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ASUS DRW0402P/D DVD+/R/RW Drive Review
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Date: Jan 28, 2004
Section:Storage
Author: HH Editor
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ASUS DRW0402P/D DVD+/R/RW Drive Review - Page 1

 

ASUS DRW-0402P/D DVD±R/RW Drive Review
High Capacity on a Budget

By Chris Angelini
January 28, 2004

It's hard to believe that the very first DVD writers were priced in the neighborhood of $16,000, especially considering the current landscape of low-cost optical hardware.  There's still a market for high-end recording equipment, though.  Just look at Sony's BDZ-S77 Blu-Ray recorder, which debuted last year with an MSRP of $3,800.  But not everyone needs (or even wants) a 31-pound drive for burning $30, 23GB disks. In fact, it only really makes sense to buy the tools that best serve your needs.

A year ago, most pre-built computer systems included high-speed CD-RW drives.  And while many still feature the stagnant technology, it's much more common to see medium and high-end systems with a DVD±R/RW drive.  The very latest models, such as Plextor's PX-708A, burn at up to 8x, good enough to fill a 4.7GB DVD+R disc in about eight minutes.  Speed like that comes at a price of course and Plextor's drive approaches the $200 mark online. 

Thus, if you really want to be able to burn DVD's, but don't want to shell out the admission fee for the newest 8x drives out there, consider one of the many 4x drives which, while not as peppy, are capable of writing DVDs in well under 20 minutes. ASUS' DRW-0402P/D is a perfect example, and it can be found for about $110 online. It doesn't break any speed records but a combination of respectable performance and low cost, add appeal to this otherwise dated drive.

  

Specifications of the ASUS' DRW-0402P/D
Older technology, but still highly capable
Model: DRW-0402P/D
Interface: ATAPI / IDE
Data Buffer Memory: 2MB
Average Access Time: DVD: 140ms
Average Access Time: CD: 130ms

Data Transfer Rates:
     DVD+R Write: 4x, 2.4x (CLV)
     DVD-R Write: 4x, 2x, 1x (CLV)
     DVD+RW Write: 2.4x (CLV)
     DVD-RW Write: 2x, 1x (CLV)
     DVD Read: Up to 12x (CAV)
     CD-R Write: 16x, 12x, 8x, 4x (CLV)
     CD-RW Write: 10x, 4x (CLV)
     CD Read: Up to 32x (CAV)
 
Supported Formats: DVD Single/Dual layer discs, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM Mode 1, CD-ROM/XA Mode 2 (form 1, form 2), Photo CD, CD-DA, CD-Extra, Video CD, CD-Text

Recording Modes: DVD-R: DAO, Incremental Recording, Multi-Border Recording, DVD-RW: Restricted Overwriting, DVD+R: Incremental Recording, DVD+RW: Random Recording, CD-R/RW: DAO, TAO, SAO, Packet Write

Buffer Management: Buffer Underrun Protection technology prevents buffer underrun errors, allowing user to multi-task during recording.
OS Compatibility: Windows XP/NT/ME/2000/98SE (no Mt. Rainier support)
Audio Output: .7±.2Vrms
Power Requirement: +12V DC and +5V DC, Tolerance: ±5%
Mounting Orientation: Horizontal or Vertical, ±5 degrees
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 148mm x 42.3mm x 198mm
 (5.9" x 1.6" x 7.8")
Weight: 1,100 grams (about 2.4 lbs.)
Temperature: operating: 5-45° C, storage -20-60° C
Humidity: operating: 5%-85% (non-condensing), storage 5%-90% (non-condensing)
Vibration: operating: .2G peak (at 10-300Hz), storage 1.5G peak (at 10-300Hz)
MTBF: 60,000 hours, Operating Duty Cycle (Read) 20% POH, Operating Duty Cycle (Write) 2% POH



Bundled Media and Software
The whole package

ASUS' bundle leaves little to complain about.  It includes everything you'd need to get started, including blank CD and DVD media, in addition to the prerequisite hardware and software.  The comprehensive instruction manual features 25 pages of operational data and in-depth specifications.  Even if you've never installed an optical drive, the manual provides enough guidance to streamline the process.  Alternatively, a quick install guide breaks the whole process down into 12 steps. All of the necessary mounting hardware (screws, data, and audio cables) comes in a plastic baggie. Installation itself is as easy as sliding the drive in an empty bay, securing it to your chassis, connecting relevant cables, and selecting the drive's Slave or Master status on the back. 

