Samsung Writemaster SE-W164C External DVD±RW Drive

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The Writemaster has a sleek exterior that looks much nicer than the "steel box" appearance of interior drives. The body of the casing is matte black plastic with a wide silvery-grey stripe that trims three of the four sides. There are a few logos scattered around to break the monotony of the blackness. Overall, it looks good for a little rectangular black box.

The nine holes are for the drive activity LED.

Samsung's aesthetic team decided a textured gray stripe would impart a sense of style.

The rear panel holds a power button and sockets for USB and power connections. There are also several small air vents so that the drive doesn't overheat. There was no evidence of a cooling fan, so any airflow will have to be generated by convection or the spinning disc itself.

The back view.

These are the only ventilation holes on the whole drive.

Samsung has done a good job of releasing updated firmware for the Writemaster. Since June 2005, they have released 10 different versions compatible with the SE-W164C, although the frequency of releases has dropped as the product has matured. Updated firmware is important for maintaining write quality and compatibility, as it updates the database of known media types that the drive is capable of writing.


Buried among the marketing material for the Writemaster is a link to a software called Magic Speed. The stated purpose of Magic Speed is "to select and use a reading speed from the ROM DRIVE between the max speed mode and the low noise mode". It seems possible to limit noise with this program.

Magic Speed was promptly downloaded and installed to see what it could do. At first glance, it looked promising: The interface is extremely simple, with only a single user-selectable option: A choice between "High Speed Mode" and "Silence Mode". A second later, all optimism vanished: The drive was already set in Silence Mode... and it was nowhere near silent. By SPCR standards, it wasn't even quiet.

Further investigation revealed just how limited Magic Speed actually is. It does one thing, and one thing only: Toggles the maximum read speed for CDs between 40x and 48x. Write speeds and DVD speeds are not affected, and 40x and 48x are the only options.

For the purposes of silencing an optical drive Nero's DriveSpeed is better in all respects except one: MagicSpeed sets the maximum speed in the firmware of the drive, which means the program doesn't have to be running to be effective. In fact, when Silence Mode was engaged, Nero recognized the maximum speed as 40x — not 48x — and could not set the speed any higher.

Because the drive ships in Silence Mode by default, most users will probably use the drive with the maximum speed set to 40x for as long as they use the drive. While we appreciate the lower noise (and safety) afforded by the lower speed, it does make Samsung seem a little less than honest about the drive's capabilities "out of the box". In order to take advantage of the 48x read speed, a user has to

  1. Know that the drive does not read at 48x by default.
  2. Know that Magic Speed exists and what it does.
  3. Download and use Magic Speed.

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