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Review: Lite-On iHOS104 - a budget BD-ROM drive

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 21 Dec 2009 7:49 User comments (11)

Review: Lite-On iHOS104 - a budget BD-ROM drive As Blu-ray continues to grow in popularity, more and more people are considering the purchase of a BD-ROM drive. To date the biggest obstacle for many consumers has been the price, which until the last few months has consistently been over $100 for even a reader.
Earlier this year Lite-On introduced the iHOS104 BD-ROM drive. At around $60 for the OEM version and $70 for the retail model it's currently the least expensive Blu-ray reader you can buy.

We decided to pick up an OEM unit and try it out.


The iHOS104 is rated for 4X Blu-ray reading, 8X DVD and 32X CD reading. It comes with an OEM version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD 8 BD Edition.

The first thing we looked at was read speed. We used Nero 9's DiscSpeed application to read both dual layer and single layer commercial Blu-ray (BDMV) discs, and also tested the drive's DVD reading capabilities.
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Somewhat surprisingly, the iHOS104 manages to read double layer (BD50) discs faster overall (average read speed) than single layer. This seems to be due to the fact that it takes a long time to reach maximum read speed.

Burst rate, on the other hand was significantly better for single layer discs. This doesn't come as any great surprise since single layer discs are easier to read than double layer.

Overall Blu-ray reading performance was quite acceptable. It took around 20 minutes to rip a 17.5GB BD25 disc and 45 minutes to rip a 42GB BD50 disc.

Single Layer Blu-ay Disc (BD25)


Transfer Rate
Start1.69x
End3.64x
Average2.79x

Access times
Random116 ms
1/3189 ms
Full239 ms
Burst Rate40157 KB/s


Dual Layer Blu-ray Disc (BD50)


Transfer Rate
Start1.70x
End1.73x
Average2.95x

Access times
Random134 ms
1/3231 ms
Full751 ms
Burst Rate38072 KB/s


We also tested DVD reading. At just 8X it's not going to win any awards, but its average of just over 6X reading a nearly 8GB dual layer DVD was good considering that limitation.

Dual Layer DVD (DVD9)


Transfer Rate
Start3.38x
End8.03x
Average6.04x

Access times
Random131 ms
1/3145 ms
Full200 ms
Burst Rate41146 KB/s

Software

Despite being an OEM drive, our iHOS104 came with a copy of Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 BD Edition. Being OEM software it's limited to stereo audio so it's not particularly suitable for Blu-ray playback.

Of course it does qualify you for an upgrade to the latest and greatest retail version of PowerDVD (PowerDVD 9 Ultra), so even if you never install it there's some definite value.

PowerDVD also includes a handy tool called BD Advisor to test your computer for Blu-ray playback and suggest driver and hardware updates to make this possible.

Value

The Lite-On iHOS104 isn't the fastest drive on the market. Other Lite-On drives can read at 6X or even 8X and many can even burn DVDs and CDs.

But clearly it is a good deal. Its relatively low price makes it very attractive for anyone worried about spending too much while the software is like a coupon for the the retail version of PowerDVD.

After only two weeks of testing it may be premature to call it a great drive, but if you're looking for a BD-ROM drive at an affordable price you should think about picking one up.


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11 user comments

121.12.2009 10:18
spiritof5
Inactive

Bought this 3 weeks ago on sale @ amazon for $49.00. A little skeptical at first but I after using it, it does exactly what it says it does. You don't get a free upgrade to version 9 but only 25% off your purchase of version 9. But hey, if you are just backing up your BluRay collection this does the trick. Version 8 also plays very well if you don't mind only stereo sound.

221.12.2009 14:05

I've had great luck with Lite-On drives and would pick this up if I only wanted a reader. This could make an excellent addition to a cheap HTPC.

321.12.2009 14:54

Originally posted by Pop_Smith:
I've had great luck with Lite-On drives and would pick this up if I only wanted a reader. This could make an excellent addition to a cheap HTPC.

Which is exactly what I've been using it for. So far no complaints.

422.12.2009 5:38

How is the reliability on these units? I have never had good luck with Lite-On; their burners usualy won't even work with cheap media, and usualy lack acuratestream, yet they have audio cacheing to make things even worse. If it can't read an audio CD correctly, it is hard to trust it to read a bluray.

522.12.2009 13:09

Originally posted by KillerBug:
How is the reliability on these units? I have never had good luck with Lite-On; their burners usualy won't even work with cheap media, and usualy lack acuratestream, yet they have audio cacheing to make things even worse. If it can't read an audio CD correctly, it is hard to trust it to read a bluray.

I've never had any problems with my many Lite-On drives, mostly burners but also a couple of DVD-ROM drives. However at this point the reliability is a fair question given the price. Since I've had the drive less than a month I can't come to any conclusion except that it works fine so far.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 22 Dec 2009 @ 19:13

622.12.2009 15:52

Originally posted by KillerBug:
How is the reliability on these units? I have never had good luck with Lite-On; their burners usualy won't even work with cheap media, and usualy lack acuratestream, yet they have audio cacheing to make things even worse. If it can't read an audio CD correctly, it is hard to trust it to read a bluray.
all Drives Are assembled pretty much the same way,really its luck of the draw sometimes. ive Been using A Pioneer DVR-108 ever since its release, its 8 years old and it still burns fine.

then again i make a habit out of cleaning all my hardware every year.
i take My Burner apart clean it,regrease it and put it back together. i also do the same to my power supply take it apart and clean it.