  • ASUS DRW-0402P/D DVD±R/RW Drive
  • Cable set (one 40-pin IDE ribbon cable, four screws and an audio cable)
  • Bundled software (ASUS DVD Player, Ulead DVD Movie Factory 2 SE, Sonic DLA, and Sonic RecordNow DX
  • One blank DVD+R and one blank 52x CD-R
  • Manual
  • Quick installation guide
  • Emergency eject pin and instructions

The bundled software suite is fairly unconventional.  Sonic's RecordNow DX, which is customized for the DRW-0402P/D, enables the creation of data, audio, and video discs, similar to Ahead's NERO or Roxio Easy CD and DVD Creator. It has a Wizard for simplified recording or advanced users can utilize the more detailed interface.  Although RecordNow DX seems to be a capable application, subjective preference has us wishing ASUS had tapped Ahead's NERO Burning ROM as its primary bundled utility.

Sonic RecordNow

The second Sonic application that comes with ASUS' DRW-0402P/D is "DLA", or Drive Letter Access.  It disables Windows XP's native drag-and-drop interface, implementing its own packet writing scheme.  It is, for the most part, transparent as you use your optical drive as you would a floppy disk or hard drive.  Moreover, DLA is able to format disks and burn a finalized copy.

One of the primary attractions of a DVD±R/RW drive is the ability to backup movies.  Learning how to copy DVD movies from your cinematic collection is actually a fairly involved process.  However, Ulead's DVD MovieFactory 2 SE makes it possible to create and burn home videos with MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVI, VOB, or Apple QuickTime files.  If you have a camcorder or VCR connected to your PC, the Disc-Direct feature captures and encodes your video stream in real-time and burns it to either a VCD or DVD.  Unfortunately, the version that ASUS includes isn't the full program, and it isn't even up to date as Ulead already released its DVD MovieFactory 3 Disc Creator software.  

Ulead MovieFactory 2 SE and AsusDVD
 

The final piece of bundled software is ASUS' own ASUSDVD XP playback software, which is based on the CyberLink PowerDVD decoder.  It plays DVD movies, VCDs, SVCDs or video files stored on your hard drive.  As with most OEM versions of PowerDVD,  ASUSDVD XP only offers 2-channel audio output, limiting its utility in a multi-channel setup.  Thus, while all of the software included with the DRW-0402P/D works well, the useful bits require an additional investment for full functionality.

 

ASUS' DRW-0402P/D 

 

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ASUS DRW0402P/D DVD+/R/RW Drive Review - Page 2

 

ASUS DRW-0402P/D DVD±R/RW Drive Review
High Capacity on a Budget

By Chris Angelini
January 28, 2004

ASUS' DRW-0402P/D DVD±R/RW Drive
It's as clear as black and white


The DRW-0402P/D is a pretty straightforward drive.  Its beige front bezel features a single LED used for indicating activity, while a lone button is responsible for ejecting the loading tray.  There are a couple of ventilation slits for circulating air, and a small hole accommodates the included emergency-eject tool (incidentally, ASUS recommends using the emergency-eject feature as a last resort).  Otherwise the only other markings on the front of the DRW-0402P/D indicate the drive's compliance with both DVD-R and DVD+R formats, in addition to standard CD-R duties.  There's no headphone jack or volume control, which shouldn't be a problem considering the frequency of those features on modern cases. 

Aesthetically, the drive is fairly blasé.  Of course, if you're into the beige box look, it'll match the rest of your equipment.  And for conservative OEM purposes, the simplistic front bezel is a blessing.  Whereas Plextor touts the benefits of its black disk tray for minimizing errors, the ASUS drive sports a standard beige tray.  Nevertheless, the DRW-0402P/D maneuvered through our test suite with ease, despite its drive tray. 

      

The back of ASUS' DRW-0402P/D is laid out intuitively.  The power connector and IDE interface are both obvious additions, as are the jumper switches and analog audio outputs.  Actual jumper settings are etched into the back of the drive for easy installation. Finally, a circular arrangement of slits provide ventilation to the drive's rear. 

