The rest of us, on the other hand, will need to pore over the woefully inadequate documentation provided with the drive. The setup sheet proves redundant for those that already possess the required know-how yet assumes too much prior knowledge to be of help to those who really need it. For example, it fails to explain the difference between a master and a slave drive, and it doesn't define terms such as bay (which, in this case, refers to the drive bay).
LiteOn does include an audio cable and mounting screws with the drive but, unfortunately, no IDE cable. (Your system almost certainly has the required IDE cable, however.) The LiteOn works with Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT, Me, 2000, and XP.
Though the LiteOn 52X/24X/52X CD-RW sells for less than $100, you wouldn't know it from its ports and drive controls. While the drive lacks an audio track-advance button--an extremely rare commodity on drives these days, anyway--you will find both a headphone jack and a volume control, as well as the standard power/busy light, eject button, and emergency-eject hole. The back panel has everything you'd expect, including digital and MMC analog audio outputs and the essential IDE and power connectors. You can also find diagrams of the jumper configurations and pin assignments of the ports permanently etched into the bare metal of the back plate.
The LiteOn also includes all the firmware features you'd expect in a state-of-the-art drive. Along with the de rigueur buffer-underrun protection, the company incorporates its recently revamped Smart-Burn disc diagnosis/write strategy. Smart-Burn checks the quality of the disc before the write process begins, then regulates the speed of the drive to ensure a reliable burn. The drive also uses the company's Smart-X extraction, which tests and monitors audio and video ripping to improve playback. Plus, this drive handles up to 99-minute/870MB media and supports Microsoft's Mt. Rainier initiative, which significantly shortens the amount of time needed to format CD-RW media.
Nero Burning ROM.
The LiteOn CD-RW ships with a solid but minimal software bundle that includes Ahead Software's speedy and highly regarded Nero Burning ROM mastering software and InCD packet-writing software. Nero can master anything from audio CDs to DVD movies, and the company continually finds new ways to improve the product and makes software updates readily available on its Web site for download. Ahead Software even publishes a list of any additions or fixes to the software; most large American software companies, unfortunately, avoid such open-book policies.
The LiteOn 52X/24X/52X CD-RW finished at or near the head of the class in nearly all of CNET Labs' performance tests. It posted scores quite similar to those of the CenDyne Lightning V and the Memorex internal CD-ReWritable, both of which are 52X internal drives and OEM versions of the LiteOn mechanism.
The LiteOn wrote our test audio image to disc in 1 minute, 41 seconds and extracted 27 minutes of audio in a mere 45 seconds--both second-place performances, though only by a hair. The 4 minutes, 12 seconds it took to write 400MB to CD-RW earned the LiteOn a respectable fourth place, the only area in which the drive proved noticeably slower. The LiteOn lagged nearly 50 seconds behind the pace-setting LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0). But because the LaCie uses an OEM LiteOn mechanism, the software likely caused the difference in performance; the LaCie uses Roxio's DirectCD, while the LiteOn uses Ahead Software's InCD. In read tests, the LiteOn took only 81 seconds to install Microsoft Office Small Business Edition, placing it just ahead of the Lightning V for the top spot on our chart.
| Write tests |
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
| Audio-extraction tests |
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)
| Read tests |
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)
All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media (submitted by the manufacturer) and with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. For more details on how we test CD-recordable drives, see CNET Labs' site.
LiteOn backs its 52X/24X/52X CD-RW drive with an industry standard one-year warranty. Phone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, but it's a toll call. The company also offers a veritable cornucopia of online support options, including software downloads, troubleshooting tips, FAQs, a discussion group, and RMA e-mail support.
LiteOn online discussion board.