Samsung Writemaster SE-W164C External DVD±RW Drive

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January 23, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Samsung Writemaster SE-W164C: Portable, external DVD±RW burner
Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology
Market Price

The day of the Octopus PC has arrived! High speed interfaces such as Firewire and USB 2.0 have made it possible for all kinds of components to become portable, including hard drives and optical drives. All these devices use a single wire to connect to the PC at the center; hence, the Octopus PC. The Samsung Writemaster adds yet another tentacle to the Octopus PC: It's an external DVD burner with all the bells and whistles of a conventional internal model.

In the case of hard drives, it's fairly obvious why you'd want it to be portable: Large amounts of data can be moved between computers in this way. But, optical drives do not need to be portable to have this advantage: The discs they use are already portable. So, why have a portable optical drive?

Portable optical drives are probably most useful to small or medium sized businesses with many workstations that only rarely need to read or write an optical disk. So, instead of putting a drive in every system (a significant expense even for a small number of systems), a much smaller number of external drives can be shared between all the systems. I can attest to this personally: There are at least a dozen systems lying around SPCR in various states of (dis)assembly, and none of them require an optical disk after Windows and some basic drivers are installed. The plug-and-play portability of an external drive is invaluable when working with multiple systems at once.

For a home user with just one or two computers, portability isn't so useful because there's nowhere to move the drive to. Besides, in a personal machine, the optical drive often sees quite a bit of use, so it's worth it to have one in every computer. On the other hand, an external drive is a very convenient way to add DVD burning to a laptop.

A smallish retail box holds the necessities but no extras.

The front of the box lists a long string of numbers the proudly boast the data speeds that the Writemaster can handle, but these aren't terribly interesting in themselves. The same string of numbers can be found on just about every other contemporary drive. Besides, like the power ratings on power supplies, these numbers refer to the peak transfer rates, which are rarely reached except under special circumstances. Furthermore, the numbers aren't even calculated in the same way, which explains why 16x burns are rarely much faster than 8x burns.

Lots of meaningless numbers...

The Writemaster comes with the basic essentials needed to run the drive, but not too many extras:

  • DVD±R/RW Drive
  • Setup Guide
  • Application Software & User Manual CD
  • AC Adapter
  • USB Cable (~1m long)
  • Vertical Stand

The "Application Software" is an OEM version of Nero's standard burning suite, which does everything ? if you feel like figuring it out. For casual home users, this is an advantage; many different tasks are centralized under a single beginner-friendly user interface. For enthusiast users, however, only the burning software itself is really useful; the rest is mostly bloatware ? who needs yet another media / DVD player anyway? The only exceptions are the collection of tools in the "Nero Toolkit", which consist of tools for examining and tweaking the drive itself.

The most useful of these is a little program called DriveSpeed, that allows the maximum read/write speed of the drive to be controlled. Most SPCR regulars are already familiar with this utility, as it is one of the few proven methods of dealing with optical drive noise.


The specifications for the Writemaster are typical of the current drives on the market: As many disc formats as possible are supported, as is buffer underrun protection. Windows identifies the drive as an SH-W162C — the internal equivalent of the SE-W164C.

SAMSUNG WRITEMASTER SE-W164C (from Samsung's web site)

Max Data Transfer Rate

Media Type Write Read
DVD+R 16X (21.6MB/sec) 12X (16.2MB/sec)
DVD+R DL 5X (6.75MB/sec) 8X (10.8MB/sec)
DVD+RW 8X (10.8MB/sec) 8X (10.8MB/sec)
DVD-R 16X (21.6MB/sec) 12X (16.2MB/sec)
DVD-R DL 4X (5.4MB/sec) 8X (10.8MB/sec)
DVD-RW 6X (8.1MB/sec) 8X (10.8MB/sec)
16X (21.6MB/sec)
48X (7.2MB/sec)
CD-R 48X (7.2MB/sec) 40X (6.0MB/sec)
CD-RW 32X (4.8MB/sec) 40X (6.0MB/sec)
Access Time CD-ROM: 110ms / DVD-ROM: 130ms
Burst Rate Ultra DMA mode 2: 33.3MB/sec
Multiword DMA mode 2: 16.6MB/sec
PIO Mode 4: 16.7MB/sec
Buffer Memory 2MB
Drive Install Form Horizontal / Vertical
Size (W x H x L) 163 x 232 x 50 mm
Disk Format DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW, DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-ROM/XA, CD-Audio, Video-CD, Photo CD, CD-I(FMV), CD-Extra, CD-TEXT
Buffer Protection Applied
Lead Free Applied

A lot of the more obscure optical drive features (which, coincidentally, tend to vary more between drives) are not listed in the official specifications. The screenshot from Nero InfoTool below fills out some of the missing features, but even that didn't show everything. To fill in the last few missing gaps, Exact Audio Copy was used to detect the digital audio extraction features of the drive.

SAMSUNG WRITEMASTER SE-W164C (As reported by Exact Audio Copy)
Accurate Stream
Audio Cache
C2 Error Info Yes
Overread Only Lead-in
Read Offset Correction +6 Samples
Write Offset -6 Samples
UDP/ISRC Support Yes
CD-Text Support Yes

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