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Samsung TS-H552U Review

Highs

  • Available in both beige and black; excellent software package; very affordable

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 4

Lows

  • Slow DVD-R write times
  • confusing model number; may be difficult to find
the real bottom line is that this is a very reliable drive provided you use the correctly rated media.

Summary

Dual-Layer writing capabilities have been around for the past year and we are finally starting to see the price of these DVD writers decline to more affordable levels. Case in point: Samsung’s new WriteMaster TS-H552U Dual Layer DVD writer can write Dual Layer DVD’s at a blazing 5x write time, yet the drive costs under $100 dollars and comes with a very tempting software package. Sony and Plextor both offer dual layer capable drives with 4X write times, so it looks like Samsung may have the jump on the competition.

*Edit 4/6/05 – Originally we stated that the TS-H552U is the model number for the beige unit while TS-H552B is the model number of the black unit. This is incorrect. The TS-H552U is this years model number for both beige and black drives while the TS-H552B is the model number for last years (slower) drive. So make sure that you look for the TS-H552U when shopping. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

Features and Design

 

The Samsung TS-H552U optical drive is a result of the partnership between Samsung and Toshiba or TSST (Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corporation), so we would not surprised if the Toshiba DVD writers floating around out there were either identical or shared some of the same components as the TS-H552U, although this is just a guess.

This years TS-H552U drive looks nearly identical as the previous years, and the only differences between the two models are the box design and the specifications. The drive face plate and even the model number are the same. So when you are shopping around for the TS-H552U, it is imperative that you look at the specs and make sure that they give a 5X write time for Dual Layer media instead of 2.4X which is the speed rating of the previous years unit.

The TS-H552U is available in two different colors, beige and black. Companies like Sony and Plextor go so far as to just include an extra faceplate in the box of a single unit, but Samsung chose to just introduce two different models altogether. So you have the option to get a drive with a black face to match your computer system.

Samsung TS-H552
Samsung TS-H552 in beige

As is standard with almost all optical drives, the tray eject button and activity LED is located in the front bottom right corner. Samsung includes an IDE cable, an audio cable, a quick start guide and Nero recording software with the drive. Since it is hard to find Dual layer media capable of 5X write speeds at this time it would have been great if Samsung included some recordable media with the TS-H552U, but they didn’t so you will have to buy some when you get this drive.

On the software front, Samsung includes the same software you will find with the more expensive drive from Sony and Plextor. This includes Nero burning ROM 6 SE which is used to create data and music discs as well perform basic CD/DVD duplication, InCD 4 which is a DVD+/-RW and CD-RW packet writing software, Nero Vision Express 2 which is used for DVD-Video and Video CD authoring and editing, and Nero Back It Up which allows you to back up your computers main files onto CD or DVD. Lastly, Sony includes Nero’s Showtime software which is used to play DVD video and video CDs on your PC.

Write speeds include 16X DVD+R, 4X DVD+RW, 16X DVD-R, 4X DVD-RW, 40X CD-R, 32X CD-RW and 5X DVD+R DL write speeds. Read speeds are rated at 16X for DVD-ROM, and 48X for CD-ROM media

The Samsung TS-H552U features a 2MB internal buffer and incorporates PowerBurn technology into the TS-H552U to help prevent buffer underruns errors. The TS-H552 is only compatible with Windows based systems and requires a minimum of an Intel Pentium III 800 MHz CPU or equivalent, 128MB of memory and Windows 98 SE/ME/2000/XP.

* Note Nero DVD Copy does not support windows 98/ME so if you are running that operating system, you will only have limited burning capabilities with this drive.

Performance

In our tests the Samsung TS-H552U was able to compete with both the Sony DRU-700A and the MSI DR-16B DVD writers. And although the TS-H552U is suppose to have faster write speeds than the two other drives; it was a pretty close race in most of the tests with only a few seconds difference in most instances.

