LiteOn is known in the optical drive community for their lineup of outstanding CD-RW drives that are sold at ridiculously low prices (and I agree, as I own two 52x burners, bought in 2002, and 2003, and still going strong). When LiteOn started making DVD writers they were members of the DVD Alliance, more popularly known as “The Plus Camp,” as they were compatible with DVD+R and DVD+RW media. While they now make writers capable of both “plus” and “minus” writing, they have been generally stronger at the “plus” standard. The LiteOn 1693S is an upgrade to the LiteOn 1673S, and adds support for dual layer DVD-R discs, as well as featuring 16x reading and writing of DVD discs. These DVD-R dual layer discs are the latest discs available and feature two layers superimposed on top of each other; the laser adjusts its strength to write to the near or far layer. These discs are much more expensive to produce, and more difficult to write, but feature double the capacity of single layer discs. Most DVD Videos that you rent at Blockbuster are dual layer discs (although pressed, not created with a laser). The drive is also capable of handling CDs as well, so it can replace a CD writer in your system.
While LiteOn drives are popular worldwide, in the US they are often rebranded by Sony, for example, this LiteOn 1693S drive is also sold as the Sony DRU-800A. By purchasing the LiteOn, the astute shopper saves money, and owns the same hardware as the Sony version. Let’s take a close look at this drive’s many features.
The firmware used for all tests was KS04, which came loaded on the drive, and is available from the LiteOn website.
In general, you should use the manufacturer’s latest firmware on your drive, unless you have extensive expertise in this area, and you are willing to cancel your warranty, or risk destroying your drive. The media was all burned with Nero Burning ROM, version 6.3. All discs were scanned using a LiteOn 852S drive and Nero’s CD Speed version 3.80. While this is a notebook drive, it served aptly in this task, and allowed me to complete the testing away from my desktop (or else I may have never finished this review; my apologies to the purists). Recorded DVD movie discs were further compatibility tested in 2 stand-alone DVD players: a Sharp DV-S1U (designed to play “minus” discs, but is quite tolerant), and a Sony DVP-NS315 (designed to work with “plus” discs, and tends to be picky).
If you’re new to looking at disc scans, while this can get very technical, here is a great discussion. The “take home message” is: C1 errors should not exceed 280, and C2 errors should not exceed 32, except for an isolated spike or two. For DVD’s, the PI Errors should be less than 280, and the PI Failures should be under 8. While all discs have some errors, when the recipe is right between drive, media, and firmware, the errors are much less, and the disc is much more likely to play in DVD players without difficulty. Well, I’ve burnt a big pile of media, so on to the results!
-LiteOn 1693S drive
-DVD+R and DVD+R DL media
-Nero 6.3 OEM edition
-Power DVD 5
-manual and setup poster
The LiteOn 1693S is notable for its short length, a mere 17 cm. This makes it particularly well suited for installation in small form factor PC’s and other cramped cases. The drive was easily installed (about 20 minutes) in a Shuttle SN41G2 with an Athlon 2800+ processor, Western Digital 160 GB hard drive, and 512 MB of RAM. LiteOn’s 1693S installs as a standard IDE interface device. I chose to replace the drive in my computer, others may wish to add it to their computer with an available slot and keep their old drive installed as well. The bundled software included Nero 6.3 Burning ROM (the OEM edition, which means it only works with this drive, so if you have 2 burners installed you need the full version), and Power DVD 5 for DVD playback. Nero is a particularly strong package and is capable of the full variety of tasks with both CDs and DVDs of many flavors. I like very much that the drive came with both beige, and black faceplates to match a wide variety of computers (now if only I can get my floppy drive to match).
(back of drive showing IDE interface)
After hardware and software installation, the drive was up and running with no difficulties. At full speed, there was moderate noise, less than the volume of my LiteOn 52 x 24 x 52 (52246S) drive, but not as silent as my LiteOn 52 x 32 x 52 (52327S). The volume level is acceptable for a desktop PC, but noise fanatics and home theater enthusiasts would probably be happier elsewhere.
The drive has a single LED. Unfortunately, we’re moving backwards here. My older drives have a 3-color LED, green for writing, orange for buffer underrun, and red for burning. The LiteOn 1693S glows steady green for reading and flashes green for writing. I much prefer the three color system as the red made it clear to all “stay away from the computer, there’s writing going on!” in a way that the flashing light does not convey. I guess you can just rope off the computer with police tape (“Crime scene: Do Not Cross”) to prevent interrupting the writing process and ruining a disc.
