When I first heard of an external device for optical drives, the first thing that crossed my mind was the possibility of viewing DVD movies on a laptop. While I won't be using a laptop device for testing, I will be testing the external device with a DVD burner so that I can see firsthand how it will handle this task. Additionally I'll be using the Nero CD Speed test utility to do a direct comparison between the drive installed within the system and by both of the available interfaces. This should let us see how it handles the chores of data access from all angles.
Before we dig any deeper into our testing phase, however, lets take a quick look at the test system.
Thermaltake SHARK Aluminum Enclosure (supplied by Thermaltake)
AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 Processor (supplied by Newegg.com)
ABIT AV8 Motherboard w/ nForce3 Ultra Chipset (supplied by ABIT)
512MB OCZ PC3500 Memory (supplied by OCZ)
Micro Advantage 4x DVD-RW Drive
So what are we waiting for?
Just so everyone is on the same page, the first screenshot above is the drive set as Master on the secondary IDE channel. This is the way most folks will have a burning device configured in their own systems. The second shot shows the results in USB 2.0 mode while the final shot shows the test results when using the IEEE1394 Firewire interface.
I was more than just a little surprised to see the USB interface taking top honors in overall performance. It was even able to produce better access times to the drive through all seek modes. Since CPU usage was minimal in all interfaces, this won't play a large role in our results.
The Firewire had some problems with seek operations during our tests. I'm not sure if this interface just isn't the best choice for optical data transfers or not, but it struggled through all modes of this portion of the testing.
As far as DVD playback is concerned, I had no problems in any of the modes tested. Whether using USB 2.0 or Firewire, playback was smooth, sound tracked perfectly with the video, and I was able to move all over the place in the movie without having the system or the drive cause problems. All playback was smooth and just the way you would want.
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