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Three External USB And eSATA Blu-ray Burners Tested

Three External USB And eSATA Blu-ray Burners Tested
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The advent of affordable, high-capacity media could bring a renaissance in optical storage, but only if the performance is adequate. We tested a few of today’s fastest drives with USB and eSATA connectivity to find out where this technology stands.

There's a pleasant surprise in store for anyone who hasn't paid much attention to Blu-ray media for a while (probably a result of being turned off by it in the past). The price you'll pay per disc is as low as $1.25 right now.

The performance of the external Blu-ray drives we're testing today might be equally surprising to anyone already accustomed to 4x burners. At one-eighth the media price and up to three times the speed, it’s high time to reconsider our options.

Indeed, slow and expensive writing forced most enthusiasts to give up the idea of optical media altogether and make the switch to fast flash-based drives with what seem like an endless supply of rewrite cycles. And yet, while USB thumb drives are the 21st century's floppy disk, that whole measure of price per gigabyte gets prohibitive when it comes to distributing lots of storage to lots of friends, coworkers, or family members.

Aside from physical distribution advantages, optical media remains a mid-term alternative to big hard drives and tape for backing up data. Rapidly declining hard drive costs are a big problem for the struggling BD-R archiving market, yet today’s media prices finally allow single-layer discs to catch up.

And yet, none of that would matter if we were still stuck writing at 4x speeds. Fortunately, optical drive manufacturers are now pushing the envelope with smoking-fast 12x burners.

External drives offer the convenience of connecting to everything from notebooks to servers, without the installation hassle enthusiasts often deplore. It's a bummer that the prolific USB 2.0 interface tops out at around 36 MB/s in the real-world, though, equaling a BD-R disc speed of 8x. Innovative manufacturers use USB 3.0, eSATA, or a combination of those two faster technologies to get around performance limitations.

External Blu-ray Burner Basic Specifications
 ModelAsus BW-12D1S-ULG BE12LU30Plextor PX-LB950UE
Description
Install TypeExternalExternalExternal
InterfaceUSB 3.0eSATA
USB 2.0
USB 3.0
eSATA
Read Speed (Single-Layer/Dual-Layer)
BD-ROM8x/8x10x/8x8x/8x
BD-R8x/8x10x/8x8x/8x
BD-RE8x/6x8x/6x8x/6x
DVD-ROM16x/12x16x/12x16x/12x
DVD-R16x/12x16x/12x16x/12x
DVD+R16x/12x16x/12x16x/12x
DVD±RW12x12x12x
DVD-RAM5x12x12x
CD-ROM, -R40x48x48x
CD-RW24x40x40x
Write Speed (Single-Layer/Dual-Layer)
BD-R12x/8x12x/12x12x/8x
BD-RE2x/2x2x/2x2x/2x
DVD-R16x/8x16x/8x16x/8x
DVD+R16x/8x16x/8x16x/8x
DVD-RW6x6x6x
DVD+RW8x8x8x
DVD-RAM5x12x12x
CD-R40x48x48x
CD-RW24x24x24x
Common Features
Firmware RevisionE10142611.01
LightScribe SupportNoYesYes
Buffer Size4 MB4 MB8 MB
Underrun ProtectionFlextraLinkYesYes
Overburn supportYesYesYes
BitsettingNoYesYes
Mount RainierYesYesYes
Price$167 $150 $190
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  • 2 Hide
    pirateboy , September 6, 2011 5:53 AM
    no LiteOn device? why?
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , September 6, 2011 6:42 AM
    pirateboyno LiteOn device? why?
    The eHBU212 wasn't available yet when this roundup was initiated last spring. Sorry, other reviews had deadlines.
  • 0 Hide
    vdr369 , September 6, 2011 9:42 AM
    Yeah, LG drive looks really cool and performs better, nice design and lavish looking
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 6, 2011 9:44 AM
    Could you please add a chart about the quality of the burned data itself.
    (I do not know if this is possible?) A lot of people still burn audio CDs and for this the burn quality is normally essential
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , September 6, 2011 9:48 AM
    Mille23Could you please add a chart about the quality of the burned data itself.(I do not know if this is possible?) A lot of people still burn audio CDs and for this the burn quality is normally essential
    It's in the photo album:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/gallery/bd-sl-scan-ASUS,0101-302721-9789-0-0-0-jpg-.html See no errors know no errors.
  • 1 Hide
    dimar , September 6, 2011 11:03 AM
    When do we finally get eSATAp?
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , September 6, 2011 11:17 AM
    dimarWhen do we finally get eSATAp?
    It's been replaced with USB 3.0, and neither of those has enough amperage to power these drives.
  • -1 Hide
    dimar , September 6, 2011 11:29 AM
    CrashmanIt's been replaced with USB 3.0, and neither of those has enough amperage to power these drives.


