Our first impressions start with the front panel of the DRW-0804P, appropriately so since it will be the only portion of the drive that we will see on a regular basis. As shown in the picture, the front plate is cast in bone-white, so it will not exactly match standard beige cases (remember those?) Checking in recently on Newegg.com, we've found out that Asus should also be releasing a black bezel model sometime around the time this article is published, albeit at a slightly higher price. The main points of the front panel are enumerated as follows: 1) a emergency eject pinhole, 2) a LED indicator, 3) the drive tray, and 4) the load/eject button. The drive tray and eject/load button are straightforward: hit the button to open the tray, insert CD-ROM or DVD, hit button a second time to load the disc. I think we've all got that down by now. The LED indicator is just that - it indicates what status the drive is currently in. When not lit, there are no discs currently in the drive. A yellow light indicates a disc in the drive, yet not being accessed, which turns green when reading or writing. Finally, we've got the pinhole, that when combined with the included emergency eject pin can be used to manually eject a CD should there be a lack of power to the drive, or other malfunction. Please note, however, that this should never be used when the drive is powered and/or the disc is spinning.
The back of the drive houses the various interfaces that we will use to connect the drive to other system components. The four pins (1) to the far left are for the audio output, and this is where the provided audio cable will be plugged in. The next set of pins (2) are the configuration jumper, which allows the drive to be set as the Master, Slave, or left as Cable Select. The final two connectors are used for attaching the 40-pin IDE cable (4) and an unused power plug (5) from the power supply unit. The circular arrangement of slots (5) comprise an air vent for the escape of heat from the drive, especially when used for an extended period of time at high speeds. We've been seeing these kind of vents more and more with newer drives, and it should help extend the life of such components.
Overall, the drive seemed to be of good construction, and we didn't get any odd noises when tilting the drive on an angle. The tray was set solidly on the tracks, and didn't feel like it could easily be broken during normal use. Like the bezel, the tray was cast in white, and can accommodate both 8cm and 12cm discs. One thing to note was the insulation that was placed around the door, and can be seen in the close-up on the right. This layer of insulation is used to cut down on the noise created by the spinning discs from reaching the user. Combined with Asus' Double Dynamic Suspension System II (DDSSII), we found that normal operation of the drive was indeed quiet and unobtrusive.
The drive can be mounted either horizontally or vertically, although most cases will probably be using the orientation shown above. In a typical case, the drive would be mounted into an open 5 1/4" bay, using the four mounting screws to attach the drive to the chassis. The user's manual covers a number of scenarios depending on the number and type of drives already in the system. In our test system, we have a Western Digital