8X DVD Burners: AOpen and Gigabyte

Author: Howard Ha
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Sunday, October 3rd, 2004
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Roundups/8x_dvdburners/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Several interesting things have happened since the first optical recorder was introduced years ago. Back then, hard drives were relatively small, and most motherboards would only support 2 IDE channels, and generally even a couple of 650MB CD-ROM disc was equivalent to 10% of your total HD space. Optical storage was a cheap, reliable, and portable way to backup, trade, and store your data. Today, the DVD Recorder is the favoured optical recording medium for data storage, but cheap HD prices, huge HD storage spaces, the rise of portable solid-state USB drives of truly useful sizes, and portable hard-drive enclosures have muddied the waters for those looking for portable storage. Even with these new options, DVD±R and DVD±RW are still very reasonable and very viable options that many have opted to adopt.

Today we're looking at 2 8X DVD Recorders from AOpen and Gigabyte. 8X Recorders are no longer the holders of the speed crown, but they're easily obtained, and priced competitively against the newer 12X and 16X devices. In some areas, you might even find 8X media a little tough to find, here in Vancouver, BC, 12X and 16X certified media isn't even available, period.

The Drives

The drives we're looking at are the Gigabyte GO-W0808A and the AOpen DRW8800 AAN, an 8x/4x/12x DVD+/-RWdrive. The design of the drives today are almost always identical. The AOpen drive is the standard of the two - it lacks even a headphones out jack. The Gigabyte comes with both the front headphones out and the volume control.

Specs Gigabyte GO-W0808A AOpen DRW8800 AAN
DVD+/-R Write speeds 8X8x
DVD+/-RW Write Speeds 4X4X
DVD-ROM read speeds 12X12X
CD-R write speeds 32X 32X
CD-RW rewrite speeds 16X16X
CD-ROM read speed 40X40X
Access time (DVD)160 ms 140 ms
Access time (CD) --120 ms
Cache size 2MB2 MB

As you can see, specs wise the two drives are nearly twins. This isn't surprising since most drives today have nearly identical specifications, and even performance is very close.

Of note is the length of the Gigabyte GO-W0808A - this is one of the shortest drives I've seen before at only 16.8cm in length (the AOpen 8080AAN is 18.8cm). Comparing to CDROM drives from Liteon, Samsung, and MSI the WO-0808A is 1cm shorter than the average. This makes it a nice choice for Small Form Fact barebones and other slim pcs, or just about any situation where the fit is tight.

Gigabyte WO-0808A on Left.

For a more dramatic comparison check out the picture below of the Gigabyte installed in the Soltek Qbic EQ3801a, compared to an older Pioneer DVD-ROM (which measures a whopping 20.2cm in length). That's a really tight fit!

Gigabyte's short lil' WO-0808A compared to an older Pioneer drive

Below are the Nero Info Tool reports for each of the drives:

Performance

To test performance we did raw burn tests to see how fast the drives could perform compared to their rated specs. The true performance of a drive is a combination of speed and quality. As an informal verification that burn quality was adequate, we verify that the discs are both readable and useable on a Samsung multi read DVD drive once they are burnt by copying and using the information on the burnt discs. This is not nearly as extensively as we'd like to test drives but time restrictions limit our options here. Each test was run 4 times and adveraged.

Before doing any testing we updated the firmware on the two drives to the latest available on their websites.

DVR+RW

DVD+RW performance was tested by burning a folder with 4.46GB of data onto an Optodisc

Drive DVD+RW Write Full Erase Quick Erase
Gigabyte GO-W0808A14:0514:2510sec
AOpen DRW8800 AAN 13:5914:035sec

DVD+R, DVD-R

The DVD+R/DVD-R tests were run using the same methodology as the DVD+RW tests.

Drive DVD+R DVD-R
Gigabyte GO-W0808A9:039:10
AOpen DRW8800 AAN 9:379:25

CD-R Performance

Because its nigh impossible to get 24X rated CD-RW media we were limited to CD-R performance testing alone. With the general concensus being that CD-RW is a dead end as far as reusable storage its no surprise that CD-RW discs are an endangered species in major chains like Best Buy and Future Shop.