There are 4 logos on the front of the drive: ultra speed CDRW, DVD R/RW, DVD+RW rewritable, and dual layer DVD+R. While this drive has more logos than a Nascar racecar, it does ensure it is compatible with all the common disc standards.
A single button controls the tray, which opens and closes smoothly, and is gear driven (cheaper drives usually use rubber bands). The drive also features an audio jack for your headphones. The simple jack bypasses the sound card and is frequently useful, but increasingly a rare find as manufacturers eliminate it to save money. There is also a volume control on the face of the drive for use with the audio jack.
LiteOn claims some impressive speeds for their drive, including 48x CDR burning, 16x DVD+R and DVD-R burning, and 4x DVD+R dual layer, and DVD-R dual layer burning. Here are their specifications:
There are two types of media missing from the list. This drive neither reads, nor writes to DVD-RAM discs (no LiteOn drive currently does), while this is not a common type of media, there are a few devout users out there. The other disc not supported is the new LightScribe technology (LightScribe allows you to burn a label onto the disc using the laser!). This only came onto the market recently, but it is gaining popularity among anal retentive users who like to label their discs and have dried up their Sharpie markers.
From DVDInfoPro we see that the drive has a 2 MB buffer, buffer underrun protection, and supports the popular formats of optical discs as described above.
From Nero’s recorder information we see that LiteOn’s drive has Smart-Burn technology. More than just buffer underrun protection, it helps users burn media at appropriate speeds by choosing from its database a lower, and in turn safer, speed for low quality media. It can be turned off if the user so desires, but the buffer underrun protection is always on and cannot be disabled.
Nero’s Info Tool confirms the above.
From the above, we see that the drive does not support the Mt Rainier specification (very few do), nor does it read or write to DVD-RAM discs. Mt. Rainier was designed to be a universal format for data on rewriteable media built into Windows, but only a few drives out there ever supported it, and nothing currently does. This is not a big deal, as the software such as Nero’s InCD, provides this functionality.
CD Reading Tests
A few short years ago this was the key number for the drive: how fast it could extract audio. This is still useful for extracting audio for both backing up audio CDs, and more recently for turning that pile of CDs into MP3 files for your iPod.
Both graphs above were obtained on original audio CDs. The average read rate was 33x and 35x, respectively. I’m not sure why the drive slowed down towards the end on the 1st graph (disc was not dirty, and test repeated with identical results). On the second, the drive maxed out at 47x, very close to the 48x claimed speed, and had the disc been a full 74 minutes I’m sure it would have achieved the rated read speed. Note that the drive achieved a DAE (digital audio extraction) score of 10 in each case (10 is the highest). I characterize this as a strong performance with overall speeds close to the fastest CDRW drives available. If you want a DVD writer that can ably read CDs for back up, or to rip MP3’s the LiteOn 1693S will not disappoint.
DVD Reading Tests
How fast an optical drive reads a DVD disc is an important benchmark for the drive. Many folks pair their DVD rewritable drive with a dedicated DVD-ROM reader in order to get the maximum read speed. While many drives read data discs at their full speed, for DVD Video discs, they are often limited to slower speeds. This drive is no exception.
As the above three graphs show, while the drive reads single layer DVD video discs (uncommon) at the full 16x speed, it is rate limited to 8x on both DVD dual layer discs (most DVD discs), and on DVD+R media. I can’t really fault the drive, as all major manufacturers currently do this. It’s just a little disappointing to see that this 16x drive is capable of reading discs at that very fast speed, but only does so infrequently.
It’s great to be able to use your DVDRW drive as a replacement for your CDRW drive, and to use it for multiple uses. Some manufacturer’s drives are not particularly well suited for CD burning. LiteOn’s have always been exceptional CD burners; let’s see how this one performs.
The LiteOn 1693S did a great job on CD burning tasks. The drive burned 637 MB worth of data in 2 minutes and 43 seconds, which calculates to a speed of 26.05x. This is about as fast as DVD burners get while burning CDs. I also tested the quality, how it looks on the disc; after all the fastest burn riddled with errors is rather useless. The disc used for testing is a CMC Magnetics sold under the “Optimum” brand at Staples, and is 48x certified.
Even on a CMC Magnetics disc, which is not the greatest media, the C1 errors were acceptable, and no C2 errors. This performance is very good, and this drive is furthering LiteOn’s reputation for excellent CD writing. Like most users, I’m strongly considering retiring my CD-RW drives for good with the LiteOn 1693S in my system.