    Not true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATAp
    I already have the bracket for eSATAp where I have the power supply connected using the 12v/5v molex cable.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , September 6, 2011 11:47 AM
    dimarNot true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATApI already have the bracket for eSATAp where I have the power supply connected using the 12v/5v molex cable.
    That's fine, but it doesn't contradict what I said.

    Let me be more specific: USB 3.0 is primarily for portable devices, eSATA is primarily for stationary devices, and eSATAp is something in the middle that doesn't have enough power for "big" drives such as these.

    The purpose of eSATAp WAS to combine the convenience of USB 2.0 with the performance of eSATA. But the purpose of USB 3.0 IS to combine the convenience of USB 2.0 with the performance of PCIe. This is a was vs is debate, Windows XP is still great too but many people have simply quit using it.

    Hey, I remember external SCSI too!

    BTW, some of these drives DO support eSATA. Forget the P, a USB power connector won't power these drives!
  • -3 Hide
    dimar , September 6, 2011 1:15 PM
    CrashmaneSATAp is something in the middle that doesn't have enough power for "big" drives such as these.


    You don't get it. You actually connect the power supply power cable to the back side of the eSATAp connector. It gets the full 12v and 5v load.
  • -1 Hide
    dontknownotsure , September 6, 2011 2:44 PM
    Cool, thou I must confess that I have use desktop PC without single optical disk drive for 5 years already
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 6, 2011 4:38 PM
    ok thank your rceive ,so how to solve the problem about the mother board ?
  • 0 Hide
    gwolfman , September 6, 2011 7:45 PM
    Did you test if any of these drives are RipLocked!?!
  • 0 Hide
    pirateboy , September 7, 2011 4:44 AM
    CrashmanThe eHBU212 wasn't available yet when this roundup was initiated last spring. Sorry, other reviews had deadlines.


    ok, thx for the heads up on that.
    I hope you can review the LiteOn drive later.
  • 0 Hide
    QEFX , September 7, 2011 9:45 AM
    OK, now I just need a plausible reason to justify one of these for my home use.

    How many MP3s do I need to archive to 1 disk at a time .... rats can't OK it yet. Maybe January 2012 sales.
  • 0 Hide
    killerb255 , September 7, 2011 4:01 PM
    With eSATAp, it depends on the implementation. Just from the little I've read, there are a few ways to do it:

    1) eSATAp using a (e)SATA port and a USB port via a cable. Data speed and power limitations are dependent on the ports being plugged into. For example, if using SATA 1.5 and USB 1.1 ports, you're not going to get, say, SATA 6 speed or USB 3.0 power. On the other hand, if the cable has the proper USB 3.0 "A" connection, then I would think that you could get SATA6 speed and USB 3.0 power through the cable and into your eSATAp device.

    2) eSATAp header to SATA port on motherboard and floppy/molex/SATA power from a standard ATX power supply. From there, the power limitations are dictated by the floppy/molex/SATA interface (unless eSATAp has a power limitation itself that would bottleneck this).

