We came into posession of one of these “experimental” CDRW drives and thought it might be interesting to have a look at it and share our findings with the forum.
Our best information at this time is that this drive will not be released any time soon. It was under development for a large OEM customer of LiteOn, who decided they were not interested in the drive. So if LiteOn does release it, it will be probably sometime in 2005. LiteOn does not have any firm plans at present for any other SATA drives that we know of. As long as there are IDE ports on motherboards, there’s not much demand for this drive.
So this drive is mainly just a novelty at this time. But it may give a clue or 2 about the direction we can expect CDRW to be headed.
The drive’s model number seems to be similar to the recently announced SOHR-5238S which is slated to replace the revered 52327S burner. However we have other info that suggests the 52A8S may have a different chipset than the 5238S. Untill we can open up a 5238S and look inside, we cannot know.
The first thing that becomes obvious with this drive is that SATA controllers do not like it. Our source of info tells us that it seems to work very well with chipset-based SATA controllers, and not very well with PCI-based controllers. I have an onboard SIL-3112 controller (PCI-based) and also a SIIG PCI SATA controller card (also SIL-3112 chip). The drive will run on both of these controllers, but there are deffinite problems with firmware flashing and Kprobe scanning. I was able to flash firmware on the SIIG card, but not on the onboard controller.
Kprobe causes the entire PCI bus to freeze up if you try to access the drive, not a pleasant experience. LtnFW will read the firmware on either controller, but not write F/W except on the SIIG card. Whether these issues are due to drivers or BIOS on the controllers is anyone’s guess.
Another observation about the SIIG controller:
Here’s a reading curve at full speed on the SIIG card;
What’s interesting is that the drive did not actually slow down during this read, and the disc was a near-perfect CDR. So there appears to be some very strange bottleneck for data that is looking like a drive slow-down. Confirmed this oddity in DVDInfo:
also, I was getting very high CPU usage readings on the SIIG card, running upwards of 40% but only in CDSPeed, not on my system monitor.
So, I decided to put the drive on the onboard controller and here’s the result: (much better)
Again, this is the exact same SATA chip, with slightly different BIOS. I tried a number of different versions of drivers on the controller, even the driver form the SIIG card, but could not resolve the issues with the LiteOn utilities.
I noted that on the OB controller, CPU usage is reported as normal, and burst rate measurement went from 8 on the SIIG card to 19 on the OB controller.
I contacted SIIG support and was told that they have no interest in supporting optical drives, and so would not comment on this issues I see.
So the conclusion for all this is that in the near future, do not expect SATA controllers to support any optical drives, except the chipset-based controllers, and then only the Intel chip has been confirmed to work.
The drive does finction very well though, on my OB ports, as far as reading and burning is concerned.
Many of the available tests in CDSpeed do not function, but those that do work are shown here.