LightScribe is potentially the best thing to hit DVD writing technology since, well, DVD writing technology itself.

Creating a new DVD is all very well, but how are we supposed to keep track of what's on each disc? We can scrawl a description on the surface, but that's hardly the most attractive of solutions. And labelling with an inkjet or laser printer is cumbersome.

So the LightScribe technology featured in this Liteon drive is just the thing we need. Buy a specially coated disc and burn the data onto it, then turn it over and let it etch a label onto the other side.

However, we should point out that the technology is at quite an early stage. You can't do colour yet, and printing an image onto a disc can take quite some time – transferring a complicated image at the highest quality setting took close to half an hour. But even so, we rather like LightScribe.

Just printing a quick inventory of the disc's contents is simple enough and only takes a few minutes, and it's nice to have the more advanced features just in case you find yourself with a spare half-hour. Photos look surprisingly good given the colour limitations, so it would be quite possible to produce some professional results.

Best of all, buy this drive and you'll get a rather good optical drive thrown in at the same time. The SHW-16H5S is well-priced, and its turn of speed is highly desirable. It proved itself capable of copying 3GB of data in under five minutes on both DVD-R and +R formats, while the six minutes and 28 seconds needed to copy to rewriteable media is one of the best performances we've seen yet.

Admittedly, the 4x DVD-R DL is slightly under-par, but you do still have a very good 8x DVD+R DL mode. And given the inclusion of LightScribe, we think that sacrificing one of the two good dual-layer modes is a fair deal.

Liteon SHW-16H5S: Specs

  • 48x/48x/24x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) 16x/16x/16x/4x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW) drive
  • EIDE interface
  • 8.5GB max DVD storage capacity
  • 2MB drive buffer
  • 160ms average access time (DVD)
  • software bundle
  • 1-year warranty
  • 48x/48x/24x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) 16x/16x/16x/4x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW) drive
  • EIDE interface
  • 8.5GB max DVD storage capacity
  • 2MB drive buffer
  • 160ms average access time (DVD)
  • software bundle
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

LightScribe has a long way to go but, even at this early stage, we can see some users loving it. As a standard DVD writer, the Liteon works extremely well, with the poor DVD-R DL capabilities the only downer. Make sure you get the version with the software (you'll need the LightScribe add-ons) – and you'll find this an excellent drive for the money.

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