Samsung TS-H552U 16X DVD±RW

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Product: Samsung TS-H552U 16X DVD±RW
Provided By:
Samsung Canada
Price: TBA

Introduction:

About the same time that I received the PX-716A from Plextor, the TS-H552U from Samsung arrived here at the shop as well.  The nifty thing about the Samsung drive is that it hasn't been officially released here in North America yet.  You can purchase it for around £39.95 in the UK, but it isn't currently available at retail outlets here in Canada.  This review will give you an idea of the performance of this unit, as well as writing quality.  Is it going to be worth the wait or should you go buy a different drive today?  Hopefully we'll answer some of these questions in the following pages.

This drive is a full-featured DVD±RW that writes DVD±R's at 16X max, but reads them at 8X.  It also writes DVD±RW's at 4X, and DVD+R DL disks at 4X.  It reads all of these at 8X. It does read DVD-ROM's at 16X.  It is also a very capable CDRW drive as it writes CD's at 40X, reads them at 48X, and reads CDRW's at 32X, but writes them at 24X.  Now that we've taken a bit of a crude look at the specs of this drive, let's take a look at them all laid out:

As you can see, this drive is a little limited on it's read speeds when it comes to DVD media.  It can only read 16X on DVD-ROM's, and to be quite honest, they are not all that popular.  DVD-Video doesn't count.

In the manual, Samsung lists the system requirements for this drive.  System requirements are listed as Windows 98 and higher with a P3 and 256MB of RAM.  The reasons these requirements are lower than some is because Samsung has chosen to use Nero 6.3 and not some bloated super-powerful software suite that takes a whackload of resources.  Regardless, Samsung does recommend a P4 if you are planning on doing any major video editing.

That's the introduction.  Head on over to the next page to take a closer look at the drive and the bundled software.


The Drive:

The drive from Samsung is part of their "Writemaster" series, and actually made by Toshiba.  The drive has a nice clean look to it.  The appropriate logo's are splayed on the bottom left of the front with the "Writemaster" trademark next to the single eject button on the right.  The button is the LED, and flashes a nice green when reading and writing.  Notice that there is an emergency eject hole below the tray as well.  Let's hope that we don't have to use that.

The back of this unit shows much the same as other DVDRW drives on the market.  There are digital and analog audio connectors, a jumper block, the ide connector and molex for power.  Unlike some other 16X DVDRW drives, there is no vent to allow passive cooling on this unit.  Hopefully Samsung has a drive here that doesn't get too hot.  Time will tell.

The Bundle:

The bundle included with the drive is a wee more bare than I'm used to.  Don't get me wrong, it is fairly complete, but Samsung doesn't ship any media with the drive.  The drive ships with the Nero Software CD, which includes a user guide.  You also get an IDE cable, 4 screws, an audio cable and a quick setup guide.  It's enough, but Samsung could ship a 16x capable disk with the drive.

Samsung has chosen wisely when it comes to the software bundle featured with the TS-H552U.  They have included Nero 6.3 and the entire Ahead Software Suite that goes along with it.  This software will be familiar to many of you and shouldn't require any extra learning.  Obviously you are able to download Nero Updates and keep your software up to date.

Another utility that Samsung recommends for this drive, although not on the CD is their MagicSpeed utility.  This utility allows you to slow down the drive to reduce vibration and noise.  I found this drive to be quiet enough without the MagicSpeed utility, but if you strive for silence, it is available at SamsungODD.com.

 

The one beef I have with their bundle is the lack of paper manual.  I don't mind electronic manuals or PDF manuals - if they work, but this one had some issues.  When you go to read the "Users Guide" you are met with this screen.  Now common logic would denote that if you click the English button you will view the English manual right?  Not so much.

When you click the English button, you are taken to a webpage that really has nothing to do with Samsung, and certainly nothing to do with the TS-H552U.  I'm not sure, but Merck seems to have hijacked the English user manual!  In order to view the English manual, you have to choose a different language, then use the drop down on that page to choose English.  Most people won't be using the manual, but for those people who would, this would probably loose them.