In our Dual layer tests, the TS-H552U clearly smashed the competition due to its faster 5X writing capabilities. Both the Sony and MSI drives are limited to only a 2.4X write speed, although both companies now have drives capable of writing dual layer media at 4X so we would expect the gap to close quite a bit.

Designtechnica Test System

Windows XP Professional; Intel LGA 775 3GHz CPU; 1GB Crucial Ballisitx DDR2 533MHz RAM; MSI ATI X800 XT video card; Western Digital 7200RPM SATA 80GB hard drive

Setup and Use

 

Samsung includes both a detailed and a quick start guide to get you going with the installation process of the TS-H552U. We found both manuals to be well written and easy to follow. Physically installing the drive is a relatively simple process and does not require any special instructions other than making the drive the first one on the IDE channel. Once the drive is installed you will want to run the software CD which comes with the unit. TS-H552U uses their own setup menu so you can access the software you want easily.

As we have mentioned in other DVD writer reviews, we are big fans of the Nero CD and DVD writing software, so we are glad to see Samsung choose Nero for use with their drives. Nero’s Burning ROM 6 SE software is what you will probably use the most. It is fast and easy to use and we did not encounter any media incompatibilities or slowdowns while writing our media. Nero’s InCD 4 packet writing software is pretty solid and reliability, but may not be a necessity if you are used to using Microsoft’s own packet writing software which is integrated into their Windows XP operating systems.

The main setup menu

The rest of Nero’s software including their DVD editing, and backup software are not as strong as stand alone packages you can buy separately, but for the casual user they still work very well. Nero’s Showtime software is similar to WinDVD or Cyberlinks PowerDVD software, but not as good in our opinion. Overall, the software suite which Samsung includes with the TS-H552U is top notch with very little to complain about.

Nero setup screen
Nero setup screen

In our tests the Samsung TS-H552U was able to compete with both the Sony DRU-700A and the MSI DR-16B DVD writers. And although the TS-H552U is suppose to have faster write speeds than the two other drives; it was a pretty close race in most of the tests with only a few seconds difference in most instances.

In our Dual layer tests, the TS-H552U clearly smashed the competition due to its faster 5X writing capabilities. Both the Sony and MSI drives are limited to only a 2.4X write speed, although both companies now have drives capable of writing dual layer media at 4X so we would expect the gap to close quite a bit. We were able to write at 4X Dual layer speeds using 1X rated Verbatim media, but were not able to write at 5X speeds using the slower media, so if you want maximum performance, make sure that you buy the highest rated media you can.

The TS-H552U seemed to really struggle when it came to writing to DVD-R media. It would write to DVD-R in record time and then just seem to hang there as it tried to close the session. We have seen this happen with other drives we have tested including the MSI drive, but when it came to the DVD-R tests, the Sony simply could not be touched.

Conclusion

 

Samsung’s TS-H552U is a very capable drive. Write times were fast with the exception to DVD-R media. The 5X write speed of the TS-H552U proved to be only incrementally faster than 4X drives from Sony and Plextor. We did not encounter any problems with reliability and did not produce any bad discs in our testing process. The Nero software package is very robust and should cover just about every need an entry level enthusiast might have when it comes to creating media.

Samsung was very smart to make the TS-H552U available in both black and beige color options. It might have been smarter to have just included two different faceplates instead of selling two models, but that is not up to us.  With 5X Double layer drives just now entering the market, you will be hard pressed to find any 5X compatible media, but you might be able to get away with writing at 5X on 4X rated media. The slow DVD-R write times hold the TS-H552U back from winning our editors choice award, but the real bottom line is that this is a very reliable drive provided you use the correctly rated media.

Pros:

–          Available in both beige and black

–          Comes with Nero suite software package

–          Very affordable

–          Reliable and fast

Cons:

–          Struggles with DVD-R media (although we never produced a bad disc)

–          Not as fast as the specifications would lead you to believe

–          Confusing model number (people will most likely purchase last years drive thinking it is the newer model)

–          Does not come with any recordable media

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