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Lite-On LTR-24102B

  October 24, 2001 Author: Tim Zakharov  
Special thanks go to Lite-On Corporation for providing our evaluation unit

Introduction

In the past year or so, Lite-On Corporation commenced an aggressive campaign to better expose their optical lineup to the masses. Reviews of their burners, DVD-ROMs and CD readers have increased Internet-wide. Even Dell Computer Corporation uses their optical drives in many of their systems.

Similarly, StorageReview.com has systematically gone through the manufacturer's lineup in recent months. Today we culminate with their latest CD-RW, a 24/10/40 burner competing with flagship models from Plextor, Ricoh, Yamaha, and others for the top spot on today's CD-RW totem pole.

The current boom of CD-RW products has in large part been fueled by the introduction of coaster protection technology from Sanyo: BURN-Proof. Most manufacturers initially licensed BURN-Proof for use in their CD-RW lineup...Lite-On included. However, as time passed, the Taiwanese manufacturer sought to differentiate themselves from their competition. Shortly after our review of their LTR-16101B CD-RW, Lite-On developed SMART-Burn, a system that combines coaster protection and optimum write speed control, and implemented it in a new revision of their 16X burner, the LTR-16102B. With the introduction of their next-generation 24X burner, Lite-On forgoes BURN-Proof entirely, opting for in-house developed coaster protection exclusively; hence the model designation LTR-24102B (the last "2" indicating SMART-Burn where a "1" used to indicate BURN-Proof).

How does Lite-On's latest compare to other manufacturers' top CD-RWs? We'll find out soon enough!

Specifications

Specifications according to Lite-On:

  • Maximum write speeds of 24X Zone-CLV
  • Maximum rewrite speeds of 10X CLV
  • Packet-writing speeds of 10X CLV
  • CD read speeds of 40X CAV
  • Digital audio extraction speeds not specified beyond "high speed"
  • 2048 KB buffer
  • 120 ms average random access time
  • ATAPI/ATA-33 interface
  • SMART-Burn technology
  • Warranty length not specified
As mentioned in the introduction, for this generation of CD-RW, Lite-On opts for their own buffer underrun prevention technology. SMART-Burn functions much the same way as BURN-Proof and Ricoh's JustLink when encountering buffer underrun situations. In addition, it optimizes write speeds according to media quality. It also likely brings costs down a bit since it's developed in-house. Interestingly, Nero detects SMART-Burn as BURN-Proof. When asked, Lite-On did not respond to questions on this matter.

For more information, click here to see Lite-On's product page.

The retail contents include:

  • The drive
  • Nero Burning ROM and InCD
  • DOS driver and generic user's manual on install CD
  • Lite-On 700 MB CD-R blank
  • Lite-On 650 MB high speed CD-RW blank
  • Foldout "Quick Installation" poster
  • Analog audio cable
  • Four mounting screws
Missing is an IDE cable and model-specific manual. The .pdf manual included on the CD is Lite-On's generic version used for all of their current CD-RWs.

Like the rest of Lite-On's optical line, the LTR-24102B's faceplate is generic in nature. The only additions are a printed "24X10X40X" on the right and a sticker on the left depicting their website address. The rear of the drive is typical of most modern ATAPI optical drives and includes a digital audio output.

The drive arrived with firmware revision 5S01. We updated to 5S07 prior to testing. A new revision, 5S0D, was released during write-up. Tests with the new firmware reveal no noticeably different benchmark results.

The Lite-On's noise levels are pretty low for a 40X max reader...about on par with Plextor and Teac's latest CD-RWs.

Current online pricing is as low as $95, anchoring the lowest end of the price spectrum for 24X burners. Only AOpen and Acer's retail 24/10/40 units come close to the LTR-24102B's rock bottom pricing.

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 Lite-On comes in a hair under its 40X spec with an outside transfer rate of 5990 KB/sec. This still places it ahead of the CRW2200E, but the drive nonetheless trails other 40X readers.

However, in access time tests the LTR-24102B averages 89 ms, leaving it just behind the MP7200A for 3rd place and significantly ahead of drives from Samsung, Yamaha and Plextor.

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.

The LTR-24102B weighs in with a score of 1463 KB/sec, a scant 1% behind category-leading Ricoh. Even better, scores deviate by less than 1%, indicating consistent read 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. Once again the Lite-On impresses, this time with a copy time of 2:37. This squeezes just past Plextor's PX-W2410TA for the top spot in sequential copies.

The disc copy test introduces random accesses through the multiple files and folders on the test CD. Here the LTR-24102B's copy time of 3:15 places it just 4% back of the Teac CD-W516EB for the top spot.

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 reports interesting results. The LTR-24102B takes an inordinate amount of time to spin up to full spindle speeds with CD-DA media, resulting in a minimum extraction rate of just over 9X at the innermost tracks. This phenomenon is present in all three tested firmware revisions. Once the drive does get up to full spindle speeds, it extracts at rates nearly identical to competition from Plextor and Ricoh. The Lite-On finishes at 38X; its average DAE rate is nearly 29X. Its slow starting rates weigh the average down a bit from the PX-W2410TA and MP7200A. CDSpeed reports perfect extraction quality and support for accurate streaming.

CDDAE confirms the slow initial DAE. Nearly the entire first track on our test CD-DA extracts in the 9X range. Only towards the end of this track does the drive spin up to top speeds. Once this occurs the drive extracts at speeds comparable to other 40X audio extractors. In the end, it takes 2:37 to extract the test CD in its entirety. This is 22 seconds slower than the PX-W2410TA. CDDAE99 reports no errors in extraction quality, nor does it show the LTR-24102B slowing down at all with scratched media.

