Gigabyte GO-5232A Combo Drive Review

Author: Andy Zen
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Sunday, June 19th, 2005
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/gigacombo/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Introduction

Even though DVD burner prices have been constantly falling, especially in the last year, a lot of people still cannot justify the purchase of a DVD burner. While a lot of people burn CDs for the car, how many cars can play DVD-audio? On the other hand, if you actually have a DVD audio system in your car, you probably shouldn't even be considering the $30 difference between a combo drive and a DVD burner. (Yes I know this is not the only thing DVDs are used for, but it illustrates the common person's lack of need in DVD burning)

When thinking about what optical drive to buy, there are a few things you need to consider. Primarily, who is going to use it and what is it going to be used for? If you ever thought that you would like to backup games or movies at some point in your life, perhaps you should get a DVD burner and not a combo drive. However, for family and friends, I wonder if they even considered something like (il)legal backups to be possible. For example, take my sister. As long as she can burn mix CDs and watch movies on her computer, she's happy. I'm sure everybody knows someone like that.

The drive

It's an optical drive. There's really not much to talk about. The package itself is pretty plain, coming with no optical media (which is disappointing), no alternate color bezels (unfortunate), hoowever it does come with screws (as it should) and Nero 6 (a very good package, probably best software you could include). CD's are cheap, so why am I complaining about no optical media? While I agree that CD-Rs are cheap and readily available up to 52x, I’ll be damned if I can find a 32x CD-RW in Canada, local or online. Even though most CDRW/combo drives support 32x CD-RWs, the availability of RWs past 24x are mediocre at best, rare as a X800 XT PE AGP at worst.

Regardless of the package, the first thing you notice is that the drive is really short. If any of you have read my reviews on the Soltek Qbics, you would know that the PSU is located right behind the optical drive and causes problems with long drives. In this case, there are absolutely no installation issues for any case, including all SFFs - so all you SFF PC fan's out there might be interested in this drive.

Test Setup

Keeping with the theme of fitting in small cases, it seemed appropriate to put the drive in a HTPC and run all tests there.

Kloss I915A SFF
Intel P4 530J (3.0E)
2x 512 MB Hynix PC3200
Maxtor Diamondmax 10 250GB 16 MB cache

Mastered by Pioneer 108
4x Maxell DVD+R (RICOHJPNR01)
4x Maxell DVD-R (MXL R02)
Vandread US DVD Volume 1 (Pioneer LDC)
Burn testing: Imation 52x CD-R (Prodisc)

The above setup simulates a typical usage pattern for a combo drive - reading DVDs, both legit and not quite legitimate, as well as CD-R burning on cheap media (hard to find good CD-R media, casual users like my sister will just buy anything off the shelf).

Results

Maxell DVD+R

Maxell DVD-R

Pressed DVD

On a commercially pressed DVD, you can see the read times are far better than the burned DVDs. This could be attributed to the aging (read: slow) DVD's used for testing. With the new 8x and 16x (high quality) media, we expect the read speeds to hit the advertised 16x without a problem. The drive had no problem reading the commercial DVD, with the speeds continuously going up. This translates to a smooth movie experience when watching and a fast ripping speed for 'backing up'.

CD Burn Time, Prodisc 52x: 2:40

This burn time is fast, as is as good or better than many of the other drives on the market if you search on the web.

Conclusion

These days, the price difference between a low-end DVD burner and a decent combo drive is small enough that the DVD burner is almost always the better choice. However, this is not to say that there is no place for combo drives. For second computers, for HTPCs (non recording), for family and friends who are unlikely to burn a DVD in their life. The Gigabyte fits the bill as it does everything as stated as well as coming with perhaps one of the best beginner's software around in Nero. If the Gigabyte is ever available on sale at any of the online stores, don't hesitate to buy it if you need it.

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