    3) eSATAp port on an ExpressCard that requires an external AC Adapter.
  • 0 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , September 9, 2011 7:39 AM
    Seriously? Does anybody really care? CD/DVD had their day but Blu-ray was outdated before it hit the shops, why spend money to burn the last optical format when you can just stream to your media player over your home network? why archive data when hard drives cost as much per GB ad BR-R? Why record something to take to a friends when you can just stick it on a USB stick or 2.5" HDD.
  • 0 Hide
    aries1470 , September 11, 2011 12:44 PM
    jamesedgeuk2000Seriously? Does anybody really care? CD/DVD had their day but Blu-ray was outdated before it hit the shops, why spend money to burn the last optical format when you can just stream to your media player over your home network? why archive data when hard drives cost as much per GB ad BR-R? Why record something to take to a friends when you can just stick it on a USB stick or 2.5" HDD.


    Really?.. Let me see, I can see a few reasons. Unless you want to be carrying around a 2.5" HDD. Now there is a reason somewhere, oh yes, a 2.5" hdd cost here in Australia around $60-$70Aud for a 320-500Gb drive, now at around $1.25 per 25Gb per disk, some simple math... that would be 13 disks for a 320Gb so 13 * 1.25 = $16.25. Then, over here, the average 4Gb USB stick costs about $5-$8, so it defeats the purpose. Just read the article a little more:
    And yet, while USB thumb drives are the 21st century's floppy disk, that whole measure of price per gigabyte gets prohibitive when it comes to distributing lots of storage to lots of friends, coworkers, or family members.

    So, the article already mentions a good reason for their use.
    Can't wait for the quad layer drives disks.
  • 0 Hide
    dontknownotsure , September 11, 2011 1:05 PM
    aries1470Really?.. Let me see, I can see a few reasons. Unless you want to be carrying around a 2.5" HDD. Now there is a reason somewhere, oh yes, a 2.5" hdd cost here in Australia around $60-$70Aud for a 320-500Gb drive, now at around $1.25 per 25Gb per disk, some simple math... that would be 13 disks for a 320Gb so 13 * 1.25 = $16.25. Then, over here, the average 4Gb USB stick costs about $5-$8, so it defeats the purpose. Just read the article a little more:
    And yet, while USB thumb drives are the 21st century's floppy disk, that whole measure of price per gigabyte gets prohibitive when it comes to distributing lots of storage to lots of friends, coworkers, or family members.
    So, the article already mentions a good reason for their use.Can't wait for the quad layer drives disks.


    wtf I carry 2.5 hdd to work everyday and what is this?

    false dilemma much?

    also for archival purpose, 2tb 3.5 in. HDD in at current market price in my place already beat the Blu-ray in price per GB, plus it's rewritable & fast, and also It's in RAID array.

    Are there something wrong with private torrent sharing stuff with lots of friends?? sometime across continents?? even when failing that I still have private home ftp server that friends can access.

    Hmm let me just do the math and see how much does It costs to share large amount of data across lots of people, oh wait, Its zero.
  • 0 Hide
    aries1470 , September 11, 2011 1:29 PM
    Just a request to the reviewer, Thomas.
    Is there a possibility to make available test resaults using USB2.0, since ALL drives would support that, not to mention that people with a little older hardware would also be interested in this, instead of them buying USB3.0 or e-Sata.
    That is an interface that can check ALL 3 drives and give a conclusive determinitation on how they work for "backwards" compatability.

    I guess that extra paragraph with graphs would be interesting to see how each companies selected controller works, and also another idea would be to open up the cases and see what drives are used inside and check the physical internal interfaces. Are they direct e-Sata and an adapter for USB to SATA inside or what?
    Also what about the Lightscribe support, why not check that out too. There are a few different "colour" disks now too. Check to see which of the two drives does a better image and how fast they do it at the best setting. Also note that the implementation is different for CD's compared to DVD's, so they do not have the same contrast. As for BD-R lightscribe, that is slated for later this year or early next year.

    Another thing to consider is also compatability of the media itself with older BD Players.
    Quote:
    pre-2009 Blu-ray player incompatibilities that are appearing with the newer LTH series of BD-R blanks
    for a full read of the thread here is the link. Also some google searching will turn up more information.

    Elsewise, this is a great article.
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