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Samsung SW-216B

  October 10, 2001 Author: Tim Zakharov  
Special thanks go to Samsung Electronics for providing our evaluation unit

Introduction

Regular readers of SR are by now familiar with some of the more popular brands of optical drives out today. Samsung is one we personally had not heard much about, so when contacts with the manufacturer offered us a look at their latest CD-RW, we jumped on the opportunity.

The drive is the SW-216B, a burner with a rather unique set of read and write speeds. Featuring 16X writes, 10X rewrites, but only 32X reads, the SW-216B makes use of JustLink and JustSpeed, a pair of technologies licensed from Ricoh Corporation. For those unfamiliar, JustLink is a coaster prevention technology similar to BURN-Proof, while JustSpeed is an optimum write speed control technology designed to determine the optimum write speed for each individual CD-R inserted into the drive.

Given that most manufacturers' top models are in the 20X-24X range, Samsung's 16X flagship, along with its 32X read speeds indicates a value-oriented product. In order to judge the drive fairly, we will compare the unit to 16X offerings from Lite-On, Teac and Plextor. To offer a broader view of the drive's performance, we will throw in 20X offerings from Yamaha and Ricoh, but judgments will be limited to the 16X models. Come with us now as we review Samsung's newest burner!

Specifications

Specifications according to Samsung:

  • Maximum write speeds of 16X CLV
  • Maximum rewrite speeds of 10X CLV
  • Packet-writing speeds of 10X CLV
  • CD read speeds of 32X CAV
  • Digital audio extraction speeds not specified
  • 2048 KB buffer
  • 120 ms average random access time
  • ATAPI/DMA-2 interface
  • JustLink buffer underrun protection
  • JustSpeed write speed control
  • 15-month Warranty
Notice the 15-month warranty. Nearly all optical drive manufacturers warrant their products for no more than 12 months. Samsung's additional 3 months of coverage is a nice extra.

The SW-216B supports JustLink and JustSpeed, technologies developed by Ricoh. JustLink is a buffer underrun protection technology similar to BURN-Proof. JustSpeed is a technology that automatically sets the highest safe recording speed based on a number of factors: First, the drive checks in the media's ATIP (Advanced Time In Pregroove) area to get information embedded there by the media manufacturer. Second, a write test is performed in the OPC (optimum power calibration) area. Finally, the drive obtains the status of the servo follow check at the outer edge of the disc in order to ascertain the amount of track shift in the media. This determines how precisely the disc itself is manufactured. Once all this information is collected, the drive goes through an algorithm to decide the optimum safe writing speed for the particular disc in the drive.

For more information, click here to see Samsung's online product page.

The retail package includes:

  • The drive
  • Printed multi-language user manual
  • One 650 MB Samsung CD-R blank
  • One 650 MB high speed Samsung CD-RW blank
  • Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4.0x and DirectCD 3.0x
  • One IDE cable
  • One universal analog audio cable
  • Four mounting screws
  • DOS drivers, Adobe Acrobat and sample mp3s included on installation CD
The retail box has a sticker on the outside depicting inclusion of Ahead Software's Nero and InCD with the drive, so you can imagine our disappointment when we found an old version of Easy CD Creator in the box. Our Samsung contact says that Easy CD Creator is the correct software included with the drive.

On a more pleasant note, the audio cable includes two styles of connectors for those with older soundcards.

The drive front is rather unique in the shape of its tray face as well as the large, translucent eject button. Although the LED is very small, its location next to the eject button transfers some of the light to the button, illuminating it as well during drive activity.

The rear of the drive includes all standard optical drive connectors in addition a digital audio output.

The drive arrived with firmware revision BS02. Prior to testing, we updated to the latest revision, BS05. Our Samsung contact informs us that this update adds DAO RAW support.

