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Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164 USB 2.0 drive review: Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164 USB 2.0 drive

Editors' note: Due to incompatibility between the Samsung drive and CNET Lab's official test bed (the drive required us to update the BIOS on our motherboard), we tested the drive on an alternate test bed. (Please refer to the notes at the end of the performance charts for details about that test bed.) Otherwise, the Samsung drive was tested using the same methodology we use for other optical drives. We also retested the Iomega 16X SuperDVD Writer USB 2.0 drive on the alternate test bed to provide a point of comparison.


Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164 USB 2.0 drive

The Good

Impressive 5X double-layer write rating; fast single- and double-layer burning; useful software bundle; handy drive stand.

The Bad

Slow double-layer ripping.

The Bottom Line

The no-frills WriteMaster SE-W164C isn't the fastest DVD burner around, but its decent overall performance and reasonable price make it a solid choice for casual users.
Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164C USB 2.0 optical drive

Samsung's new WriteMaster SE-W164C USB 2.0 DVD burner squeaks one step past the competition by offering a 5X DVD+R double-layer write speed, rather than the 4X speed currently touted by most rival DVD drives. This slight speed advantage helped the external, USB 2.0-based drive burn a 7.9GB movie at a faster clip than the Iomega 16X SuperDVD Writer USB 2.0 drive. Unfortunately, the SE-W164C's slow double-layer rip drags it down a bit. But in light of the drive's reasonable price and decent overall speed in other areas, it stands as a reasonable solution for home and small-business users who'll use it only occasionally.

Samsung imbues the WriteMaster SE-W164C with a bit more flair than the typical beige-colored drive, making the device out of black plastics with a sculpted silver band around its edges. The drive's face features the usual LED status light, emergency-eject pinhole, and standard eject button. Its back edge contains USB 2.0 and AC adapter ports, along with an on/off switch. The SE-W164C's flat top means you can stack other drives on it, and the separate, included stand allows you to set the device on its side to conserve desk space. Alas, Iomega did not include a headphone jack or a volume control dial on the drive.

Due to its handy external design, plug-and-play USB interface, and included installation guide, the Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164C is exceptionally easy to install (unless, of course, you have to update your BIOS, as we did). The process entails little more than attaching the included power and USB cables to the drive and your computer. Flip the drive's power switch, and the device shows up in your system's registry. You can insert the bundled CD to access the electronic user manual, which provides further information on the drive. You can also use the CD to install the helpful included software, which consists of our Editors' Choice-winning Nero 6.0 suite of apps, including burning programs, a media player, and a video editor.

The WriteMaster SE-W164C's main claim to fame is its 5X double-layer DVD+R write speed, which bests the former double-layer maximum speed of 4X. Otherwise, the drive features fairly standard speed ratings across the board. Those speeds include 4X for DVD-R writing; 16X for single-layer DVD+/-R writing and DVD-ROM reading; 48X for CD writing and reading; and 8X for DVD-RW reading and writing, as well as DVD-RW reading; and 6X for DVD-RW writing.

In CNET Labs' benchmarks, the WriteMaster SE-W164C performed on a par with its manufacturer's speed ratings. The drive burned a 7.9GB movie to a double-layer +R DVD in a quick 21:46 (min:sec), a good 5 minutes faster than the 4X DL DVD+R burn time of the Iomega 16X SuperDVD Writer USB 2.0 drive. However, the Samsung's double-layer rip time of 22:55 was more than 5 minutes slower than the Iomega's 17:05. The Iomega also ripped single-layer DVDs and wrote to DVD+RWs a few seconds faster than the Samsung. However, the latter beat the former by several seconds when it came to single-layer DVD burning, as well as audio CD ripping and burning.

DVD movie rip/burn tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
4.4GB DVD Video burn test  
4.4GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)  

Double-layer DVD movie rip/burn tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
7.9GB DVD Video burn test  
7.9GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)  
* The Samsung drive writes to 2.4X DVD+R double-layer media at 5X
** The Iomega drive writes to 2.4X DVD+R double-layer media at 4X

CD Audio rip/burn tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
74:35 CD Audio burn test  
74:35 CD Audio rip test  

RW read/write tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
4.22GB RW write test  
4.22GB RW read test  

Unless otherwise mentioned, all write tests are run with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. Find out more about how we test optical drives. Due to an incompatibility with the Samsung drive and our regular DVD burner test bed, we tested the Samsung and comparison Iomega drives on an AMD Athlon 64 FX-57-based system, with 1,024MB of system memory, an Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX SLI graphics cards, two Western Digital WD740GD SATA hard drives in a RAID 0 array, and running Windows XP Professional SP2.

Samsung offers the standard one-year warranty with the WriteMaster SE-W164C, plus a toll-free tech support number--but keep in mind that the line is available during the limited hours of Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m., PT. At press time, the company's support Web site didn't have resources specific to the SE-W164C, though you can peruse the support site for general optical disc drive FAQs, warranty information, and software/driver downloads.


Samsung WriteMaster SE-W164 USB 2.0 drive

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 6Performance 7Support 5