LG GP08NU10 slimline portable DVD writer
Ready for any disc format. Ready for your netbook
Review Apple's MacBook Air may have put off some potential purchasers by eschewing a built-in optical drive, but it's not the only laptop to do so. The whole new wave of Small, Cheap Computers skimp on opticals for size and price reasons.
Which is good news for makers of external optical drives, among them LG. Where once it would have punted its GP08 slimline DVD writer at folk looking to add DVD technology to a CD-only machine, now it has a swathe of netbook owners looking for an external drive to install software and back-up downloads. And to be able to take it with them when they're out and about.
LG's GP08NU10: portable burner for your MacBook Air
The GP08's not the highest spec DVD writer we've seen, but since it's being sold on its size and portability rather than its performance, that's perhaps less of an issue. The LG is an 8x drive - depending on disc format, of course - and while we have a 16x drive in the office which we use for testing netbooks, it's a clunky, chunky big black brick of a unit with a big, laptop-style power brick.
By contrast, the svelte GP08 is half as high, three-quarters of the depth and considerably less heavy. It only weighs 380g. Power comes straight over USB - there's a second cable in the box if you need power from two ports - so there's no AC adaptor to lug around.
All it lacks, from a portability perspective, is a handy slip case to stop it getting scratched and bashed in your backpack.
In addition to the two USB cables - one terminates in a standard mini USB connector, the other with a slim cylinder that goes in the GP08's power port - the drive comes with a disc full of Windows software for doing back-up runs, playing and mastering DVDs.
With an eye on the MacBook Air owner, LG touts the GP08's Mac friendliness, but that doesn't extend to providing any software. Mac owners can make use of commercial apps like Toast or open source alternatives, such as Burn, but they'll have to track these down and, where necessary, pay for these themselves. Linux users are likewise left to fend for themselves.
The only difference between the GP08 and the otherwise identical LG GSA-E50N, is Mac compatibility, LG told us. The LG offering has marginally better specs than Apple's own MacBook Air-oriented external DVD drive, but is around £15 cheaper.
Windows users get SecurDisc, a tool built into the bundled Nero Express app that allows you to password-protect and digitally sign media. You can even add your own DRM, but only to PDFs.
All your burning needs covered... unless you're a Mac or Linux user
We tried the password protection facility, and it kept Windows PC owners, Mac and Linux users away from our files, which are decrypted as they're copied from the disc to a Windows machine on which a suitable SecurDisc reader has been installed.
The version of the GP08 we looked at, the GP08NU10, doesn't support LightScribe labelling, though a second version, the GP08LU10, does. Both models support all the CD and DVD formats, including dual-layer media and DVD-RAM. The headline 8x speed applies to writing DVD±R and DVD+RW. Dual-layer recordable media rate 6x write performance, as does DVD-RW. DVD-Ram is 5x. CD media are written at 24x standard speed.
Claimed read speeds are 8x for DVD-Rom, video DVDs, single- and dual-layer DVD±R/RW. DVD-Ram and CDs are, again, 5x and 24x, respectively.
LG doesn't bundle any discs with the GP08, so we had no 'recommended' media to try. We used a variety of discs, from a range of suppliers, including big brands and no-namers. The read and write speeds for small data sets, across-the-disc writes and layer-spanning burns weren't bad, though consistently just below the claimed, 'write the data to the right part of the disc' peak speeds.
DVD+ discs worked generally better than DVD- media, but that's exactly what we'd expect.
Finally, while the drive worked perfectly when connected directly to a MacBook Air, we ran into trouble - dodgy burns, basically - when we connected it through a cheap, bus-powered USB hub.
We've seen the GP08 available for as little as £50. If you only spent £200 on your netbook, that's no great loss. The drive's no speed demon, but that's not its raison d'etre. No, this drive's about portability, and with its low weight, compact size and bus power source, it has that in spades.
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