There's nothing remarkable about the Asus DRW-1604P's appearance or external features: its face is putty-colored, and it houses only an eject button, an emergency-eject pinhole, and a logo. The DRW-1604P is an internal drive, which means you'll have to delve into your computer's innards to install it. The process is cumbersome compared to the simple plug-and-play installation of a USB or FireWire drive, but internal drives are generally faster than their external counterparts. Asus provides a basic, illustrated installation guide with the drive, but you can also check out CNET's handy how-to guide.
Where speed ratings are concerned, the Asus DRW-1604P falls short only with its slightly slow 32X CD-R write speed. Otherwise, the drive offers the highest ratings available in its categories. Its most impressive spec of note is its 4X double-layer DVD burn speed. Though specs for double-layer discs currently top out at 2.4X, the drive writes to this media at 4X anyway. The DRW-1604P also includes quick 16X, 4X, and 24X speeds for DVD+/-Rs, DVD+/-RWs, and CD-RWs, respectively. Finally, it reads DVDs and CDs at a satisfying 16X and 40X.
Asus adhered to the status quo with the DRW-1604P's burning software. The company includes a pared-down version of the helpful Nero 6.0 Ultra Edition Suite. Asus also reaches out to amateur artists by including the capable Ulead DVD MovieFactory 3.0 Disc Creator.
In CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Asus DRW-1604P excelled in some tests and flopped in others. It clocked one of the best double-layer burn times we've seen, tying with the top-scoring Pioneer DVR-A08XL. (We used 2.4X DL media, which the Asus and Pioneer drives write to at 4X speed.) However, the Pioneer ripped our Labs' 7.9GB movie an embarrassing 15 minutes faster than the Asus. The DRW-1604P also took quite a while to rip our 4.4GB DVD movie and burn it to a single-layer DVD. The drive's CD rip and burn times proved better--but not by much. The DRW-1604P achieved its best performance in DVD+/-RW reading, which isn't too impressive considering most internal drives we've tested have scored within a 15-second range of each other. To its credit, the discs we burned with the DRW-1604P played in all six of the drives we tried.
The Asus DRW-1604P ships with the same one-year warranty as most of its competitors. The company's tech-support line is a disappointing toll-based number, so you're stuck with the long-distance charges. Worse, the line is open only during limited hours (5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT). The Asus support Web site offers FAQs and a discussion forum.