LG Electronics GSA-4040B review: LG Electronics GSA-4040B

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MSRP: $169.95
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Supports DVD-RAM as well as DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW.

The Bad Doesn't accept DVD-RAM discs in protective cartridges.

The Bottom Line LG Electronics's competitively priced GSA-4040B is the first drive on the market to support all five DVD formats.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.4 Overall
  • Setup and ease of use 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 7.0

Review summary

It was inevitable. With Sony, Pioneer, and others offering up drives that support DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW formats, some company was bound to take the next step and add DVD-RAM to the mix--hence, LG Electronics's GSA-4040B. Why DVD-RAM? Many digital-video recorders, such as Panasonic's DMR-E20, use the niche media for its ability to record and play back simultaneously, and the GSA-4040B makes it fairly easy to transfer DVD-RAM files to your computer. While it turned in an uneven performance in our tests, it is priced very competitively, and despite a few gripes, the GSA-4040B is the most versatile, capable optical drive you can get--at least for now. It took us about 10 minutes to install the GSA-4040B--about the same time as for any drive. Unlike many vendors, LG Electronics includes all three of the major installation accessories: mounting screws, an IDE cable, and a drive-to-sound-card audio cable. The illustrated, multilingual setup guide describes the install process sufficiently, but it has nothing about the bundled mastering and packet-writing software. The GSA-4040B is compatible with both PCs and Macs, but the drive ships only with software for Windows 98 SE onward--nothing for Macs. The drive does not support Microsoft's Mount Rainier technology.

The company bundles reliable software with the GSA-4040B: two titles from BHA, B's Recorder Gold 5.02 for CD/DVD mastering and B's Clip 5.02 for packet writing; NeoDVDplus 5.0 for producing VCD/DVD movies; and CyberLink's PowerDVD XP 4.0 for DVD movie and file playback. You have to install each application separately, but it's a fairly quick process.

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The GSA-4040B comes with a nice collection of quick-to-install software.

Support for all five DVD formats is the GSA-4040B's chief distinction, but it also sports a dazzling array of feeds and speeds: 12X CD-RW, 24X CD-R, 4X DVD-R and +R, 2X DVD-RW, and 3X DVD-RAM (which is closer to 1.5X with DVD-RAM's default-verify cycle enabled). Only the 2.4X DVD+RW writing is last-generation; Sony's DRU-510A and other comparable drives now write +RW at 4X.

DVD-RAM fans, take note: The GSA-4040B won't accept DVD-RAM's protective cartridges, which contribute to the media's 100,000-rewrite potential. Separated from its cartridge, a DVD-RAM's rewrite rating drops to about the same as DVD-/+RW media's--around 1,000 rewrites.

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BHA's B's Recorder Gold 5.0 supports the full range of the GSA-4040B's DVD-recording capabilities.

The physical features of the drive include the usual front-panel eject button and emergency eject port and, in back, IDE and power connectors, digital and analog audio ports, and drive jumpers. Light sleepers can rejoice; LG Electronics has equipped the GSA-4040B with an exceptionally quiet and sturdy media tray. But why no front-panel headphone jack or volume control? Companies may claim that people don't use these features, but we consider it a bit tightfisted to leave them off of a high-ticket item.

The GSA-4040B's performance writing our 383MB test file with DVD+RW media and reading the same file with DVD-RW was above average. Unfortunately, it performed slower than the competition in the majority of our tests. It fell behind significantly when reading back our 500MB test folder from DVD+RW, averaging just more than 1MB per second. It's likely that BHA's packet-writing software is behind the drive's weak DVD+RW performance.

Movie write test (MB/sec)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Write a movie to write-once media  
TDK InDVD 440N (4X DVD+R)
4.94 
Plextor PX-504A (4X DVD+R)
4.65 
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (4X DVD-R)
4.16 
Sony DRU-510A (4X DVD-R)
3.15 
TDK InDVD 440N (4X DVD-R)
3.13 
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (4X DVD+R)
2.75 
Note: Compression rates vary depending on the drives' bundled software.

Data write tests (MB/sec)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media  
Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media  
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (4X DVD+RW)
3.10 
2.15 
TDK InDVD 440N (4X DVD+RW)
2.98 
3.03 
Plextor PX-504A (4X DVD+RW)
2.90 
3.65 
Sony DRU-510A (4X DVD-RW)
2.64 
2.61 
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (4X DVD-RW)
2.36 
2.10 
TDK InDVD 440N (4X DVD-RW)
2.33 
2.16 
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (3X DVD-RAM)
1.68 
1.53 

Data read tests (MB/sec)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Copy a 383MB file from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Copy a 500MB directory from rewritable media to the hard drive  
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (4x DVD-RW)
6.42 
3.73 
Sony DRU-510A (4x DVD+RW)
5.28 
3.80 
Sony DRU-510A (4x DVD-RW)
5.26 
3.16 
Plextor PX-504A (4x DVD+RW)
5.26 
3.02 
TDK InDVD 440N (4x DVD+RW)
5.20 
2.61 
TDK InDVD 440N (4x DVD-RW)
4.46 
2.97 
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (4x DVD+RW)
3.12 
1.41 
LG Electronics GSA-4040B (3x DVD-RAM)
2.54 
2.73 
Note: Due to an error in our calculations, we originally published slightly innaccurate data-read results in this review. The scores have been corrected.

All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media submitted by the manufacturer and with &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Everbatim%2Ecom" target="_blank">Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. Find out more about how we test optical drives.

Online support for the GSA-4040B hadn't been implemented in time for this review. If LG Electronics's support for the GSA-4020B is any indication of what's to come, information will be elusive--but worth the search. Once you locate your product on the Web site, LG Electronics offers a good collection of firmware updates, manuals, and tech help via e-mail. LG Electronics backs the GSA-4040B with a one-year warranty. Lifetime, toll-free telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

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Tech support is buried within LG Electronics's site, but it's well worth the search.

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