Best QUALITY IDE drive for a reasonable price? (Well, cheap maybe. $50 or so or less.)

So my old burner screwed up. Just as well really, it was a cheap old Lite-On that wasn’t among their best DVD burners (but it was one of the early ones so I don’t really blame them.)

I’m looking more for burn quality though. For one thing, I have to work with some older machines with older drives (one of which is an ancient laptop with a drive I couldn’t upgrade even if I could afford it) so I’m FAR more interested in burn quality than burn speed. Most of the time I have to burn as slow as I can even. I’m used to the long wait at this point. So I don’t mind within reason. Well, I don’t want to be burning DVDRs at 1x or something, but I have been burning at 4x, which was the lowest my Lite-On drive would allow (I once tried a firmware modification that let me modify write profiles and curiously enough, when I set lower speeds as an option burn quality badly decreased so much so that the resulting discs were all but unreadable.) Despite it being a rather less than ideal drive/media combination, it was at least good enough. Still, I should at least do the best I can this time around with what money I can afford to spend on it.

Right now most of the reviews seem to focus on write speed and that sort of thing. In fact, it’s probably not in my best interest to burn at 16x speed or something like that. Since I don’t mind burning at slower speeds I don’t really care about the highest speeds. There are FAR too many drives out there for me to dig through every single review out there, but many of those in the top lists usually just discuss write speeds and imply (without even going much into detail) that quality isn’t as ideal as it should be. Well, obviously at the price range I’m looking at I’m not going to get the best burn quality ever, but I do want to pick a drive that focuses more on quality than on speed if I can at least.

Also, I really need to stick with IDE right now. Oh, and I’m pretty sure this is a non-issue, but I do care a bit about CDR burn quality. I think all modern burners are supposed to be able to burn CDRs at very acceptable quality. I know the Lite-On drive I had had no troubles with this (but then Lite-On was never really bad at CDRs, it’s only DVDRs they’ve struggled with.) Also, I’d rather buy a drive new rather than used, which is why I’m not thinking of something such as the famous NEC (which probably would cost more even on eBay anyway.) I’d really like it if I could get a drive from somewhere as reliable as Newegg in fact, but I’ll listen to other suggestions (btw, if my use of Newegg doesn’t make it clear, I live in the US, so any site I order from must ship to the US.)

Any recommendations?

You can get most drives on the market now (assuming that you are talking about drives for a desktop computer, not lap top) for 30-40$ or less. More expensive drives are typically rebadged drives (they buy someone else’s drive, slap their name and firmware on it and double the price). Even companies like plextor and sony that used to actually make their own drives often now rebadge. Newegg is a perfectly good place to buy and they have most of the latest models that are worth looking at.
I dont really do cd burning, but with dvd, the newer liteon models seem to be about the best all around drives. I have heard many others say the same so I’m assuming they do fine with cd. Samsung and lg are other good brands to look at too (and I’m sure others can make further recomendations). There isn’t really one best drive though. There are several good drives, each with there strong and weak points. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time searching through reviews, then I would just get a liteon (I haven’t heard of any newer 20x models that are bad drives). It might be worth looking through at least the conclusions on some of the reviews here though to see if one is more suited for your needs than another.

On the speed issue. Dvd’s are designed to be burned at their rated speed (thats what the write strategy is most often optimized for). Burning fast rated medias at 4x or 1x will not give better quality.

The hard part isn’t going to be finding a good drive (if you stick to the newest models from the brands I listed, you will most likely get a good drive). The hard part is media. Speed sells, so just about all the media easily findable out there is 16x, and a lot of it is crap. Most of the stuff out there now is ritek or cmc and personally, I’m not that impressed with either (and you may have to reduce burn speed to 12x as the media just isn’t good enough to burn at 16x, assuming the drive has a write stratagy that will burn it a little slower well). The hunt for good media is the hard part. Your best bet would probably be made in Taiwan verbatim (avoid made in India). I really miss the 8x days as many 8x medias blow away 16x medias for burn quality.