Unfortunately, there isn't a digital S/PDIF audio output, a feature that would normally correspond to the S/PDIF input on many higher-end sound cards.  Notice the foam padding that ASUS uses to muffle the noise created when the drive closes.  On our Plextor PX-708A 8x DVD+R burner, that material is actually on the inside of the loading tray.  It's a nice touch that results in a solid, yet subdued finish. 

  

  

As advertised, the DRW-0402P/D burns both DVD-R and DVD+R discs at 4x, or about 5.5MB per second.  In the event that you only have access to older media, its DVD+R performance (2.4x) is slightly better than the maximum DVD-R setting (2x).  Perhaps the most disappointing specification is a 16x ceiling for writing CD-R's, which nowadays fly along at at least 32 or 40x.  In the following section, we'll quantify this number so you can see exactly how long it'll take to copy your favorite audio CD at 16x.  Note also that the ±RW settings are lower than the write-once speeds.  It isn't unusual to see slower re-write options, but you should certainly be aware that such a task will consume roughly half an hour.  The last important observation, which was previously mentioned, is that the DRW-0402P/D doesn't support the Mt. Rainier write mode.

Pushing the DRW-0402P/D...  

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ASUS DRW0402P/D DVD+/R/RW Drive Review - Page 3

 

ASUS DRW-0402P/D DVD±R/RW Drive Review
High Capacity on a Budget

By Chris Angelini
January 28, 2004

CD/DVD Performance Tests
Nero Burning ROM Ultra 6


Nero CD-DVD Speed - CD Data Test:

In our first run of Nero CD-DVD Speed we'll focus our efforts on standard CD-ROM performance.  With this benchmark, we loaded a 698MB CD-R full of .mp3 files in the drive and let CD-DVD Speed run through its cycle of tests.  As you browse these charts, be aware that the green line through each reflects the corresponding drive's transfer rate and the yellow line indicates rotational velocity. 


ASUS DRW-0402P/D

ASUS DRW-0402P

Plextor PX-708A

Interestingly, the DRW-0402P/D and DRW-0402P perform nearly identically in the CD data read test, attaining the same start, finish, and average speeds, which actually top out above the rated maximum, 32x.  Both drives share fairly low CPU usage attributes and relatively bad seek times, though not the worst we've seen.  Keep in mind that even while the Plextor drive sports higher read times, better access rates, and a better burst speed, it's also significantly more expensive that the ASUS offering.


Nero CD-DVD Speed - CD Audio Test:

To test each drive's audio extraction performance, we used the Apollo 13 soundtrack, composed by James Horner.  In order to determine how well each drive extracts audio tracks, sectors are copied to the hard drive from three different locations on the CD.  The same sectors are read again and compared to the sectors written to the hard drive.  Depending on the number of differences, the DAE quality will be rated from 0 to 10, with 10 being a perfect score.


ASUS DRW-0402P/D

ASUS DRW-0402P

Plextor PX-708A

Whereas the Plextor PX-708A maintains a uniform rotational velocity and access pattern, both ASUS drives perform erratically here.  Based on the number of tracks and the spacing of the dips, it seems logical that both ASUS drives might have been slowing down at the beginning of each track, quickly recovering to resume prior performance.  Further subjective testing revealed that playback was still smooth, despite the odd behavior. All three drives scored perfect 10's for digital audio extraction, though the ASUS models still looked to suffer high seek times and low burst rates.


Nero CD-DVD Speed - DVD Data Test:

In the next two tests we focused on the drive's DVD reading performance.  Each drive is configured to perform differently based on whether a DVD movie or DVD data disk is inserted in the drive.  We started by placing in a DVD+R containing 4.4GB of large files (a couple of CD images) and smaller files (folders full of .mp3 music).
 


ASUS DRW-0402P/D

ASUS DRW-0402P

Plextor PX-708A

Both ASUS drives perform similarly for the third time.  That is, they start reading at nearly 5x, slowly creeping up to 6.5x.  Once again, the seek times were nothing to write home about, especially compared to the incredibly competent PX-708A.  Unfortunately, the DRW-0402P had a problem completing the Full seek time test, which persisted despite a re-installation of Nero.  All three drives posted surprisingly high CPU utilization numbers.

