The $150 Samsung SW-232B package includes just the basics: mounting screws, IDE and analog audio cables, a software CD, two 700MB blank CDs (a CD-R and a CD-RW), and a well-illustrated manual printed in four languages. Software is minimal, with just a light version of Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5.0 and DirectCD 3.2 for packet-writing. Installation is simple, but if you're not comfortable with the steps--opening the computer, fixing the drive in an available front-accessible drive bay, attaching the cables, and adjusting a jumper--then find a friend to help you. We burned our first CD within a few minutes of opening the box.
Science of silence
The Samsung comes with a host of useful technologies. First of all, it includes buffer-underrun protection, which helps circumvent data loss. It also has an 8MB buffer, about four times more than most high-speed burners, to better juggle the data coming into and out of the drive. But the enhancement that we find most interesting is the SW-232B's Dynamic Vibration Absorber (DVA). Generally, high-speed drives produce a lot of noise and vibration, but thanks to DVA, the Samsung runs very smoothly and almost silently.
For a 32X/10X/40X burner, the SW-232B's performance was essentially average in CNET Labs' tests. It burned a 43-minute audio CD in 2 minutes, 37 seconds, which is about 10 seconds slower than the $170 CenDyne Lightning II and a hair faster than the QPS Que Fire. The same thing happened in packet writing; the SW-232B took 7 minutes, 28 seconds to write 400MB to CD-RW. This is almost 2 minutes slower than the Lightning II but still a lot faster than the Que Fire, which took almost 12 minutes to complete the job.
The Samsung SW-232B did its worst in the audio-extraction test, clocking 1 minute, 10 seconds to rip a 27-minute audio track. For a drive with a 40X read speed, we'd expect this score to be less than a minute; for example, the CenDyne and the Que Fire did the same job in only 52 seconds and 53 seconds, respectively. In another read test, the Samsung swiftly installed Microsoft Office Small Business Edition in 1 minute, 43 seconds--the best score of the lot. All in all, the Samsung excels at writing audio and data to CD-R, as well as reading data.
Samsung's support policies for the SW-232B are a little better than average. Typically, the warranty lasts one year, as does the free phone support, but the latter is notable for its 24/7 availability and toll-free number. At Samsung's Web site, you can find goodies such as an online manual, drivers, FAQs, and firmware downloads.
Now that 40X CD-RW drives lead the pack, Samsung's 32X SW-232B has to find other ways to stand out--and it does, with its extra features and affordable price. If you're looking for a drive that's especially quiet and pretty fast at straight data burning, the Samsung SW-232B is a good deal.
| 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)
The Samsung SW-232B performed right in line with other 32X-rated drives. One notable test was the Microsoft Office installation, where the Samsung led the pack. In audio-extraction tests, the Samsung brought up the rear. If you want to burn audio discs, the Samsung drive is the ticket, but if you want to rip audio or do incremental backups to rewritable media, there are faster drives.