I would just get a 20x liteon (not for the 20x speed, but because they are good drives) or read the reviews to see if there is something that has strong points that are more suitable to your usage. Then learn to read error scans if you don’t already know how and find a few decent medias that your drive likes (compatibility is just as much of an issue as quality with media these days so error scanning to find what medias your drive likes is more important that ever). Even if you don’t learn to read error scans, you can probably post them here and get help reading the scans.

LG, Sony or Pioneer would be you best bet at under 40 dollars on sale!

Yes, I figured that. I’m definitely ok with that…

Newegg is a perfectly good place to buy and they have most of the latest models that are worth looking at.

That’s why I would find it ideal to get something from there. In fact, I feel like they aren’t just “a perfectly good place to buy” but “a more reliable place to buy” since they are really good about RMAs and such when things go wrong in my experience (and sadly things go wrong far too often with computer hardware.)

I dont really do cd burning, but with dvd, the newer liteon models seem to be about the best all around drives.

Are you sure? I haven’t heard a single good word for Lite-On since they first started making DVD burners really other than the word “cheap.” As you say though, price isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be back when a good Plextor or whatever would cost some $80 or so versus a Lite-On that could get you by ok being some $40 or so (but then while it beat out most other $40 drives at that time it still was only about half as good as the $80 drives…) I know somewhat has changed since I last picked out a burner (it has probably been some two or three years for me perhaps even) but I still haven’t really been hearing good things about Lite-On lately. I’m sure Lite-On has improved, but frankly I’m not willingly to just blindly buy one of their drives. Besides, the last time I looked at getting a DVD burner for someone (some four or five months ago so not too bad) I didn’t really have time to do any kind of post like this or anything so I just went straight to Lite-On due to lack of better ideas (especially since some like SONY were just rebranding Lite-On drives at that particular time.) But when I read reviews on several of them, quite a few were surprisingly bad sounding… I’m just not willing to blindly trust them anymore.

Samsung and lg are other good brands to look at too (and I’m sure others can make further recomendations). There isn’t really one best drive though. There are several good drives, each with there strong and weak points. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time searching through reviews, then I would just get a liteon (I haven’t heard of any newer 20x models that are bad drives).

I can’t go digging through every single review of every single drive made by every single major namebrand currently available for sale, no. That’s why I was hoping to narrow it to more than just a few namebrands, like maybe a few major models that are fairly good right now. If it could even be narrowed down just a bit though, it would be helpful as right now I’m not really any better off than before.

It might be worth looking through at least the conclusions on some of the reviews here though to see if one is more suited for your needs than another.

Yeah. In fact, the first thing I did was check the editor’s top five picks here. I see some good plusses as well as minuses that make me rather less than happy. I was hoping to find a drive that, instead of trading off quality for speed was trading speed for quality. As you said, speed sells, so this would definitely be considered a cost cutting measure and a minus so it seems to me like it’s definitely possible that one might run into such a thing.

The hard part is media. Speed sells, so just about all the media easily findable out there is 16x, and a lot of it is crap. Most of the stuff out there now is ritek or cmc and personally, I’m not that impressed with either (and you may have to reduce burn speed to 12x as the media just isn’t good enough to burn at 16x, assuming the drive has a write stratagy that will burn it a little slower well). The hunt for good media is the hard part. Your best bet would probably be made in Taiwan verbatim (avoid made in India). I really miss the 8x days as many 8x medias blow away 16x medias for burn quality.

Yes, but just because it says 16x on the box doesn’t mean it can only be burned at 16x. In truth, most media has several available profiles. My old Lite-On HAD to burn many of those that offered lower speeds at a higher speed such as 6x in many cases and in one batch even as much as 8x was required (with the resulting disc being unreadable on older drives.) I’d really rather it if I could burn them at whatever speeds they allow for and get good quality within reason with the normal curve of higher quality at lower speeds and lower quality at higher speeds. Perhaps I won’t get a 2x speed offered or something like that, but if I can at least get what the media is actually capable of without being arbitrarily limited by my burner I’ll be satisfied.

