Combo upgrade time?
Review For those using their PCs as home entertainment centres, the Samsung SH-BO83L internal drive turns your computer into a versatile Blu-ray player while also acting as a fast DVD and CD writer. In one step, it upgrades your disc burning ability and adds BD-Rom support at a thoroughly reasonable price.
Samsung’s SH-BO83L: Sata desktops need only apply
Installation is easy: the product slots into any free 5.25in drive bay in your desktop PC and can be fixed manually with the mounting screws provided. It is a Serial ATA device, so requires an appropriate Sata connector on your motherboard and a Sata plug leading from your computer's power supply. A Sata data cable is provided in the box along with the drive.
The drive fascia is designed in the popular colour of the hour – glossy black – with a mirrored finish given to the flap covering the tray. The large, L-shaped eject button also acts as the drive's data access light, flashing a bright blue probably to suggest 'Blu-ray' or possibly to remind you not to burn pirate discs or the police will be on to you.
The specifications of the unit are good, promising 8x read speed of single-layer BD-ROM discs (including BD-R and BD-RE) and 4x for dual-layer media. For DVDs, playback is rated at 16x while you should be able to write DVD+/-R discs at 16x, DVD+RW at 8x and DVD-RW at 6x. You can write CD-R media at 48x and CD-RW at 32x. Read speed for standard CD-ROMs is 48x, reduced a little to 40x for CD-R and CD-RW discs.
Boring all that might be, it simply means you can burn and play DVD and CD media at the industry's best mainstream desktop speeds as well as play Blu-ray movies and access data from BD-ROMs. This kind of product would have cost £150 just a few months ago, so the price has effectively halved.
Bundled with Cyberlink software for Blu-ray playback and CD/DVD disc authoring
Also provided in the box is a copy of Cyberlink's Blu-ray Disc Suite 6.0, a generous package of disc utilities. As well as the essential PowerDVD 8 for playing Blu-ray and DVD movies, the suite includes PowerProducer – a friendly DVD creator for compiling your own camcorder videos, an 'open-session' utility for convenient CD writing (InstantBurn) and disc label designer (LabelPrint), plus backup software.
This version of the suite also prompts you with a technology called MoovieLive (yes, with a double-o) that wants to keep track of what movies you watch and upload that information to a website. Mindful of the potential significance of the flashing blue light on the drive, we chose to switch this feature off.
Lightscribe offers an eye-catching way to label media
The LabelPrint application operates the LightScribe feature of the drive, allowing you to burn the label directly into the top surface of LightScribe-compatible media. During our tests, however, the drive initially failed to recognise our LightScribe discs. Thinking a minor firmware update might be in order, since our test PC was running Windows 7, we were forced to endure a frustrating online registration process that refused to accept our details because our email address did not end with '.com', repeatedly complaining 'You has not registered' (sic).
When we finally fought our way past this stage, our attempts at locating the correct firmware updater to download led to a web page that informed us: 'It does not support' (sic). We eventually persuaded the drive to recognise LightScribe media without any firmware update, but only after a lot of experimentation and restarting. LightScribe labels took about 25-30 minutes to burn.
Blu-ray and DVD playback was excellent through CyberLink PowerDVD 8, although the drive itself was not as quiet as we would have liked. It is not something you would notice in a living room environment but it takes a few minutes to forget about the hum when you are watching a movie at a desk with the computer right next to you. Headphones are probably in order.
We also experienced initial problems with Blu-ray playback, PowerDVD managing to play the audio but leaving the video screen resolutely blank. The problem was fixed by installing different Windows 7 video card drivers, although it is worth noting that DVD – as opposed to Blu-ray – movie playback had given us no problem at all prior to this. Samsung says the drive is compatible with Windows XP (SP2), Vista and 7, but our experience suggests that Windows 7 users might have to tweak a few things.
With its great price, software bundle and performance spec, this drive is quite a bargain. We would have preferred everything to work under Windows 7 Home Premium straight out of the box, but even if this is not yet possible, some better on-line guidance, written in correct English, would have increased our review rating by 10 per cent. ®
More Optical Drive Reviews...
USB DVD drive