Now that we've covered the drive and the bundle, let's head on over and take a look at the test setup, some testing information, and the drives media compatibility.


Following is the list of machine specs that were used for this review. This is my main rig, and it comes without a fresh install of Windows.

  • ABIT NF7S Rev.2
  • AMD XP 2500+ (Barton Mobility @ 200X11)
  • 2 - 512MB OCZ PC3500 EB Platinum
  • 200GB Western Digital JB 7200rpm IDE 0 - Master
  • 200GB Western Digital JB 7200rpm IDE 0 - Slave
  • 2 - WD2000JD SATA drives in RAID 0 on Adaptec 1210SA
  • Plextor PX-716A DVD±RW IDE 1 - Master
  • Samsung TS-H552U DVD±RW IDE 2 - Slave
  • Sapphire Atlantis 9800 Pro
  • Audigy 2 ZS
  • GVC Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000)
  • Belkin 802.11G Wireless Ethernet
  • Windows XP Pro SP2 with all available updates
  • nForce 4.27 drivers
  • Nero CDSpeed 3.61
  • Nero InfoTool 2.27
  • Firmware US03 (Drive Shipped with US01)

Testing Methods:
 
When testing CD & DVD Write Speeds, I use the latest version of Nero CD Speed and create Data Discs. These tests show the exact time to write the media to it's maximum rated capacity. These write times are accurate of the drives performance as Nero CD Speed generates data files on-the-fly.  All write times include lead in and lead out, so the times shown should be the longest possible burn time. If you don't fill the media to capacity, obviously write times will vary.

Please keep in mind that all of the Nero CD Speed screenshots of the TS-H552U are actual write times, not simulations. Thanks once again to the great people over at Blankmedia, I can almost afford to burn up a stack of media in the review.

Media Compatibility:

Media that is capable of being burned is still scarce for most drives, but here is how the media I had on hand stacks up.  I'd like to take a minute to thank
Blankmedia for rounding up such a wide array of media for me to test on this burner.  They are also now stocking 16X rated DVD+R Media!

DVD Media:

  • Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD-R @ 8X - TYG02
  • Prodisc Silver 8X DVD-R @ 8X - ProdiscF01
  • Generic Silver 8X DVD+R @ 8X - CMC MAG E01
  • Prodisc White Hub IJP DVD+R 8X @ 8X - PRODISC R03
  • Taiyo Yuden 4X DVD-R @ 4X - TYG01
  • Sonic Silver 4X DVD+R @ 2.4X - 001
  • Optodisc 4X DVD+R @ 4X - OPTODISC OR4
  • Maxell 4X DVD+R @ 4X - MEDIA ID 001
  • ARITA 4X DVD+R @ 4X - RICOHJPN R01
  • Verbatim 8X DVD+R @ 8X - MCC 003
  • Potex 4X DVD+RW @ 4X - Philips 041
  • Verbatim 16X DVD+R @ 16X - MCC 004
  • RiDATA 16X DVD+R @ 12X - RITEK R04
  • Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD+R @ 8X - YUDEN000 T02
  • Ridata 2.4X DVD+R DL @ 2.4X - RITEK D01
  • Piodata 2.4X DVD+R DL @ 2.4X - RITEK D01

CD Media:

  • 99Min 40X CD-R @ 32X
  • Verbatim 32X CDRW @ 24X (DRIVE MAX)
  • Memorex 24X CDRW @ 24X (DRIVE MAX)
  • Ritek 52X CDR @ 40X (DRIVE MAX)

Our last stop before we head on over to CD Testing, is to take a look at the features of this drive according to Nero's Info Tool.

As is the case with the PX-716A, the TS-H552U doesn't support Mt. Rainier or DVD-RAM.  As you can see in the above screenshot, it does read CD-R's at 48X and write them at 40X.  Please note the 2MB buffer on this drive as well as it's model as being a "TSST corp" manufactured drive.  TSST stands for "Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology".  For better or for worse, the Samsung TS-H552U Writemaster is a Toshiba drive.  Head on over to the next page and find out if it's a good thing.