Given the drive's 32X maximum reads (7300 RPM spindle speeds), it's no surprise that the SW-216B is nearly inaudible over ambient system sounds. Perhaps aiding its cause further, SW-216B employs Acoustic Noise Reduction and Automatic Ball Balancing systems from Samsung to decrease noise and vibration levels. Click here for more info on these technologies. The drive also remains very cool even during extensive stress tests.

Currently the SW-216B can be found for as low as $78 on Pricewatch. Competing 16X burners from Lite-On and AOpen sell at similar price points, but drives from Teac, Yamaha and Plextor go for significantly more in retail format. We did find bare drive models of the Teac and Yamaha priced only slightly higher than the SW-216B.

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 Samsung's maximum transfer rate of 4960 KB/sec (33X) brings up the rear in the comparison...most other 16X burners offer 40X read speeds.

However, the SW-216B ducks in well under its 120 ms access time spec with a measured result of 95 ms. This leaves it in good company with speedy offerings from Teac and Ricoh.

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 four different test discs obtained through Ziff-Davis. This tests each drive's ability to read from a range of discs pressed with identical data.

Surprisingly, the Samsung edges out Teac's CD-W516EB in the Winmark test with a result of 1395 KB/sec. This leaves the SW-216B only 6% behind the Ricoh MP7200A despite a 25% disadvantage in transfer rates. Even better, the Samsung's scores deviate by less than 1%, delivering consistently fast performance with a variety of pressed media.

File and Disc Copy

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The file copy test emphasizes sequential transfer rates by copying a single, 634 MB file. Because of this, the Samsung trails most of the competition due to its lower 32X transfer rates. Still, considering the 25% difference between 32X and 40X, its result of 3:05 trails the leader by only 13%.

The disc copy test introduces random accesses, through the multiple files and folders on the test CD. Once again, the SW-216B holds up the rear because of its 32X transfers. Its disc copy time of 3:42 trails the leader by 15%.

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.

In CDSpeed99, the Samsung extracts audio at its maximum read speeds: 32X CAV. It actually approaches an optimistic 34X by the end of our test disc with an overall average rate of 26X. This nearly ties it with Yamaha's CRW2200E, leaving it trailing Plextor's drive by 17%. CDSpeed99 reports perfect extraction quality as well as support for accurate streaming.

With CDDAE99, the SW-216B averages a slightly lower 24.4X when extracting our entire test disc. It takes 2:40 to extract the CD, roughly 20 seconds slower than the leaders. CDDAE99 detects no errors in extraction quality, even with scratched discs. There is a slight slowdown in the extraction process, though, with scratched media. We test this with a pair of identical CDs - one brand new while the other is scratched from years of use. The Samsung extracts the scratched disc roughly 10% slower than the new one.

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 by clicking here.

A continuous 20-second tone plays in each track. 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 tested drives play 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 means pops or clicks occurred during all 5 playbacks of a particular track. Digital Recordings provides 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
Plextor PX-W1610TA 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5
Teac CD-W516EB 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5
Lite-On LTR-16101B 5/5 5/5 3/5 0/5 0/5
Ricoh MP7200A 5/5 5/5 0/5 0/5 0/5
Samsung SW-216B 5/5 0/5 0/5 0/5 0/5
Yamaha CRW2200E 5/5 0/5 0/5 0/5 0/5

The Samsung unfortunately fares poorly in our CD-CHECK test. While passing Level-1, the drive produces countless pops and hissing during all other tested levels. This ties it with the Yamaha CRW2200E for the worst performance we've yet seen in this test and means that those with lots of scratched audio discs should consider other drives if they plan to use their burner to play their CDs.

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.

The SW-216B has no problems reading from various brands of CD-R media. It hits maximum rates of 4810 KB/sec, slightly slower than its pressed CD reads but still at 32X-rated speeds. Access times improve a bit to 93 ms, though

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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With CD-RW media, the Samsung maintains its 32X CAV transfer rates while access times measure in a bit higher at 97 ms. Again, no issues arise with a variety of brands of media.