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 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
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-24102B 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 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
Samsung SW-216B 5/5 0/5 0/5 0/5 0/5

The Lite-On delivers impressive error correction abilities! In the CD-CHECK test it ties the PX-W2410TA and CD-W516EB for top honors. This is also an improvement over Lite-On's previous burner, the LTR-16101B and assures consumers of a noise-free listening experience when playing CDs on the drive.

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 latest burner reads CD-R media at 40X CAV speeds. Our measurements indicate 6040 KB/sec at the outer edge, with 89 ms access times. The transfer rate results virtually equal the best of the competition while access time measures are second only to the Teac CD-W516EB.

CD-RW Media Compatibility and Performance

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With CD-RW media, the LTR-24102B locks in with a transfer rate of 2460 KB/sec, or 16X. This is one area we focused on with the various firmware revisions, but performance did not change between the revisions. Because transfer rates are constant, spindle speeds vary when reading from different areas on a disc. As a result, one may experience delays when accessing random locations because the spindle motor may have to ramp up or down drastically, depending on the situation. For example, when reading CD-RW media the LTR-24102B spins at about 8000 RPM at the innermost tracks, while falling to below 4000 toward the outer edge of a disc. Many years ago when CD readers used this read method (called CLV, or Constant Linear Velocity), such random access pitfalls (as well as the added strain to the spindle motor) are what prompted manufacturers to switch to the CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) method that this drive uses with pressed CDs and CD-R media. All other burners in our comparison use CAV to read CD-RW media. Not surprisingly, access times fall to 109 ms here.

Write/ReWrite Tests

CD-R Based Duplication

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

When duplicating audio CDs, the Lite-On is slowest to image, but trails only the PX-W2410TA in write speeds. The relatively slow image times can be attributed to low initial DAE rates as shown in trials earlier in this article. The LTR-24102B's write time of 4:02 is an insignificant 3% slower than the swiftest SR has ever tested. Because of the 20X Ricoh's advantage in image speeds (DAE), the MP7200A ends up sliding by the Lite-On for 2nd place in overall duplication times.

With the data CD, Lite-On again trails slightly in image times. However, the LTR-24102B actually surpasses the Plextor in the burn portion of this test, 4:12 to the PX-W2410TA's 4:16. However, the PX-W2410TA edges past the Lite-On in total duplication times due to its advantage in image (read) speeds.

SMART-Burn Write Speed Control Tests

Like nearly all optical drive manufacturers, Lite-On implements optimum write speed control technology in their latest offerings. Lite-On calls theirs SMART-Burn. How does it work? When a CD-R blank is inserted, the drive goes through various algorithms to determine the disc's maximum safe write speed; among them, using the OPC (Optimum Power Calibration) area on each CD-R blank to fine-tune the writing laser's signal strength.

We tested this technology by attempting identical burns at 24X with various brands and speeds of media.

CD-Check Performance
Media Time to Complete 619 MB Burn
Yamaha 20X 4:09
Verbatim 24X 4:09
Taiyo Yuden 24X 4:10
TDK 16X 4:10
Sony 16X 4:10
Imation 16X 4:10
Memorex 16X 4:37

With the exception of Memorex 16X, all brands and speeds of CD-R media write at 24X speeds without issue. The Memorex media is limited to 20X speeds in the LTR-24102B. In short, this means that most of today's CD-R media should have no problems writing at top speeds on the Lite-On.

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 this time, 10X is the quickest rewrite speed available; all drives in the comparison are 10X rewriters.

Image results are identical to the CD-R based data duplication tests. However, 10X rewrites place the Lite-On's 8:10 burn time near the bottom of the pack, albeit by slim margins. All the drives perform within 4% of one another in a tightly grouped race.

CD-R Based Stress Tests

Running CPU-intensive tasks during a burn process at the drive's maximum write speed helps assess the unit's ability to maintain its task under heavy-load conditions. Afterwards, hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Close Program dialog box freezes the testbed mid-burn. When Nero indicates the drive buffer is empty, hitting Esc cancels the dialog box and resumes the burn.

Lite-On's implementation of SMART-Burn performs as advertised: writes paused multiple times for various durations still complete successfully. The written data is fully readable.

InCD Formatting

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Ahead's InCD formats CD-RW media.

The Lite-On LTR-24102B is by far the slowest of the group in formatting CD-RWs. Its average time of 14:11 is 19% slower than category-leading Ricoh's 11:27.

InCD Packet-Writing Performance

Timing the copy of a 195 MB folder from the hard disk to an InCD-formatted CD-RW via Windows Explorer tests packet-write speeds.

Lite-On's latest completes the copy in 2:37, just a few seconds behind the leader. All drives in the comparison perform within 3% of one another.

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.

Once again, all drives perform nearly identically. The LTR-24102B's time of 8:14 is in the middle of the pack.

Conclusion

Lite-On's latest 24X burner provides impressive levels of performance.

In summary, its strengths include:

  • SMART-Burn optimizes write speeds and prevents buffer underruns
  • Inclusion of Nero Burning ROM software
  • Lowest-priced 24X burner on the market
  • Quick access times
  • Excellent application-level read performance
  • Error correction during CD-DA playback ties the best SR has tested
  • 24X write speeds are some of the fastest SR has measured

The LTR-24102B's weak areas are:

  • Sparse documentation
  • No IDE cable included in retail package
  • Slow audio extraction at the beginning of a CD
  • Read speeds with CD-RW media are significantly slower than competition
  • Packet-writing formats trail the competition significantly

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-24102B performs well enough to garner serious consideration by power users. Its combination of low cost, quick read speeds and spirited writes keep Lite-On's flagship competitive with current Leaderboard champ Plextor. Only slow initial DAE speeds and poor read performance with CD-RW media keep the LTR-24102B from supplanting the PX-W2410TA outright.


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