Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1356




Introduction and Construction

Even with the backing of enormous manufacturers like Hitachi and LG, the DVD-RAM format never quite got off the ground in the retail market. Only up until a few months ago, you needed a separate DVD-RAM burner to write data. LG was the first to step up to the task in creating a true, universal DVD writer using chipsets designed from the ground up. Today, we take a look at their second generation "Super Multi" drive and see if it can really take the heat against tried and true burners already available on the market.

The GSA-4120B comes with fairly good documentation in both paper and electronic form. We were pleased with the level of detail included in the manual. However, the software bundle was just average. Included was PowerDVD, PowerProducer Gold, Nero Express and InCD. These are good starter software packages, but a drive of this caliber should really bundle the full version of Nero. No media was included with the drive.




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Below is a quick overview of specifications on the drive:

LG GSA-4120B DVD-/+R Drive
Interface PATA
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 12X, 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD-RAM Write Speed 5X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 16X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, UDF
Access Time CD: 135ms
DVD: 155ms
Buffer 2MB

Most specifications on the GSA-4120B are similar to that of the Plextor 708A, our previous champion for DVD recording. The Plextor 712A was able to raise the bar on all of these specifications except DVD dual layer and DVD-RAM recording. However, the addition of these two burn types are significant advantages over any Plextor burner.




DVD Dual Layer (DVD DL) is something vendors and end users have been talking about for a considerable amount of time now. Unfortunately, media still has not hit the mainstream. We are hearing from select vendors that the occasional disc or two will sell for upwards of $5, but in the meantime, we have to sit and wait for Verbatim and Ritek to let their media slowly trickle down to end users.



Oddly enough, Nero and DVD Info Pro identify the GSA-4120B as only capable of 4X DVD-RAM burning (the box advertises 5X). Since we do not have 5X DVD-RAM media, nor was any included with the drive, we simply have to take LG's word for it until reliable 5X media becomes available.




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Unfortunately, the drive does not use a chipset with which we are particularly familiar. The previous LG GSA-4081B used a custom chipset that was based loosely around NEC and Hitachi components. More than likely, the GSA-4120B is still based around a Hitachi chipset, since the drive cover clearly states "Designed by Hitachi-LG Data Storage Inc".




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There are no official booktype setting capabilities for this drive. There are several unofficial firmwares that burn the discs with a DVD-ROM booktype, but we will only focus on retail firmware in this review.




Burn Tests CDR Media

We use the following configuration to test our burners:

Albatron 865PE Pro II
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz 800FSB
2 x 512 DDR OCZ PC3200 EL
Maxtor 80GB 7200RPM 8MB PATA
Windows XP SP1

You can check out our previous benchmarks on the Plextor PX-712A from last month. For the duration of this benchmark, we use the included A101mware. We first burn the media with the LG GSA-4120B and then use Plextools to test C1/C2/CU averages in the same drive. Good burns have low C1/C2 averages and are considered the most readable. We used Ahead Nero's CD-DVD Speed 2.11.4 for burn and read tests.

Ritek CDR:




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The GSA-4120B uses a slightly unusual Zone CLV burn method for CDRs. Most burners that we have looked at over the last few months have migrated to Constant Angular Velocity type CDR burns. Below, you can see how the GSA-4120B read the disc back.




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Here is how the disc performed using the Plextor PX-712A to check for errors.




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Memorex CDR:

Here is how our store-bought Memorex 48X CDRs fared with the burner.




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Above, the burn and initial readback look good. And here is how the same disc performed within the PX-712A.




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The Plextor has absolutely no trouble reading this disc.

Imation CDR:

Again, here are Imation store-bought CDRs burned and read with the LG burner.




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And here they are analyzed with the Plextor PX-712A.




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Although the read did not stay as consistant as the Ritek or Memorex CDRs, the Imation disc is still readable by our PX-712A. Surprisingly, the PX-712A did not detect any C2 errors.




Burn Tests DVD+R9 Media

Our first test is of the first commercially available DVD+R9 disc, Verbatim 2.4X DVD+R9s.

MKM 001:




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Unfortunately, no matter how many times we test it, we always end up with a coaster for dual layer discs. We have no other DL media with which to test the drive, other than Mitsubishi/Verbatim 2.4X. We anticipate to have other media to test by the time we run our 12X roundup.

Since the Plextor 712A does not read DVD DL discs, we were unable to test this media on our testing drive. Hopefully, by the time we retest the drive in our roundup, firmware upgrades and media support will enable more capability on the drive.