CD Read Tests:

Because this is the first Samsung Optical Drive I've ever looked at, I really didn't know what to expect.  I never even knew how fast it was rated to read and write CD's.  I did know that it was capable of DVD+R DL writing at 4x, and DVD±R writing at 16x.  To get us all educated, let's first take a look at how it reads CD's.

This first test shows how the drive reads a full data CD created using the "Create Data Disk" function of Nero CD Speed.  This disk is full, and therefore should showcase the drives maximum read ability.  On this disk the drive easily reached it's rated speed and then some.  It finished the test at almost 50x.  Notice that seek times are very good, and burst rate is in line with ATA33 drives.

This next test is of an Audio CDR that I used for the majority of my CD Audio Read testing.  This is a compilation CD that is just over 77 minutes long and has a few minor scratches.  I am surprised to see that the TS-H552U reads this disk at full speed.  It finished the test over 48x, with good seek times, and a perfect 10 for DAE quality.  Burst Rate is also quite normal.

The above test gives a very bare analysis for Digital Audio Extraction.  To fully test out DAE quality we have to run a dedicated DAE testing program.  This program rips the audio from the CD as fast as it can, then compares the ripped audio with that of the original.  If there are any variations, they are reported as errors.  According to the Digital Audio Extractor I used the DAE quality of this drive is indeed perfect.  What surprised me however was the speed.  The TS-H552U read audio CD's at full speed, but when called to do DAE, it slowed down to 4x.  Weird.

Although the PX-716A struggled when reading CDRW's, the TS-H552U did not.  The drive is rated to read CDRW's at 32X, and it does.  It uses a conservative CAV method, but it reads these disks well.  Often with RW media, seek times can be quite high, but these seem to right on the money.  Burst rate on the CDRW media is normal as well.

This test is a new one to us here.  We've tested this before, but never included a screenshot.  The reason we are including a screenshot is due to the erratic reading of this disk.  The drive is capable of reading and writing 99 minute CDR's, but this is how it looks when it reads it back.  I ran this test several times and with different 99 minute CD's, and the results were the same.  It can read the disk, but it seems to have a bit of trouble.  That being said, I ran a check on the disk and it doesn't have any unreadable errors.

A test that we've added a few reviews back now is that of the drives ability to read scratched and dirty disks.  I have a backup of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that I use for this test.  It is quite scratched up, and has some finger prints on it.  I keep it in this condition to run these tests.  As you can see below the Samsung drive had no trouble reading it at all.  The drive did slow down a little over half way through, but at least it can read the disk correctly.

CD Write Tests:

 

Now that we've seen how this drive is able to read CD's, lets take a look and see how well it can write CD's.  This first test we're going to show is done with a blank 80 minute CDR filled to capacity with CDSpeed's "Create Data Disk" feature.  The disk is written start to finish and includes a lead-in and lead-out.

This drive uses a fairly conservative P-CAV curve, but still manages to produce excellent write times.  It finishes an 80 minute disk in less that 3 minutes and averages over 34x.  Not bad at all.

Next, we'll take a look at how this drive performs when writing a 24x CDRW.  This drive writes the disk using an aggresive P-CAV.  It starts at 21x and quickly hits 24x and finishes the disk with an average of 23.78x.  Even though the write is happening at a maximum of 24x, the average speed is only slightly slower than when it reads this disk back at 32x. (see write tests above)  Very good CDRW writing performance.

In the last of the acutal write tests, we will look at how this drive fares when writing a 99 minute CDR.  It slows down from it's maximum write speed of 40x, and uses P-CAV, not Z-CLV to write this disk at 32X.  CD Speed incorrectly identifies the write strategy as there were numerous drop-offs in performance.  This disk tested fine though, and there were no unreadable errors.

What good is a drive with speed, if it can't get the job done with quality?  The last CDR test we look at is the quality of the write.  The test disk is a RiData 48X CDR that we use for general data storage here at the shop.  They are cheap, but seem to work good in most drives.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the TS-H552U had a little trouble with these disks.  I ran the test several times with different RiData disks written by the Samsung drive, and the results were similar.  The PX-716A we reviewed tested at 4566 errors on the sample media, and the TS-H552U tested over 8200.  Still not alarming numbers, except for the spikes noted below.  The media had no dust or smudges on it that I could see.

