LG Super Multi DVD Rewriter GSA-E60N
These days most new PCs come supplied with a built-in DVD writer, indeed the last PC I bought more than a year ago provided one in the standard price. So with a perfectly good writer already in my tower case why do I need this rather blocky external one taking up space on my desk? Well this writer comes with the nifty bonus of being a LightScribe drive, a permanent disc labelling system that provides a high quality finishing touch to my home made DVDs, but more of that later.
Why do you need a DVD writer?
Storing data is the obvious answer. And with 4.7GB available on standard DVDs (8.5GB on dual layer) you can pack a lot of data on each disc. This makes them essential tools for backing up those memory hungry and irreplaceable photos and videos.
They can also be used for creating DVDs that can be viewed on the television via your standard DVD player, be it home videos, holiday photo slideshows or those legally ambiguous bit torrent downloads that are slowing bringing the internet to its knees. The digital age has left CDs far behind in terms of storage and with prices starting at around £20 for a basic writer the reasons for not having one are running out.
The LG Super Multi DVD Rewriter
That superlative laden model name is a bit cumbersome so from now on I'll refer to it by its model reference: GSA-E60N. The GSA-E60N is a pretty ugly piece of kit, and I won't pretend otherwise. A blocky, bulky lump of black plastic it looks like something from the mid nineties, a time when design aesthetics had no place in the personal computing world, the only concession being a thin silver strip running around the edge. Front loading, it has a single open/close button on its face and an LED to indicate when it is running. It connects to the PC via hi-speed USB 2.0 and requires its own power supply. Once connected to the PC and powered up it will be visible on the My Computer screen and assigned its own drive letter.
I'll try not to get bogged down with numbers and specifications but to give you some idea of performance it will write to DVD+/-R discs in about six minutes. I don't use dual layer discs personally but LG claim a write time of 21 minutes. While not blisteringly quick compared to other writers these are about the best around for LightScribe devices.
As far as compatibility goes the GSA-E60N pretty much has the bases covered. It will cope with all the major DVD formats (+R, -R, RAM plus RW versions and dual layer) as well as writing to CD (R & RW).
As a data back up service I've never had a failed recording, creating DVDs to be watched on TV is a more complicated business and on a couple of occasion I've created unreadable discs. However, this is more likely to be due to problems with my settings in the DVD authoring software rather than with the writer itself.
This model comes with SecurDisc technology, a system that provides data protection and content access control. As I only make discs for personal use I haven't really explored this function but for more professional users this looks like an effective method for protecting and sharing data securely.
The software that comes with the writer includes Cyberlink PowerDVD , NERO InCD, Nero Express and CyberLink PowerProducer. I quite like the Nero products, although I no longer use them, but I can't bear the Cyberlink ones. Ugly interfaces and cumbersome I find they're more trouble than they're worth but if you're running on a basic XP/Vista installation and don't want to buy any extra software they contain everything you need to get full use out of the writer.
LightScribe is an innovative technology that uses a special disc drive, special media, and label-making software to burn labels directly onto CDs and DVDs. The label is created by laser etching a design into a specially coated disc. The resulting image is permanent, it won't smudge and it won't peel.
You need three things to create LightScribe discs, a suitable writer (like this one), a LightScribe DVD and disc writing software (like the Nero supplied). You copy the data to the disc in the normal way; once this is done you can create the disc image. This can be text or a picture or any mixture of the two created in the labelling software. You then turn the disc over in the writer and press print. The laser will burn away at the special coating to leave the image etched on the disc. Simple and quick, actually not that quick as putting an image across the whole disc on best quality will take about 40 minutes; but using text only is a lot quicker. The process is fairly simple technically and I've never had a botched disc.
The resulting image will be monochrome, and while no match for film studio DVDs will still be very impressive. Because the burning process is permanent images cannot be undone or overwritten although you can add more detail at a later date. The examples on the LightScribe website are a little more impressive than I've managed at home but not outrageously so. A lot depends on the image you are creating, because it will be monochrome it helps to use a picture with a strong degree of contrast as it won't handle shade and tone well.
While I have seen LightScribe CDs for sale on the high street (PC World and Rymans both stock them) the DVDs are a little harder to track down. I've only seen them for sale on line (Amazon and Komplett.co.uk for example) but I've never had a problem ordering them. At about five pounds for a spindle of 10 DVDs or a shade over three pounds for five with cases they are a little more expensive than regular DVDs but not prohibitively so. They are available in both +R and -R formats. Currently, the discs available over here only come with a gold colour coating but the website now advertises DVD media in multi-colour packs including red, green, blue, yellow, and orange backgrounds. The image is still monochrome but at least there is now some variety.
LightScribe is a slow burning technology that is barely advertised over here, but its penetration is growing. I've seen the writers for sale on the high street and plenty of places on line. I've also noticed that LightScribe drives are offered on many new PCs either as standard or as a cheap upgrade so hopefully it is here to stay.
If you're planning to buy a new PC anytime soon I would recommend adding a LightScribe drive to your package. If not I'm happy to recommend this external drive until you do.
This drive is available from www.komplett.co.uk for £37.
For further information see www.lightscribe.com and www.lge.com/products/main.jhtml