at maximum speeds. All drives are tested as "source" and "destination," creating results for "imaging" as well as "writing."

With the audio CD, the LTR-16101B completes the burn in 5:12, tying Teac's CD-W516EB. Write speeds trail other 16X burners by a slim margin. Because its image times are better than the Teac's, Lite-On's drive manages to edge out the CD-W516EB in total duplication times.

The trend continues with the data CD: The Lite-On is a bit swifter than Teac's drive during the image portion, while trailing the Teac slightly in burn times. The end result is a slim advantage for the Lite-On in total duplication times over the Teac. The Plextor continues to lead 16X burners.

CD-RW Based Duplication

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Here the test drive duplicates the pressed data disk to CD-RW media at the drive's fastest rewrite speeds. At present, 10X is the fastest rewrite speed available- all drives in the comparison are 10X rewriters.

Lite-On's unit leads the pace at imaging, but comes in last place by a slim margin during the burn process with 10X burn times of 8:11. Total duplication times trail the Ricoh by 7 seconds - another statistical dead heat. As expected, today's 10X rewriters perform very similarly.

CD-R Based Stress Tests

During a burn process at the drive's maximum write speed, we first run CPU-intensive tasks to see how the drive is able to maintain its task under heavy-load conditions. Then, we hit Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Close Program dialog box. This freezes the testbed mid-burn. When Nero indicates the drive buffer is empty, we hit Esc to cancel the dialog box and resume the burn.

No problems arise with the Lite-On. The burn process pauses and resumes as expected and the resulting burned data is fully readable.

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InCD Formatting

Ahead's InCD formats CD-RW media.

While the other drives all format CD-RW media in 11-13 minutes, Lite-On's unit takes over 16 minutes to complete the same task. The additional time appears to take place during the verification process, indicating reduced read speeds during this period.

InCD Packet-Writing Performance

Timing how long it takes to copy a 195 MB folder from the hard drive to a freshly formatted CD-RW via Windows Explorer tests each drive's packet-writing abilities.

Again, all drives perform nearly identically with the Lite-On trailing the competition by an insignificant margin with copy times of 2:39.

Nero CD-RW Erasing

Finally, Nero's CD-RW eraser utility measures how long it takes to return a formatted CD-RW to a blank state.

All drives complete a full erase in roughly the same amount of time. The Lite-On's time of 8:14 places it 4th in a tightly-grouped comparison.

Conclusion

The Lite-On LTR-16101B provides an appealing option for those on a tight budget.

In summary, its strengths include:

  • Unsurpassed pricing
  • Inclusion of Nero Burning ROM software
  • Quiet operation during reads and writes
  • Good copy performance
  • P-CAV DAE offers 95% of the performance of a 40X CAV extractor with reduced RPMs on the outer portion of the disc
  • Good performance and compatibility when reading CD-R media
  • BURN-Proof support

The drive's weak areas:

  • Drive heats up substantially after extended use
  • Support for accurate streaming is not consistently detected, which can possibly affect DAE quality during random accesses
  • CD-DA playback error correction is only average
  • Compared to the competition, transfer rates are slow with CD-RW media
  • Write and rewrite performance is slightly slower than direct competition
  • Slow at formatting CD-RWs for packet-writing
  • The StorageReview.com Safe Buy Award



Simply put, this designation means we'd purchase this product without regret. Sure, there may be a slightly better, slightly faster, and/or slightly less-expensive model from a competitor, but you can't go wrong with this particular unit. This award is applicable, of course, to all units at the top of their class, but also applies to units that, though not quite best-of-class, provide a strong showing nonetheless. Overall, the LTR-16101B provides acceptable performance and unparalleled pricing. While problems like minor DAE quality issues and slow CD-RW read speeds might be enough to keep the hardcore hardware enthusiast away, the drive's undeniable value will appeal to budget-conscious users and those craving "no frills" 16X burn speeds.


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