Oh, and I stay far far away from CMC Magnetics… IMO their name says it all. They know a lot about magnetics. What the heck do they know about optical media? Whenever I can, I try to go with Taiyo Yuden or, failing that, Verbatim. When I do resort to lower, it is at least a semi-decent one (for example, when I have to buy CDRs offline, I usually buy Maxell’s CD-RPro series which has always been TY dyes for me so far.) I admit I occasionally go down as low as the Riteks (which aren’t so bad though they were never close to even Verbatim, but the biggest problem is that they’ve been making a lot of theirs in Taiwan lately and the quality suffers.) Still, the quality of those I do use aren’t so bad (though I wouldn’t for even a moment count on them lasting even ten years – most of this is temporary just getting data moved around with only a few backups and such that only have to last a couple of years or so before they become too outdated to be of any use to me anyway.) Many of them even actually let me burn at 4x, and at a 4x burn speed I had no troubles whatsoever. Actually, a few of the better discs that made me burn at 6x still turned out surprisingly well. So, right now my first focus is on the burner. If I buy a burner that limits me the same way my current one does, finding media becomes a lot harder. If I get the right burner, then I only have to worry about the media and that actually shouldn’t be such a big problem since it’s just a matter of finding the right sort of timeframe and then getting a lot of whatever works.

Unfortunately (since speed does sell), older slower drives are going away quick. Newegg has something like 26 20x drives, 13 18x drives (seems to be mostly rebadges, no lg, liteon, samsung etc), and 1 16x drive.
Maybe this will help you narrow it down a bit. Sticking to 20x drives (the most current drives that will probably have the best firmware support, seeing that the older ones are going away), and sticking with what newegg has…

only one 20x sony and its a rebadged samsung sh-s202

samsung sh-s202, samsung sh-s203 (203 is sata so if you want pata you can rule that out).

lg, only one drive (currently out of stock) GSA-H55NK

I’m guessing you have rulled liteon out?

I’m not familiar with pioneer but 2 models (dvr-115 and dvr-212)

so assuming 20x pata, you have 1 samsung, 1 lg, and 2 pioneers. They also have asus (haven’t heard anyone recommending them and I’m not familiar with them, no idea if they are good), phillips (rebadged liteons and samsungs), hp (rebadged liteon), plextor (18x and rebadged lg, pioneer etc).

Obviously I don’t know what you want in a drive (maybe you want to look at the older ones or sata), and I’m no expert on all these drives so someone chime in if I made any mistakes, but maybe that will help you narrow it down. There are sub models too like the samsung sh-s202j/g/n, but they should be similar. Once you decide on a family of drives, you can chose the specific model (sometimes the difference is a little as light scribe or not etc).

On a side note, the most recent I have is an 18x samsung (sh-s182m) but newegg no longer carries them. For what its worth, it burns many medias (16x and 8x) like crap, by my standards anyway. There are a couple of medias that it burns very well though.

Here are some verbatims at 18x

http://club.cdfreaks.com/attachments/f33/109577d1179377743-whats-best-16x-media-papa27if28182408_18x_sa.png

http://club.cdfreaks.com/attachments/f33/109553d1179371019-whats-best-16x-media-papa25jg270719734_18x_2.png

I think sonyd21 was another it liked. I’m looking at getting a 20x samsung soon.

Hope that helps a little.

Not entirely, I’m just saying that just now they have to win my support back with a really great bang for the buck product. I won’t buy anymore Lite-On drives automatically after all of those I’ve had troubles with DVD burn quality, but if I see enough reason to believe they truly have improved I’ll reconsider.

