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Samsung SH-B022 Blu-ray Disc writer

Blu-ray finally arrives - does it live up to the hype?

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Preview 2006: the year of High Definition video, Blu-ray and HD DVD. Well, that's the way things are looking at the moment, with just about every consumer electronics manufacturer in the world jumping on the bandwagon. These technologies aren't exclusively reserved for the consumer-electronics market - they're coming to the PC as well, and Samsung is the first manufacturer with a PC Blu-ray drive ready to go...

Samsung Blu-ray drive

The SH-B022 - once again a name that doesn't speak volumes about the product behind it - looks just like your average DVD writer, with one small difference: the big Blu-ray Disc logo on the left-hand side of the face-plate. This is the only dead giveaway, but the metallic eject button with a blue LED on each side of it also suggests there is something different going on here. The piano black fascia makes it look a lot more expensive than a typical DVD writer, but new technology always tends to get the bling treatment to make it stand out from the previous generation.

I was rather disappointed to find an IDE interface around the back of the drive, especially as Samsung has recently launched a SATA DVD writer. Considering that the next generation of South Bridge chip from Intel will drop IDE support all together, this seems like a bad move by Samsung. However, most current PCs still have at least one IDE connector, so unless it's another six months before the drive is out, this shouldn't prove to be a major problem.

Installing the SH-B022 is just as easy as fitting any other optical drive in a PC. Windows XP recognises the drive, although even with Service Pack 2 installed Windows XP wasn't interested in seeing a blank Blu-ray disc in the drive. Samsung provided a copy of Nero 7 with a special patch for the drive to make it possible to write to Blu-ray media.

The tests I could perform were limited due to the fact that I only had access to a just one BD-RE (RE for rewriteable) disc and no BD-R media. Samsung said media prices will initially be around £15 for a 25GB BD-RE disc, so we're back to the early days of expensive DVD media. The SH-B022 supports 2x writing speed, around 9MBps which equates to about 7x in DVD writing speeds. Considering that you have the ability to write 25GB to a single-layer disc, this isn't that fast and as you'll see from the tests.

I fired up Nero 7 and did a couple of write tests to get an idea on how fast the drive is. I used WinRAR to create a store archive of 12.7GB worth of files. By using the store setting in WinRAR no compression is used and this was done to maximise the file size. To write this single file to a BD-RE disc you have to use UDF (Universal Data Format) rather than ISO which is normally used when writing discs. However, anyone that is using dual-layer DVDs will be familiar with UDF.

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