In a market where DVD burners are already viewed as a commodity, it's tough to stand out in the crowd. However, BenQ's DW1620 distinguishes itself as one of the first drives to write DVD-R at 16X. Also, like a number of other optical drives, the drive can write at top speed with select slower-rated 8X media. However, while the DW1620 sets new records for burning recordable discs and is an appealing product, the results aren't that much faster than what you'll get from cheaper 8X and 12X recorders. More on that later.
The plain-face, putty-color BenQ DW1620 is the usual size for a 5.25-inch drive (not short-profile like drives such as Sony's). The front of the unit has a power/record light, an eject button, and an emergency-eject port (a small hole you can push through with a paper clip to free trapped discs). But, as usual these days, there neither a headphone jack nor a track-advance button. The back of the unit is home to the normal array of connectors--IDE cable and digital and analog audio--and the drive designation jumpers (master/slave or cable select).
The installation process for the DW1620 is the same as that of any internal IDE DVD burner, requiring an aptitude on your part for handling a screwdriver, along with a lack of techno-fear. There's no paper setup sheet or guide to help out first-timers, so you'll need to browse the Web for instructions if this is your first time mucking with the inside of a computer (you can turn to CNET's guide to installing a burner for help). BenQ includes an IDE cable and an audio cable, as well as mounting screws--not many companies include all three in these days of cutthroat pricing.
BenQ takes a route less traveled with its software bundle, too, opting for a combination of Sonic's RecordNow and InterVideo's WinCinema suite. RecordNow handles data and audio CD/DVD mastering, and the WinCinema suite contains WinDVD Recorder for DVD movie playback and recording (off of a TV tuner, if one's available) and WinDVD Creator for DVD movie authoring. While not as popular asor , the bundle covers nearly all the bases and is easy to use. BenQ includes its BookType Manager, so you can set the drive to finalize discs as DVD-ROM video instead of DVD-R/+R video for better compatibility with set-top players and older DVD-ROM drives.
As we mentioned up front, the BenQ DW1620 is a fast burner. It wrote our 4.4GB test image to DVD+R in a mere 6 minutes, 8 seconds--12 seconds faster than Plextor's12X burner and 38 seconds faster than Memorex's . Those aren't earth-shaking disparities, and there's a reason: the DW1620 ramps up to full 16X late in the write process, starting at a modest 6X and gradually increasing speed as the burn proceeds. We're not bashing the DW1620--all drives faster than 8X use similar multispeed write schemes. DVD-R writing was quick as well, with the Disc Done dialog popping up after a mere 6 minutes, 15 seconds.