That wraps up the CD tests.  Head on over to the next page for the DVD tests.


DVD Read Tests:

Although this drive is rated to read DVD's at 16X, this speed is only available on DVD-ROM's.  To test out the drives fastest DVD read speed, we used our copy of Unreal Tournament 2004.  This disk is a little over 3.6GB in length, and is not full.  This will result in the drive not being able to hit it's max speed as max speed is always determined at the end of a full data disk.  This drive does come close however, and according to the curve, it would hit 16X on a full DVD-ROM.  You notice that seek times are very similar to that of the CD tests on the previous page.

The next disk in line to check is a simple DVD+R data disk.  Unfortunately the TS-H552U is rated at 8X for this media.  The PX-716A reads these disks at 12X.  This is really not that big of deal, but if you're restoring data from DVD±R's, it will take longer at 8X.  The drive manages to top out over it's rated 8X speed and average 6.17X for the disk.  Seek times are again excellent for DVD media, and burst rate as well as CPU usage are normal.

Next we look at Single Layer Pressed DVD Video.  This test is performed on a cereal box DVD movie we received - Air Bud.  While the PX-716A reads single layer video at 16X, the Samsung drive is limited to 8X.  Oddly enough, the TS-H552U identifies this disk as a DVD-ROM and actually reads it at 16X!  Not only that, it exceeds it's rated speed and averages over 12X.  Seek times are again great and are actually lower than the Plextor drive I reviewed earlier.

Next up is a Dual Layer DVD Video.  If the Samsung drive has a surprise here, that would be nice.  As it is there are no real surprises, but the drive reads the test of "Behind Enemy Lines" in good form.  It again exceeds it rated speed, and pulls off very nice seek times.  It is slower than the Plextor at an average read, but it still does very well.

The last read test we'll look at today is that of a Dual Layer DVD+R.  This drive is capable of writing these disks at 4X, and reading them at 8X.  In theory, the curve and results should mirror those of the Dual Layer DVD Video test above.  As you can see below, the results are very similar.  Because this disk is full, the maximum speed is greater than that of the DVD-Video above.  Hence, average speed is also greater.  Notice that seek times on this DVD+R DL media are somewhat slower that those of the other media tested.  The difference is negligable, but noticeable on the test.  You would not notice it in "real world" performance though.

DVD Write Tests:

 

This area of testing is always exciting, and a little scary.  With high-quality DVD's at a premium price, you don't want to waste too many.  I am happy to report that the TS-H552U didn't coaster any, and all testing went well.  We'll start off this section with writing at 4X, then progress up to 16X.  Lastly, we'll take a look at DVD+R DL writing and quality.  I was able to use Nero's CDSpeed for these tests as there was a wide array of media available for testing.  We found disks that burned at the major write speeds, and the tests below are actual write times - not simulations.

For the first test, we wrote a DVD+R disk at 4X.  Due to the drops at every .5GB interval, the Samsung averages just under its rated 4X speed.  For all intents and purposes it writes at 4X, but it's interesting to see the little hiccups in the writing process.  This evidenced itself when using both the original and the US03 firmware.  An average speed of just under 15 minutes is quite normal.

This second test shows the curve of the 8X write strategy.  The P-CAV curve is not quite as aggresive as we've seen, and results in write times that are a little slower than some of the competition.  Regardless, the drive finishes the test in an average of 7.48X and in a mere 8:40.  Not much time to wait for a 2 hour movie.

Continuing the journey to faster writing, we stop at 12X DVD+R.  Nero CD Speed incorrectly identifies the write strategy of the P-CAV disk.  Samsung again uses a very conservative method of writing and the 12X speed is not reached until the 4GB mark.  The average speed is thus limited to 9.17X, as opposed to the Plextor PX-716A at 10.43X.  A difference of 1.26X makes quite a difference in total write time.  The Samsung manages to complete a 12X disk in 7:22.  Over a minute behind the PX-716A.

