AS NOTEBOOKS become more common as desktop replacements, so devices like external drives continue to flourish, allowing users the luxury of combining portability with functionality. The GSA-E10L isn't exactly a name that rolls of the tongue, but it is the latest external DVD writer from LG and can write on just about any non-HD optical format out there.
The shiny box
The drive is a fairly stylish looking black plastic unit with silver edging that should look pretty at home in most settings. There is a single eject button on the front and a power and USB socket on the back, and that's about it. There are four rubber feet that allow you stow the writer flat or on either side.
In this case LG have forgone any other features occasionally found on these devices such as 'one touch' backup systems or video or audio input / output. We personally would have preferred the unit to be a little bigger and incorporate the power supply, but that's not the end of the world. There is no S-ATA or firewire connection only USB 2.0, but our testing showed this to handle data transmission with no problems, however if you connect this up via USB 1.1 you may encounter some problems when trying to write at high speeds or read streaming data like video.
Along with all the other regulation stuff in the box you'll find the regulation install CD which contains a soft
copy of the user manual, firmware update software that can automatically check for updates from the interweb and
several of the most common DVD programs around including Nero Express for general burning of CDs and DVDs,
PowerProducer 3 to help you make the sorts of DVDs you use to
torture show your friends, PowerDVD 6 for watching DVDs and InCD 4 to burn files directly to the
media. You'll also find the Lightscribe software and the other usual suspects like Acrobat Reader and DirectX 9 that
you may somehow not already have installed on your PC. The menu that automatically appears is completely
counter-intuitive, the user is presented with a description of each of the various programs available, but when you
click on them there is no option to install them, instead you have to click the single install button squirreled away
on the main menu to install the 'Cyberlink DVD Solution' and then only deep into the install process do you get to
choose which components you want to install.
Strange install menu
After tracking down a range of CDs and DVDs to test we finally managed to test recording in wide variety of different formats. As mentioned earlier this unit supports every CD and DVD format and writing method we know of and all at just about the fastest speeds currently around. The supported formats and their maximum speeds are as follows:
DVD+R 16x, DVD+R DL 10x, DVD-R 16x, DVD-R DL 6x, DVD+RW 8x, DVD-RW 6x, DVD-RAM 12x, CD-R 48x, CD-RW 32x
Cd-Rom 48x, DVD-Rom 16x
DVD-R/ RW: Disk at Once, Incremental Recording, Restricted Overwrite (DVD-RW only)
DVD+R: Sequential Recording
DVD+R/ -R DL: Sequential Recording
DVD+RW/ RAM: Random Write
CD-R/ RW: Disk at once, Track-at-once, Session-at-once, Packet Write
There is also support for LightScribe which allow you burn a monochromatic design onto the front of the disc rather than hasty scribble with a felt tip pen that most of us resort to. You do however need special discs to to this, which while not much more expensive than normal media are slightly more difficult to get hold of, limiting your options slightly. Depending on the definition and size of the image being burnt onto the cover it can take awhile to complete, but for most labels at a standard definition it will normally take only a few minutes.
Nero speed test
Using the device with several different machines including to notebooks and a bog standard desktop PC and we had no problems with any of the formats we used to write, in fact performance was impressive with copying usually constantly maintaining top speed. Similarly, playback was pretty much flawless, in fact the only times we encountered any problems was if it was hooked up to USB1.1 device or if the we heavily loaded the hard drive while writing, and even then we didn't manage to create even a single coaster.
If you're going to want to anything more than most basic burning we would strongly advise shelling out the cash for a full copy of Nero rather than just the Nero Express that comes with the drive, in fact LG could do themselves a massive favour buy supplying a full version of Nero Burning ROM instead of the cut down version they currently do.
We will always extol the virtues of internal optical media writers over external, for the simple reason there is less chance of data transmission problems and just for sheer ease of use, not to mention they tend to be a lot cheaper. But if your setup means that you need go external to meet your writing requirements then you then this offering from LG is well worth having on your list of potentials. It's not the cheapest drive you'll find, but given the range of functionality it has the price is not exorbitant, particularly if you will actually use the LightScribe feature. ?
Compatible with just about every format around
Cut down version of Nero software
Counter-intuitive install menu
Separate power supply