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Streaming Media
The Driving Range: Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164C
Posted Sep 30, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Samsung's new WriteMaster 16X DVD/CD recorder reliably gets the job done, albeit a touch slower than its competition and at a slightly higher price ($199).

External DVD/CD recorders are handy to have. They're a snap to install and move among machines if needed, reassure in case of equipment failures, and even pack-up for road trips. Fresh onto the scene is Samsung's WriteMaster SE-W164C. Incorporating the latest mechanism from Samsung's TSST joint venture with Toshiba, the WriteMaster combines competent performance with compact external style.

Connection is made through USB 2.0 and the unit operates either horizontally or vertically, which saves desktop space but requires the use of an included cradle and sacrifices support for 8cm discs. An external power brick keeps the case conveniently unobtrusive and the lack of an internal fan keeps its noise at level reasonable level. Software duties are tackled by Nero's ubiquitous PC OEM suite.

The WriteMaster offers high performance but still trails the competition in a few areas. Using the latest version of Nero's CD-DVD Speed benchmarking tool, full DVD+Rs and DVD-Rs burned at 16X CAV (taking 5:34 and 6:02 respectively), CD-Rs at 48X CAV (2:43), and CD-RWs at 32X ZCLV (3:26). Thanks to the latest Verbatim and Ritek media, high-speed rewritable DVD performace also proved up to snuff with DVD+RWs at 8X ZCLV (7:52) and DVD-RWs at 6X ZCLV (10:22). Double and dual-layer DVD burns, however, are less remarkable, with DVD+R DLs clocking in at 5X ZCLV (22:06) and DVD-R DLs at 4X CLV (27:16).

It's interesting to note that while the WriteMaster rates DVD+R DL operation at 5X, technically the unit employs 6X ZCLV writing (oscillating between 4X and 6X). So, hats off to Samsung for its sensible marketing! Disappointingly, however, this lags significantly behind Plextor's latest PX-740UF and other rivals which churn out full DL discs in as little as 14 minutes.

The news is pretty much the same on the reading front with some speeds on par while others trail a generation behind the competition. For example, prerecorded DVDs are taken at 16X CAV (4:56) but DVD±Rs are limited to 12X CAV (6:34) and DVD±RW and DVD±R DLs to 8X CAV (9:36 and 19:07 respectively). Prerecorded CDs clock in at 48X CAV (2:25) and CD-Rs and CD-RWs at 40X CAV (2:40). Quality-conscious buyers should be aware, however, that the WriteMaster doesn't support Nero CD-DVD Speed's rudimentary C1/C2/PI/PO error checking abilities.

More than most other features, comprehensive blank disc support is practical and thus desirable in any disc recorder. Using firmware current as of mid-September, the unit accommodated at full speed discs from nine out of ten 16X DVD-R manufacturers tested but only five out of eight 16X DVD+Rs (the laggards wrote at 12X, 8X, and even as slow as 4X). The unit also does not write slower-rated discs at a higher clip. For example, nine out of nine 8x DVD-R and 11 out of 11 DVD±R discs tested wrote at their prescribed speed. And predictably, out of three manufacturers tested, only Verbatim DVD±R DLs discs wrote at 4X and 5X.

Overall, Samsung's new WriteMaster reliably gets the job done, albeit a touch slower than its competition and at a slightly higher price.

Minimum system requirements: 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 running Windows 98SE/ME/XP/2000; 256 MB RAM; USB 2.0 interface.

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