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Despite the nature of optical SATA drives using relatively low CPU usage and southbridge communications, we always find it necessary to list the hardware configuration used for testing purposes.
As with most of our hardware reviews, we usually put our tested products under ridiculously overkill and sometimes even extremely overkill system environments where we have absolute confidence that nothing is going to be bottlenecking performance in any possible test scenario. With that said, our core hardware configuration consisted of an EVGA X58 SLI Classified E759 (nForce 200) motherboard, an Intel Core i7 Extreme 965 at 3.74GHz and 1.34v, 6GB of Mushkin XP Series DDR3 1600MHz 7-8-7-20 in triple-channel mode, and two Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 graphics cards running at stock speeds (for now).
Our peripheral hardware configuration consisted of a Thermalright TRUE Copper with dual Noctua NF-12P fans in push-pull configuration, two Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB RAID Edition drives running Windows 7 Ultimate x64 RTM, and of course the Lite-On iHES208 8X Blu-ray Reader / DVD Writer Combo drive.
As far as software application choice is concerned, we went with Nero DiscSpeed 5 as our primary benchmarking solution for its compatibility with Windows 7, its simplicity and its ease of use.
The Lite-On iHES208 test ended up resulting with an overall 43MB/s Bust Rate and 87ms access time.
The Lite-On iHOS104 test ended up resulting with an overall 34MB/s Bust Rate and 92ms access time.
The Sony BDU-X10S test ended up resulting with an overall 47MB/s Bust Rate and 115ms access time.
While it may seem commonly understood that average read speeds and average write speeds are the most important factor in optical drive benchmarking, we want to point out that there is yet an even more important concern in dealing with price vs. performance comparisons. The concern is with the start-up and loading times of optical drives in comparison to competing technologies such as NAND flash storage and other flash-based media solutions.
Over the years, we have seen dramatic advancements in various forms of portable storage including memory cards, memory sticks and USB flash drives that have only previously been limited by their storage capacities. As we approach 2010, however, we are beginning to see the emergence of flash-based storage with enough capacity to match a 50GB Blu-ray Disc at reasonable pricing. While the data transfer rates of optical storage versus flash-based storage is a significant aspect of comparison, it is even more important to understand the difference in the amount of time it takes to insert a Blu-ray Disc and have it appear on screen versus the amount of time it takes a flash drive to do the same task.
We decided to throw in a Corsair Flash Voyager 32GB and a Patriot Xporter XT 32GB into our load-time testing run. Both drives are based on high density MLC NAND flash and were available beginning in early 2008. It is immediately noticeable from the benchmark results that Audio CDs and Movie DVDs hold the quickest loading speeds over the range of these optical disc drives, while Blu-ray movies produce the slowest loading times. Somehow, we thought that the 450nm blue laser diode would have a speed advantage over the 650nm and 780nm red laser diodes for DVDs and CDs respectively.
However, this assumption doesn’t seem to be the case, unless the Blu-ray loading times were hindered by the fact that our movie was on a dual-layer 50GB disc. Nevertheless, it is clearly evident that NAND flash takes a significant lead over the Lite-On iHES208 and all the optical drives in our testing, possibly even a majority of drives on the market. This is yet a small reminder to optical drive manufacturers that start-up times play a significant role in consumer satisfaction, and that there needs to be significant improvement in this area if optical drives are going to continue competing with flash-based solutions in the near future.