I’ve used drives from Philips, Plextor, AOpen, Lite-On, Asus and LG.
Of those, I like the Plextors the best, but their price isn’t really worth it.
The Asus and LG drives would be “second” in my list, they look great, are very reliable, have a very robust feel to them, and produce generally good burns.
The Lite-On was a good drive, but that’s about it, plain and simple, nothing really special. It feels plain and “cheap”. Not to say poorly made, but not particularly well made either.
The AOpen was an OK drive, and had the “heaviest” feel of them all. It burned whatever I tossed at it without complaining, and hardly gave me coasters, but I was lucky since I have heard that their quality control is terrible.
The Philips was a simple drive, not very fast, a little bit media-picky, but still a solid performer.
Of all those, I would buy either Asus or LG, the cheapest of the two.
If you don’t need to make 1:1 copies of protected games, then you could also go for a Cyberdrive or Optorite. Those babies are dirt-cheap, media-friendly and fast, but can’t copy the latest protections raw as is. (As can’t the 24x LG and the Plextor, I believe.)