The last Single Layer DVD Write test we'll look at today is that of 16X writing.  This is the fastest speed available for DVD writing today.  Samsung has been conservative with their write speeds so far, so what can we expect from 16X?  The answer is a pretty smoking burn time.  With the drive finishing over 16X, and starting at 6.72X, the Samsung TS-H552U finishes this disk in a smoking 5:55 including Lead In and Lead Out.  It's average is over 12X.  Very nice indeed.

Dual Layer drives are becoming more popular as DVD+R DL prices decrease.  This Samsung drive is rated to write these disks at 4X, but unfortunately the 2.4X media I had on hand was only written at 2.4X.  Plextor has updated their firmware to allow 4X writing on the same media, so hopefully Samsung will follow suit in their next firmware release.  As it stands, 2.4X DVD+R DL writing is painful.  It takes over 44 minutes to write a disk, but it does it successfully, and that's really the important thing.  You don't want to coaster a $10 blank very badly.  At 2.4X the drive writes at a constant speed with only a tiny drop as the writer changes layers.

Error Checking/Write Quality:

As DVDRW drives get faster, the amount of errors they generate will only increase.  Some drives are more fickle when it comes to media rather than speed, and others write great on all media when done slowly, but choke when writing at faster speeds.  For these tests we wrote disks at both 4X and 16X.  The media used on the 4X write is quite poor.  They are CMC 8X DVD+R, and personally, I'm not a fan.  You can see in the test below that the drive fared quite well with this media at 4X though.  There are over 51,000 errors, but the error rate is actually quite low for a full data disk.

Next up we wrote a Verbatim 16X DVD+R at 16X and read back the disk to discover the following.  This media was the best I could find, and the only media that the Samsung TS-H552U could write at 16X.  The write quality is not that great.  There are almost 200,000 errors on this disk, and while none of them are unreadable (POF), there are still a lot of errors.

It seems that the Samsung drive is more prone to errors at higher speeds that on poor media.  Using poor media at low speeds resulted in good quality writes, but with excellent media at high speed the resulting quality was less than perfect.  Now you know.

With the tests all wrapped up, let's head on over to the last page to grab a conclusion and see how this drive scores.


Conclusion:

This is the first Samsung DVDRW drive that I have ever looked at and used, and to be quite honest it's a little hit and miss.  While some areas of this drive are excellent, slower read speeds, and poor write quality at 16X is a little disappointing.  That being said, the drive matches is rated speed - the rating is just a little low.  The drive is quiet, and seems to work well for both CD and DVD applications.  With a price of under $100 (Converted from Euro), this drive should have a place in the market for sure.  Hopefully firmware updates will make the drive a little more aggresive at 8X and 12X and improve write quality all around.

Pros:

  • Speedy 16X DVD Writing.
  • Excellent seek times on CD's and DVD's.
  • Very quiet.
  • Nero 6.3 Suite.
  • DVD+R DL writer.

Cons:

  • Conservative 8X and 12X write strategy.
  • Questionable write quality at high speeds.
  • Slow Digital Audio Extraction.

Here's how the drive scores:

 

BensCustomCases.com Rating
Quality:
7/10
Performance:
7/10
Software Pack:
9/10
Stability:
9/10
Features:
8/10
Value:
8/10
Total Score 8.0

 

This drive does have a lot going for it, but I think it could be better.  It has slower CD write speeds that a lot of other high-end drives, and rips DAE like a dog.  The DAE quality is good, but at 4X?  Come on.  16X write speeds are very slick, and even at these speeds the drive is quiet.  If you've got a couple of case fans, you'll likely never even know it's writing.  The Nero bundle does a bit to redeem this drive and in total it earns at 8 out of 10.  Not the best drive around, but it's not the worst either, and it does get the job done.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please head on over and post them in the forum here.

I'd like to offer a special thanks to Samsung for pulling this drive in for me from Korea, and to Blankmedia for all the disks used is this review.  These sponsors help keep this site going!