CD-R/DVD+R Write Tests & Conclusion  

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ASUS DRW0402P/D DVD+/R/RW Drive Review - Page 4

 

ASUS DRW-0402P/D DVD±R/RW Drive Review
High Capacity on a Budget

By Chris Angelini
January 28, 2004

CD/DVD Write Tests
How does the DRW-0402P/D stack up?

Nero CD-R Write Analysis:

DVD media is still fairly expensive, so CDs are still the most attractive media for backup, and of course, burning music.  Thus, we created a Nero compilation that consisted of 698MB of .mp3 files to test each drive's CD-writing capabilities. 

It's easy to criticize the DRW-0402P/D's 16x burning speed. After all, Plextor's PX-708A is rated at 40x. Taken in context, however, the real-world difference comes out to two and a half minutes between the two.  If you're used to a dedicated 52x CD-R drive, backing up to 16x is going to be unpleasant.  But if you're still tolerating an 8x or 16x writer, ASUS' DRW-0402P/D should still do the trick.

Nero DVD±R Write Analysis:

We performed a similar test to measure DVD writing performance, this time using a mixture of large files and smaller music files.  Additionally, because the DRW-0402P only supports DVD-R, we used a 4x Memorex -R disc to evaluate that drive.

Flying along at 8x, the Plextor PX-708A fills an entire DVD+R disc in little more than eight minutes.  The same process takes more than 14 minutes on the ASUS drives, which, unlike the prior test, is a significant difference.  Therefore, if you anticipate writing a fair number of DVD discs, stepping up to an 8x drive will make a significant difference. 


When  you look at the ASUS DRW-0402P/D, "value" should be your first thought.  It's an average performer, but it supports the most popular formats at an attractive price point.  It lacks support for Mt. Rainier, a technology that enables native operating system support of data storage on CD-RW and DVD±RW drives, but benefits from buffer underrun protection.  ASUS did a great job documenting the drive and given the few firmware updates on their site, they are supporting their customers as well.

It should also be noted that although Plextor's PX-708A appeared to sweep all of the performance benchmarks, it didn't do so perfectly.  Until we found the right combination of software and firmware (the latest version of Nero and the latest firmware for the Plextor drive), we were burning coaster after coaster.  Considering that DVD media averages more than $1 per disc, that's an expensive proposition.  Fortunately, it seems that Plextor has helped stabilize the PX-708A through consistent firmware updates.  On the same note, neither ASUS drive behaved perfectly, either.  The DRW-0402P/D, the star of our show, failed to burn the Saving Private Ryan using DVD X Copy, perhaps the most popular piece of mainstream software for copying encrypted DVD movies.  Meanwhile, the DRW-0402P choked up on the Nero DVD Data test.  Sadly, with so many manufacturers, brands of media, and demanding software applications, it's hard to guarantee unconditional compatibility.  ASUS has a good track record for supporting its products though, so there's a good chance that if problems are identified, they'll be fixed in short order.

Overall, it's difficult to place a final judgment on the DRW-0402P/D, a 4x DVD±R/RW drive competing in a market slowly filling with 8x drives.  Fortunately, new technology always comes at a premium, and while Plextor's PX-708A sells for a minimum of $190 online, you can find ASUS' top offering priced at about $125.  If value is your bottom line, pricey 8x drives might not even be an option, in which case ASUS' 0402P/D fits the bill.  Performance still reigns supreme, however.  If you anticipate burning a lot of DVD media, spend the extra $70 and get a newer 8x writer.

Although the DRW-0402P/D is an older drive, it's still ASUS' flagship DVD writer.  It's priced attractively, performs as advertised, and is extremely well-documented.  Nevertheless, the passing of time has seen the introduction of new technology, relegating the 0402P/D to the bargain bin.  NEC's ND-2500A ($125) burns DVDs at 8x, and although it isn't quite as fast as the Plextor drive, it'd probably be a better value than this ASUS drive we've shown you here today.

The Asus DRW-0402P/D earns a HotHardware Heat Meter rating of...  

 

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