The rewritable CDs are declining in popularity as CDRs are now so inexpensive. Also, many folks use USB flash drives and cards (LINK to the flash card article) to transport their files. However, for moderate size files that need to be modified (like a PowerPoint presentation with lots of picture files), a CD-RW is a reasonable choice of media.
For CD-RW writing, the LiteOn 1693S meets the ultra-speed standard for 24x writing on CD-RW media that is certified for such speeds. I used such a disc, and was able to write it at speed with no problem. The disc was a “Plasmon” which was sold under the LiteOn brand name. This CD-RW performance echoes its strong CDR showing.
These are probably the most common DVD discs that users will write to. Over the past year, DVD+R discs gained in popularity over DVD-R discs. The LiteOn 1693S is rated to write to such media at a blinding 16x speed. This is an amazing 21.6 MB/s at full speed, and equivalent to writing a CDR at 144X! This is the optical drive equivalent of a stress test for the drive and its media.
For the first test, I used a 16x certified media (included with the LiteOn drive). It was manufactured by CMC Magnetics, which I have found in the past to be not-so-great media. The drive wrote 4466 MB of data in a very quick 6:05, which calculates to an average speed of 8.83X. This is a very impressive write speed, and the time it took to write a CD a few short years ago. Let’s see what the write quality looks like.
Unfortunately, at this speed, the disc is very error prone, especially at the end. Amazingly, the Sharp DVD player played the disc, but the Sony did not. While we can hope that as the DVD+R discs mature their quality will improve. I don’t plan to burn any discs at these super fast speeds in the near future.
With the above test in mind, I tried another burn. This time, I used a 4x certified Ricoh disc, sold under the TDK brand name. This is an above average quality disc. The Smart-Burn feature did realize this was a 4x disc, and correctly limited the write speed to the appropriate level. The disc was burnt in 14:51, at an overall speed of 3.71x.
This scan shows a very high quality write, with minimal errors. I’m sure that most users would rather take the extra 10 minutes write time in order to have a disc with very few errors and high compatibility. I think the key point is the 16x write speed is just too quick for now until the media and firmware matures to catch up with the drive.
On a final note, the LiteOn 1693S supports booktype setting of DVD+R discs (DVD-R discs cannot be booktyped). This should always be done for discs that are intended to be played in stand-alone DVD players as it makes the recordable disc look like a DVD Video disc to the machine. While this important feature increases compatibility, there are some drives out there that do not support it. Thankfully, LiteOn’s 1693S supports booktype setting, and it worked well during testing. (Link: http://www.cdfreaks.com/article/150)
LiteOn’s 1693S supports a rewrite speed of 8X for DVD+RW media. This fast rewriting speed only became available in the last few months, and is the fastest currently available on this type of media. This rewritable media finds uses for temporary storage of large files, or video presentations you want to try out before devoting a permanent disc to the project. Set at 8X, I was able to write a DVD+RW disc in 8:24, which translates to an actual speed of 6.40x. See the quality scan below.
This represents a very acceptable scan for a rewritable disc. The disc used was an 8x certified Verbatim which is generally regarded as a high quality disc. The scan has very low PI Failures, and a moderate amount of PI errors, and is well within standards. This disc was readable by both the Sharp and Sony DVD players with no problems. In my mind, this represents an impressive scan for a rewritable disc (which tend to have more errors than write once media), written at an 8x speed.
I wanted to confirm the high quality writing with the LiteOn 1693S on DVD+RW media. For this write, I used a Ritek DVD+RW disc, which is 8x certified (no media code). The disc was written at 8x, in just under 10 minutes.
The DVD+RW disc was again scanned at 4x using CD Speed’s Disc Quality Test. The number of errors was quite low for any media, especially a rewritable disc. The PI Errors was overall low, with 2 spikes. The PI Failures were even more impressive with the highest being a 4, and only in 1 spot, the rest being low with stretches of none. This Ritek was playable in both the Sony and Sharp DVD players.
For users of the LiteOn 1693S, the DVD+RW writing is a definite strong point. I would recommend they use DVD+RW discs over the DVD-RW discs as their rewritable back up media of choice (see below).
The DVD-R discs are becoming the less common type of disc, but many users burn this type of media, especially if there stand-alone players are designed to work with it. Early LiteOn burners were not particularly able at burning these “minus” DVD discs. For this test, I used Maxell DVD-R media, that was 4x certified (save the comments please, we’re running on a shoestring currently and I’m working on lining up some “media partners” to supply us with some faster discs). The disc included 4465 MB of data and took 15:37 for an average speed of 3.53x. For some reason, “minus” DVDs usually seem to burn slower than their “plus” counterparts at a given speed in most drives.
