Although the inner workings may change a bit here and there, the outside has generally not changed save for a few slot-loading drives that Plextor and Pioneer used a few years back. Asus' logo is featured prominently on the drive door, with assorted other graphics that quickly list the drive's abilities: CD & DVD playback, reading, and writing capabilities, as well as Lightscribe. A single eject button provides the only user input, and an access light the output. Typically, an emergency eject pin-hole is found on optical drives, and Asus placed theirs just above the eject button. Perhaps the only major change for those who haven't been down this road just yet, are the two SATA connections on the rear of the drive; one each for data and power.
The DRW-2014L1T utiliizes some of Asus' own technologies to ensure the fastest operation at the quietest speeds including FlextraSpeed and Quiettrack. Flextraspeed combines the word "flexible" with "strategic speed", and according to Asus it continuously monitors the media and sets the optimal writing speed to esnure a quality burn. Running at optimal speeds leads to benefits such as lower noise and longer motor life, essentially protecting the drive over the long haul. In addition to FlextraSpeed, the use of AFFM (Air Flow Field Modification) and AVRS (Auto Vibration Reducing System) techniques lead to a lower noise output. AFFM distributes the airflow within the drive equally, keeping the rapidly rotating disc balanced properly, thus minimizing spindle noise. AVRS also helps here by utilizing active ball-balancing to reduce vibrations caused by unbalanced discs.
Initially booting into Windows after installing the drive led to no issues; the drive was recognized in Explorer and showed up in the benchmark software. However, after our attempt at reading a DVD+R disc, we heard some grinding noises and the drive failed to operate after that, sometimes preventing Windows from even booting, other times failing to read and/or burn DVDs of all varieties. We received a new drive from Asus that resolved many of these issues, although the noise when recognizing a DVD still sounded like an uncomfortable clunking and grinding. Oddly, other than this noise, reading and writing and using the drive was mostly a quiet affair.
Like most of the drives seen today, the Asus DRW-2014L1T ships with a black bezel, however it is the only drive in our round-up to also include an alternate white colored bezel as well. It also included four small screws for installing the drive into a chassis. The drop in prices, it seems, has also led to most manufacturers cutting back on accessories such as software and media, but Asus included NERO 7 Essentials which will at least get the user some functionality for their new drive with no added cost. There's also a printed manual (in 33 languages!) for those that need additional help.
Using NERO Infotool, part of the NERO 8 Ultimate Suite, we can get a quick picture of what each drive can and can't do. The latest version supports not only CD and DVD drives, but HD-DVD and Blu-Ray as well, as the latter drives will start to increase in popularity as prices continue to drop. Shown in the screen capture above, the DRW-2014L1T is using the original version of the Firmware. We checked Asus's website for any updates, but found that there were no later versions. The buffer size is a mere 2MB, but this is the norm for most drives today. It's actually easier to list the non-supported features here, as only writing to CD-Text, CD+G, C2Error and DVD-ROM are not capable with this drive. The general features lists buffer underun protection, (what used to be called Flextralink) and LightScribe as additional capabilities.