Write/ReWrite Tests

CD-R Based Duplication

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Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM measures how long each tested 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 disc, the Samsung's image times remain very competitive with the competition, just a few seconds behind the Ricoh. Actual burn times clock in at 5:02, 5 seconds behind of the PX-W1610TA for the top spot among 16X writers.

Duplication results with the data disc show the Samsung to image a bit slower than the competition due to the drive's 32X maximum transfers. However, at 5:22, write times again are second best among 16X drives, behind only the Plextor.

CD-RW Based Duplication

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

With all drives on a level playing field, the Samsung completes the rewrite process in 8:01. This is good enough for 2nd place in our comparison, a scant 1% slower than Ricoh's MP7200A.

JustSpeed Performance

Note: Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM can toggle JustSpeed. It remained enabled for all JustSpeed tests.

JustSpeed is designed to provide optimal write speeds with any given media. However, because the SW-216B is a 16X writer in a time when it is nearly impossible to purchase media rated less than 16X, it's likely the technology won't get much of a workout unless one has a stash of older media to finish off.

As expected, the Samsung had no problems completing write tests at 16X with all 16X-rated media thrown at it. With media from TDK, Memorex, Sony and Imation, write tests completed in roughly 5:20 with all samples.

Interestingly, with some higher-rated media on the drive, there are mixed results. Verbatim's 24X media was written to at 16X without issue, but 24X media from Taiyo Yuden was recognized as 12X by Samsung's drive (with write times to match), while Yamaha 20X Certified media was recognized as 16X-capable, but with write times actually indicating 12X speeds. It's likely that these discs are too new to be recognized by the SW-216B's firmware code; Samsung may likely add full support for these media in future firmware releases.

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.

The drive's JustLink technology works as advertised: burns paused various times complete successfully with no problems encountered with reading the data.

InCD Formatting

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Ahead's InCD formats CD-RW media.

The SW-216B completes a full format in 12:07, which good enough for 3rd place in this comparison. Only the MP7200A and CRW2200E format CD-RW media for packet-writing more swiftly.

InCD Packet-Writing Performance

Packet-write speeds are tested by timing the copy of a 195 MB folder from the hard disk to an InCD-formatted CD-RW via Windows Explorer.

The Samsung completes the copy in 2:37 to come in 4th place. All drives perform within 4% of each other in this tightly grouped race.

Nero CD-RW Erasing

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

The SW-216B is 2nd fastest in this measure, completing the task in 8:06. Once again all drives perform nearly identically with less than 3% difference between top and bottom drives.

Conclusion

With throttled read speeds, Samsung's latest CD-RW presents an interesting option for those looking primarily for moderate write performance and low cost.

In summary, the SW-216B's strengths include:

  • 15 month warranty is tops among optical drives in America
  • JustLink technology eliminates coasters
  • JustSpeed technology adjusts write speed if problems are found with media
  • Near-silent performance is the quietest we've heard in a burner
  • Economical pricing
  • Excellent access times and Winmark performance
  • Good read speeds with CD-RW media
  • Good write performance compared to other 16X drives

The drive's weak areas:

  • 16X writes are a generation behind other manufacturers' top offerings
  • 32X read speeds are a generation behind other 16X burners
  • Retail box includes an outdated version of Adaptec Easy CD Creator
  • File and disc copy tests show the disadvantages of 32X read speeds
  • DAE lags the 40X competition
  • Poor CD-DA playback error correction
  • JustSpeed does not recognize some 20X and 24X-rated media as 16X-capable
The SW-216B brings a mixed bag of results to the table. While it is a decent choice for budget users looking for a 16X writer who already own a fast CD reader, we are simply not satisfied with the combination of 32X reads, 32X DAE and poor playback error correction. Lite-On's LTR-16101B betters the Samsung in all of these categories at roughly the same street price. Even Teac's CD-W516EB (one of the top 16X burners) can be found at a similar price in OEM format, showing that one need not necessarily sacrifice performance for low pricing.

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