Samsung WriteMaster TS-H552B review: Samsung WriteMaster TS-H552B

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The Good Speedy ripping across the board; fast audio-CD and single-layer DVD burning; toll-free phone support.

The Bad DL write speed maxes out at 2.4X; mediocre DL write scores; skimpy documentation; limited phone-support hours.

The Bottom Line The TS-H552B offers merely decent DL performance, but its speedy scores with single-layer media could attract those seeking a well-rounded DL drive.

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6.8 Overall

With its aging 2.4X double-layer (DL) write speed, the Samsung WriteMaster TS-H552B could hardly be considered the master DL burner on the market. Newer drives, such as the Pioneer DVR-A08XL and the Asus DRW-1604P, offer 4X DL write speeds that resulted in far faster DL burn times in CNET Labs' tests. But the Samsung offset its middling DL write time with respectable scores in several other areas, including DL ripping and audio-CD burning. Unless your only interest lies in getting the fastest double-layer burning available, the TS-H552B provides a speedy overall experience.

Samsung stuck to the straight and narrow with the TS-H552B's design. The drive offers all of the standards seen in most internal drives--eject button, emergency-eject pinhole, minuscule LED status light--plus a boring beige faceplate that will conflict with darker computers. The TS-H552B includes no connectors beyond its IDE interface, while other drives, such as the NEC ND-3500A, provide an S/PDIF digital audio-out port.

The no-pain, no-gain installation process for an internal IDE drive such as the TS-H552B forces you to crack open your case and seat the drive before you can reap its speed benefits. The TS-H552B's hard-copy quick-start guide provides little help in this area; it's long, but that's only because it reprints the same limited information in no fewer than 10 different languages. You'll likely have more luck with CNET's own how-to guide on installing drives.

Along with the TS-H552B, Samsung bundles an Express version of Nero's useful 6.0 Ultra Edition, which we like for burning tasks. The drive also includes a few more so-so software titles: pared-down versions of InterVideo's WinDVD Recorder and WinDVD Creator for playing, capturing, editing, and recording video to DVDs; and InterVideo's DVD Copy for converting video streams to various formats.

The TS-H552B's speed ratings suffer in a single area: it writes to double-layer DVDs at a disappointing 2.4X. The recently announced follow-up to this drive, the WriteMaster TS-H552U, offers the 4X DL write speed that's becoming increasingly common among DL drives. Aside from its DL write speed, the TS-H552B offers satisfying speed ratings across the board. Samsung's drive writes to CD-Rs at 40X and CD-RWs at an extrafast 32X; it reads those CDs at 48X. The TS-H552B also writes to DVD+Rs at 16X, to 12X DVD-Rs at 16X, and DVD+/-RWs at 4X. It reads all DVDs at 16X.

The TS-H552B's speed ratings matched its performance scores in CNET Labs' benchmarks. It took the drive about 16 minutes longer than the Pioneer DVR-A08XL to burn a DL disc. But the Samsung earned the second-fastest DL rip time we've seen, though its score was still 5 minutes behind the Pioneer's. The TS-H552B did a particularly good job ripping and burning audio CDs, earning the second-fastest scores in both tasks among the drives we've tested. It also took the third spot in single-layer DVD ripping and burning. Also, the drive managed to read DVD+/-RWs about as fast as most other drives. Out of the five drives and the five players we loaded our test disc into, only one of the players failed to read the disc.

While the TS-H552B ships with the same one-year warranty as most DL drives, its toll-free tech-support number is a cut above the toll-based numbers offered by the majority of competitors. Phone support is available for the life of the drive, though only Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Don't waste your time with the Samsung support Web site unless you need an electronic copy of the manual, which is sadly the only useful piece of information on the TS-H552B that the site contains.

DVD movie rip/burn tests (min:sec)  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
4.4GB DVD Video burn test  
4.4GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)  
Sony DRU-720A (16X DVD+R)
Plextor PX-716A (16X DVD+R)
NEC ND-3500A (16X DVD+R)
Memorex 16X16X (16X DVD-R)
Memorex 16X16X (16X DVD+R)
* The Samsung drive writes to 12X DVD-R media at 16X.

Double-layer DVD movie rip/burn tests (min:sec)  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
7.9GB DVD Video burn test  
7.9GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)  
Memorex 16X16X (4X double-layer DVD+R)**
* The Plextor drive writes to 2.4X double-layer DVD+R media at 6X.
** The Memorex, NEC, and Sony write to 2.4X double-layer DVD+R media at 4X.

CD Audio rip/burn tests (min:sec)  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
74:35 CD Audio burn test  
74:35 CD Audio rip test  
Sony DRU-720A (48X CD-R)
NEC ND-3500A (48X CD-R)
Memorex 16X16X (48X CD-R)
Plextor PX-716A (48X CD-R)

RW read/write tests (min:sec)  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
4.22GB RW write test  
4.22GB RW read test  
Memorex 16X16X (8X DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-720A (8X DVD+RW)
Plextor PX-716A (8X DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-720A (6X DVD-RW)
Memorex 16X16X (6X DVD-RW)
NEC ND-3500A (4X DVD+RW)
NEC ND-3500A (4X DVD-RW)
Plextor PX-716A (4X DVD-RW)
Note: 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.