Burn Tests DVD+R Media

We used a few different DVD+R discs to show write quality and speeds.

MCC 003:

Here, Verbatim 8X DVD+Rs are burned and read with the GSA-4120B.




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Except for the few glitches in the middle, the LG looks to have burned the Verbatim disc very well. And here they are read back with the Plextor PX-712A.




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This disc is readable by the PX-712A, but the final 1GB on the disc gave our Plextor 712A some problems. It could be worse, but it appears as if several other DVD+R discs perform better. Looking at Q-Check PI/PO portion of the read back, we see a spike near the end of the disc, suggesting that this is why the Plextor had trouble reading near the 4GB mark.

Pay particular notice to the CPU usage while reading some of these DVDRs. The LG GSA-4120B reads discs regularly with 10% - 20% more CPU usage than the PX-712A.

PHILIPS C08:

We used store-bought Memorex discs for this portion of the benchmark.




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And here, the disc is read back again by the Plextor drive.




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Above, you can see the Plextor drive has no problems at all reading the disc back. In the Plextor and LG drives, this appears to be a good disc.

CMC MAG F01:

The CMC MAG discs are store-bought Imation discs.




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And here, the discs are again as played in the PX-712A.




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All looks well for this CMC disc until we get near the end of the read. We replicated this pattern on several Imation discs burned on the LG burner. Although this disc is still readable, the drastic tail off at the end of the read is discouraging.

VDSPMSAB001:

Just to keep the benchmark well rounded, we bought some low quality Platinum DVD+Rs from Microcenter.




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Even the LG burner has trouble reading this disc just after burning it. Here is how that same disc performed in the PX-712A.




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For whatever reason, the PX-712A calibrated itself all the way down to 2X to read this disc. This does not signal very good quality. Glancing at the Q-Check PI/PO test, we see this disc is not particularly reliable.

Below are a set of write descriptors that we could find for DVD+R media:
  • RITEK R03: 8X
  • MCC 002: 4X
  • MCC 003: 8x
  • CMC MAG F01: 8X
  • PHILIPS C08: 8X
  • RICOHJPNR00: 2.4X
  • RICOHJPNR01: 4X
  • RICOHJPNR02: 12X
  • SONY D11: 8X
  • VDSPMSAB001: 4X
  • YUDEN000T01: 4X
  • YUDEN000T02: 12X




Burn Tests DVD-R Media

We repeated the same benchmark from the previous page with DVD-R discs of varying quality.

MCC 02RG20:

Here is how the burner performed using Verbatim 8X DVD-R discs. These were the only discs that we could find which would burn 8X DVD-R on the burner.




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According to the burn and read charts from the GSA-4120B, this looks like a flawless burn. Below, you can see how the burner read the discs back.




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Like the DVD+R counterpart, the Mitsubishi DVD-R was readable, but just barely. We were fairly certain that the read would fail on us until the 2.5GB mark. Why the read decided to level off at that point does not seem clear. The Q-Check benchmark seems to suggest the inverse is true; that disc quality was lower near the end of the disc, rather than the beginning.

CMC MAG AF1:

Here, we used store-bought Imation discs to test DVD-R capability.




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Below, they are played back in the Plextor.




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The PX-712A does a good job reading this disc - we would consider it a good burn. The Plextor drive limits the read at 10X, something it does not do for other media.

AN31:

Again, we used low quality Platinum discs that we found in a bargin bin at Microcenter.




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Here, we attempted to read the discs in the Plextor.




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Our LG drive was barely capable of reading the disc about 1X speeds, and the read process actually failed using the Plextor drive. Unless you plan on burning coasters with your GSA-4120B, stay away from this media.

Below are a set of write descriptors that we could find for DVD-R media:
  • MCC 01RG20 : 4X
  • MCC 02RG20 : 8X
  • PRINCO: 4X
  • PVCR001002: 4X
  • RITEKG04 : 4X
  • CMC MAG AF1: 4X
  • AN31: 4X
  • TYG01: 4X




Printed Media

Lower seek times are better.
Seek Times - Pressed CD 74:40.02
Drive Random Full
AOpen DDW8800 122ms 188ms
ASUS DRW-0802P 127ms 296ms
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 116ms 232ms
LG GSA-4120B 125ms 242ms
Nu Tech DDW-082 113ms 160ms
Plextor 712A 112ms 165ms
Sony DRU-530A 86ms 155ms
Sony DRU-700A 119ms 245ms
Toshiba SD-R5272 110ms 169ms