Drive CD-R 40X
Gigabyte GO-W0808A3:11
AOpen DRW8800 AAN 3:17

The speed differences between the two drives is mostly negligeable. As with the DVD burns, I think most of you won't mind waiting a few seconds more or less between drive brands. However, this does show a consistency to the Gigabyte drive's slight speed lead.

CD Read Performance

For our CD read performance we run CD/DVD Speed using a pressed 70minute CD.

The performance between the two drives is nearly identical, and compared to other brands the average read speeds are pretty much on par.

DVD Read Performance

The story changes for DVD read performance. For this we run tests using a Single Layer and Dual Layer disc. Looking below you can see the results of our Dual Layer test:

The AOpen 8800AAN was unable to complete the test using our Single Layer disc. I couldn't find any other pressed single layer DVD's so could not show you comparison numbers. Further research suggests that part of the problem might be the resolved by a firmware update. The 8800 AAN is based on the NEC 2500A, a popular drive who's latest firmware revision also makes it more compatible with certain writeable DVD media.

For comparison later below with the burnt media, here's the results of the Gigabyte's Single Layer test:

DVD Writeable/ReWriteable Media Read Performance

The read performance on burnt media is still pretty good. Here the AOpen has no read compatibility problems whatsoever.

DVD+RW

DVD-R

This test is run using a DVD-R 8X Optodisc brand disc, which both burners are compatible with at 8X burning.

Media Compatibility

Here's where everything gets dicey. Media compatibility is where drives always have the most problems. Locally we have very limited access to media - the big chain stores sell mostly 4x rated DVD+R/DVD-R media, but for instance, Maxell 4X media sold by these big chains are reportedly able to burn more consistently at 8X then some 8X media sold in mom and pop shops. During our testing we tried various 4X or even "unrated" media and many of them defaulted to burn at 2.4X speeds. A firmware update solved some of the problems but the fact remains that some of the media being sold still is:

A) only rated up to 4X
B) might not even have a rating listed
C) might be rated somewhat "enthusiastically" by the manufacturer.

What about Dual Layer?

Right now in late September 2004, many Dual Layer burners are already available. With storage double that of 4.7GB single layer discs these drives become mighty tempting, until you factor in the ridiculous cost of Dual Layer media and the notoriously poor success rate of high speed burns on earlier firmware and drives. Take these factors into consideration:

- Dual Layer media costs up to 10X more than single layer media here in Canada, and likely elsewhere in the world there's at least a 5-10 factor in price difference
- Dual Layer burns at 4X speed, and some users are opting to burn at slower speeds to prevent burn problems
- With the Dual Layer media costing up to $10-16 Cdn and $5USD per disc, a bad burn is a very costly experiment.

The bottom line? The cost of Dual Layer, the slower burn times, and the higher risk of failure during burns hardly makes it cost or time effective for backups at this time.

Still, the drives themselves are only a very small amount more expensive than similar non-Dual Layer capable burners. This makes non-Dual Layer 12-16X burners already less appealing, must less then 8X ones.

However, what makes sense still is the fact that there is some small cost savings in 8X and 12X drives. Video cards and motherboards are sometimes differentiated by as little as $10-20, so why can't burners have the same distinctions?

Conclusion

8X burners are the staple of the cost conscious purchaser. Lack of media faster than 8X DVD+R/DVD-R and 4X DVD+RW/DVD-RW in many areas further reinforces the Gigabyte and AOPen 8800AAN as good product choices for those looking for a low cost, fast, and reliable backup and storage solution. The two perform nearly at identical levels and its tough to choose between the two of them, so I won't. The two are equally good and you should likely choose between the two on other factors. I would lean towards the Gigabyte WO-0808A because of its smaller size and its somewhat better media compatibility in our tests. The size is a significant factor for many of you because of the popularity of SFF.

When looking at 8X or 12X burners I would suggest de-emphasizing performance as a major decision maker. As we've seen, both these drives are so close that for the most part its an irrelevant factor. Instead, focus on cost, availability, and media compatibility. AOpen has an excellent website full of information about this product - I commend their web team for providing such thorough product details. The Gigabyte website has somewhat less information. And both sites should include more thorough media compatibility lists. Working with AOpen I was able to get the proper media to do the tests - thanks to AOpen for this help.

»Neoseeker.com

Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc., 1999-2014.
All Rights Reserved.

Please do not redistribute or use this article in whole, or in part, for commercial purposes.