They also have asus (haven’t heard anyone recommending them and I’m not familiar with them, no idea if they are good)

ASUS makes a lot of things these days, including motherboards, video cards, and etc. Anything where the parts going into the PCB are the most important I’d really trust them with when they get it right (though I’ve seen that it can be kind of hit or miss with some of their products being great and some being horrible and all of them with an unjustified pricetag.) That said, they never made an optical drive before to my knowledge. I’m willing to bet that they still haven’t. The ASUS name on an optical drive screams to me “rebadge!”

Obviously I don’t know what you want in a drive (maybe you want to look at the older ones or sata)

I’m just basically focusing on overall burn quality even if I have to give up a little speed or anything like that to get it. I do want to stick to PATA though right now. Probably the drive after this can be SATA, but right now I just can’t switch right over like that for various reasons. Actually, that I know of, this has so far just meant one drive less out of all of the best looking choices.

Hope that helps a little.

Well, I’m not quite 100% sure that I’m ruling out the slower drives even though you are correct that they are going to see loss of support more quickly and that sort of thing. In fact, that’s not much of a consideration for me because I always do my very best to buy my computer hardware to last. I took a single core San Diego and a Radeon X850XT-PE through a very long run for example (and, btw, I might add that they ran some newer games like Bioshock surprisingly well considering how quick people were to put down outdated older single core chips and a video card that doesn’t even do SM 3.0.) I bought those even longer ago than you might think and only just finally replaced them a month or so ago. I do my best to pick hardware that will last, and honestly I think I usually do a decent job considering how that supposedly hopelessly outdated system was running modern games with some rather decent quality settings (no 640 or anything like that, but actually rather high settings in fact.) Actually, that’s a pretty good example, because frankly I’d say that AMD abandoned DDR[1] pretty quickly after the San Diego, chipset manufacturers abandoned AGP in a hurry (even though truthfully PCI-Express wasn’t even that much faster,) and frankly I wasn’t seeing the best of support for that X850XT-PE in favor of their latest efforts to keep up with nVidia. But, despite all of it being so quickly abandoned it all held up for far longer than it should have and with only very little overclocking (the CPU wouldn’t go past 2.4GHz and remain stable so it was effectively nothing more than a 4000+, and the video card wouldn’t overclock the memory at all and I got no really noticable benefits from overclocking the GPU. The memory didn’t overclock much, but I will admit that I got really low latencies out of it despite that overclock.)

I want to do the same thing for my burner. I want it to be something that’s going to hold up. The Lite-On wouldn’t even be replaced if it hadn’t screwed up on me (and even when it started messing up I was resigned to just put up with it until it completely stopped working at all.) But the last firmware update was dated all the way back to 2005 I think. Basically I want a drive that’s capable enough to work without relying on firmware upgrades (though I do accept that this means reduced compatibility and overall quality later on down the road once all support is dropped.) The fact is, manufacturers are all too quick to abandon their products these days anyway with the mentality that everyone should immediately run to buy the latest gadget without question, but I have a pretty low income, so I have to pick the longest lasting one that I can reasonably afford rather than the shiniest new one. It doesn’t have to be the best of the best (for example, in the previous sample given, I could have tried to track down one of those socket 939 Opterons that overclocked so well and I probably could have gotten a Geforce card in AGP if I didn’t mind it being half crippled by using an adapter rather than a proper interface and having little to no full AGP capability support in future drivers.) Just good enough to last a while.

Anyway, I’ve been kind of looking into the Pioneer DVR-115 since I first saw it in the editor’s picks, but I haven’t found any really good reviews yet. In fact, one was even spending the entire review complaining that it wasn’t SATA rather than discussing drive quality/features… (I mean, sheesh, who buys an IDE drive wanting SATA? If you want SATA you buy a SATA drive…) I did find one that tested media a bit more, but really all I determined from that is that it won’t burn lower quality media at maximum speed as well due to not being able to autogenerate write profiles on the fly (but, then I’m not convinced that’s necessarily a bad thing… In my experience, automatic systems all too often automatically screw up for you and then all too rarely even have an override under the assumption that they could never go wrong…)