Seek Times - DVD 4.38GB
Drive Random Full
AOpen DDW8800 114ms 272ms
ASUS DRW-0802P 130ms 312ms
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 102ms 194ms
LG GSA-4120B 94ms 195ms
Nu Tech DDW-082 99ms 171ms
Plextor 712A 107ms 259ms
Sony DRU-530A 129ms 204ms
Sony DRU-700A 121ms 231ms
Toshiba SD-R5272 97ms 180ms

Seek Times - DVD 7.88GB
Drive Random Full
LG GSA-4120B 109ms 207ms
Plextor 712A 310ms 427ms

Although seek times appeared exceptionally high for CDs, DVDs actually experienced better than average seek times.

We used various DVD and CD media around the lab for this portion of the benchmark. We attempted to use discs that contained no errors or scratches. Higher read speed averages are better.

Read - Pressed CD
Drive Average Read Length
AOpen DDW8800 31.35X 79:57.71
ASUS DRW-0802P 30.89X 79:57.71
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 30.12X 79:57.71
LG GSA-4120B 32.50X 79:57.71
Nu Tech DDW-082 33.22X 79:57.71
Plextor 712A 33.25X 79:57.71
Sony DRU-530A 31.80X 79:57.71
Sony DRU-700A 31.06X 79:57.71
Toshiba SD-R5272 31.22X 79:57.71

Read - DVDR
Drive Average Read Length
AOpen DDW8800 3.75X 4.38GB
ASUS DRW-0802P 6.27X 4.38GB
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.16X 4.38GB
LG GSA-4120B 7.58X 4.38GB
Nu Tech DDW-082 6.53X 4.38GB
Plextor 712A 6.21X 4.38GB
Sony DRU-530A 5.79X 4.38GB
Sony DRU-700A 6.20X 4.38GB
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.61X 4.38GB

Read - Pressed DVD Video
Drive Average Read Length
AOpen DDW8800 3.44X 7.88GB
ASUS DRW-0802P 6.34X 7.88GB
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.31X 7.88GB
LG GSA-4120B 6.88X 7.88GB
Nu Tech DDW-082 4.30X 7.88GB
Plextor 712A 6.18X 7.88GB
Sony DRU-530A 6.45X 7.88GB
Sony DRU-700A 5.88X 7.88GB
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.44X 7.88GB

Even though most of the burners that we have looked at in the last few months have advertised 12X and 16X read capabilities for DVD, the LG burner was one of the few burners actually capable of this feat. We found the GSA-4120B to be a much faster reader than other drives that we have looked at in the past. Unfortunately, this comes at a price, since our CPU usage skyrocketed while reading these DVDs.




Final Thoughts

By checking multiple types of media, and not just high end media, we found some fairly unsettling characteristics of the LG GSA-4120B. In particular, the lower quality DVDRs produced particularly poor burns, some of which where unreadable in other burners. We were also slightly troubled by the unusually high CPU usages while reading discs. Even with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, our test bed struggled to keep up at 8X while reading DVDRs.

As 5X DVD-RAM and 12X DVD+R media catch on, the GSA-4120B will become a more attractive option for end users. Unfortunately, the only real media ready for 12X (Ricoh and Yuden) has not found its way into the mainstream retail markets yet - we are even having trouble finding some with which to test our drives. As with the Plextor 712A, we were disappointed that the LG burner did not burn 12X on the 8X rated MCC 003 discs.

Fortunately, the GSA-4120B does make an excellent 8X burner. More options for burning 12X would have been welcomed, but until we see larger media saturation, we are more or less stuck with our options for now. With the exception of the cheap Platinum branded discs, the burner performed excellently as far as media quality is concerned. With unofficial firmwares, we are capable of setting the booktype as well, something that the Plextor PX-712A cannot offer.

If you need the DVD-RAM functionality, the GSA-4120B is one of the better options, simply because it performs well enough to replace an additional 8X DVD recorder. However, if you want the ultra slow 2.4X DVD+R9 capability, you may be better off grabbing an $80 NEC 2510 or Sony DRU-700A.

Although the LG GSA-4120B was an excellent product with a good media bundle and great 8X burn speeds, we find it hard to call it an excellent 12X burner without any media support. When we revisit our GSA-4120B during our upcoming 12X DVDR round up, hopefully we will see more 16X and 12X support from media manufacturers so we can give the LG GSA-4120B a second, proper examination.

Special Thanks to Verbatim for providing media for this review.


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