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the burn, since PI Errors and PI Failures were minimal. The disc played in the Sharp and the Sony player without any issues. I think the bottom line is it doesn’t matter which format the DVD player is designed to work with, if the disc is burnt well, it will play. I definitely recommend this as a great media to use with this drive if you want to burn DVD-R discs and can tolerate the 4x speed.
I anticipated how the LiteOn would do with some faster DVD-R media, after it did so well on the 4x rated media. We burnt a Ritek 8x certified DVD-R disc (media code: RITEKG05) at the 8x speed in about 9 minutes.
The disc was scanned using CD Speed once again. Of minor note, it was reported that the disc was recorded with a “SONY DW-Q28A KS09” drive, even though it was the LiteOn 1693S. The scan was excellent on this high quality media. The PI Errors peaked out at 32, and the PI Failures were quite minimal with a max of 2, and long stretches of none. This disc played in both stand alone players, and I would recommend it to users of this drive. Perhaps LiteOn has finally shed their “minus” problems, although their DVD-RW performance below would suggest otherwise.
The less popular of the rewritable formats are the DVD-RW discs. I was eager to see how the LiteOn DVD-RW would perform on this 6x rated media, the fastest currently available (8x DVD-RW drives are just coming on the market as I write this (Sony 810), and the media should be arriving shortly thereafter.) The drive offered to write these Ritek DVD-RW (media code: RITEKW06) 6x discs at 4x, or 6x. I chose 6x, and the write was completed in a little over 12 minutes.
The disc was scanned at 4x in a LiteOn 852S optical drive using Nero’s CD Speed’s Disc Quality Test program. The scan reveals an extremely high number of both PI Errors, as well as PI Failures. This disc was not playable in any stand alone DVD player. Amazingly, the LiteOn 1693S was able to play back the disc, a testament to its reading ability for high error discs. For users looking to use DVD-RW discs, I would recommend the Plextor 740A (LINK) that is stronger in writing on these types of discs. I hope with future firmware upgrades that LiteOn improves the writing on this type of media. To exclude the disc, I wrote the exact same project, to the same disc, using the Plextor 740A drive with a much better result.
Here we look at one of the two types of dual layer discs supported by the drive. These discs have two superimposed layers, and the laser has to adjust power to burn the two layers sequentially. The “plus” dual layer discs have been on the market longer, but high prices have hampered mainstream adoption. No one wants to create $10 coasters!
For the test we used a Verbatim DVD+R Dual Layer disc, and burned it at the 4x speed. The time it took to burn the disc reminded me of my first CDRW burner which would take close to half an hour for one CDR disc. For a 7617 MB project, it took 26:52, which calculates to an overall speed of 3.50x (quick for this type of media).
While these types of burns tend to have more errors than single layer media, I was pleasantly surprised at the low number of errors on the disc. Furthermore, the disc played on both stand-alone DVD players without any problem. As the manufacturing costs on this type of media fall, this media is a wonderful choice for tasks with large amounts of data.
-beige and black templates included
-dual layer support for + and – formats
-shorter 17 cm length
-includes Nero and Power DVD
-booktype setting capable on DVD+R discs
-48x CD-R burn speed
-DVD+RW 8x burning
-high quality burn at 4x on both DVD+R and DVD-R media
-high quality burn on dual layer DVD+R media
-no LightScribe support
-moderate noise at full speed
-can’t read DVDs at 16x speed unless single layer pressed disc
-no DVD-RAM read or write support
-DVD+R writing at 16x very error prone
-DVD-RW writing very poor
In conclusion, this drive performed very well overall. While I was disappointed with the 16X DVD+R and DVD-RW writing performance, all the other discs burnt had a low amount of errors indicating a high quality burn. Compatibility was also very good, as most discs played in the tested players. The drive performed well in reading tasks, and was very good at CD burning tasks, on both CDR and rewritable media. With better quality media, and a firmware upgrade or two, I’m sure the 16x writing quality will improve to match its slower brethren. With its strong software package, including Nero burning ROM, and Power DVD, the LiteOn 1693S is “LD Approved.”
Who should buy this drive?
The desktop computer user who wishes to burn a variety of CD and DVD media, as well as use the drive for reading tasks as well should put this drive at the top of their short list. If you only have room for one drive in your box, I believe this is a strong choice, and available at a competitive price point. And with both a black and beige faceplate, it will not only write well, but look awesome too.
Special thanks to Ritek USA for providing media in support of this review.