722.12.2009 22:49

Quote:
Originally posted by KillerBug:
How is the reliability on these units? I have never had good luck with Lite-On; their burners usualy won't even work with cheap media, and usualy lack acuratestream, yet they have audio cacheing to make things even worse. If it can't read an audio CD correctly, it is hard to trust it to read a bluray.
all Drives Are assembled pretty much the same way,really its luck of the draw sometimes. ive Been using A Pioneer DVR-108 ever since its release, its 8 years old and it still burns fine.

then again i make a habit out of cleaning all my hardware every year.
i take My Burner apart clean it,regrease it and put it back together. i also do the same to my power supply take it apart and clean it.
They may be assembled the same way, but they all have their own firmware oddities, they use a wide range of LED and Lense combinations, and many different loading mechanisms and such.

This is being marketed as a budget HTPC drive...but it is not a good deal if it only lasts a month. HTPC drives tend to get a lot more use than typical PC drives, simply because the system doubles as a bluray/dvd/cd player. Also, most HTPC users will want to rip a few CDs...if not a few hundred.

I know you can't comment on long term reliability with such a short testdrive, but perhapse you could answer these:

Does it report C2 errors? (good thing)
Does it have audio caching? (bad thing)
Does it support accuratestream? (Good thing, but only a band-aide for lack of C2 support)

[edit]
http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/Reviews/...=26495&PageId=1
According to this article, it does have caching, it does not have C2, and it has accuratestream. Better than some drives, but still not as good as the average $25 DVD burner. I guess you could always use this drive plus a $25 dvd burner in the same system...then there is just the long term reliability question.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 22 Dec 2009 @ 22:54

823.12.2009 1:29

Quote:
Quote:
Originally posted by KillerBug:
How is the reliability on these units? I have never had good luck with Lite-On; their burners usualy won't even work with cheap media, and usualy lack acuratestream, yet they have audio cacheing to make things even worse. If it can't read an audio CD correctly, it is hard to trust it to read a bluray.
all Drives Are assembled pretty much the same way,really its luck of the draw sometimes. ive Been using A Pioneer DVR-108 ever since its release, its 8 years old and it still burns fine.

then again i make a habit out of cleaning all my hardware every year.
i take My Burner apart clean it,regrease it and put it back together. i also do the same to my power supply take it apart and clean it.
They may be assembled the same way, but they all have their own firmware oddities, they use a wide range of LED and Lense combinations, and many different loading mechanisms and such.

This is being marketed as a budget HTPC drive...but it is not a good deal if it only lasts a month. HTPC drives tend to get a lot more use than typical PC drives, simply because the system doubles as a bluray/dvd/cd player. Also, most HTPC users will want to rip a few CDs...if not a few hundred.

I know you can't comment on long term reliability with such a short testdrive, but perhapse you could answer these:

Does it report C2 errors? (good thing)
Does it have audio caching? (bad thing)
Does it support accuratestream? (Good thing, but only a band-aide for lack of C2 support)

[edit]
http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/Reviews/...=26495&PageId=1
According to this article, it does have caching, it does not have C2, and it has accuratestream. Better than some drives, but still not as good as the average $25 DVD burner. I guess you could always use this drive plus a $25 dvd burner in the same system...then there is just the long term reliability question.

In my experience testing audio ripping features like caching and C2 error detection is pointless on any type or brand of ROM drive. It's long been a rule that the most accurate ripping can only be done with a CD or DVD burner, and in fact Lite-On drives have been known as some of the best for that purpose. To the best of my knowledge they made the first DVD drives of any kind (their second gen burners IIRC) to support accurate audio ripping.

923.12.2009 23:28

Quote:

In my experience testing audio ripping features like caching and C2 error detection is pointless on any type or brand of ROM drive. It's long been a rule that the most accurate ripping can only be done with a CD or DVD burner, and in fact Lite-On drives have been known as some of the best for that purpose. To the best of my knowledge they made the first DVD drives of any kind (their second gen burners IIRC) to support accurate audio ripping.
Lite-on have never know as being good for this, Plextor has always been known as the best. C2 does help quality, and this drive does not have it...it is a simple fact. Audio caching does cause audio imperfections...another simple fact. Accurate stream almost makes up for the lack of C2 (it is just slower, and it won't read through errors as well)...but the audio cache kills the deal; you might as well use burst mode. I know that it is generaly the rule to use a cd or DVD drive for ripping; but I figured that was just to save wear and tear on the $200 bluray burner...at $50, I don't mind risking a little wear and tear.

1024.12.2009 0:43

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Quote:

In my experience testing audio ripping features like caching and C2 error detection is pointless on any type or brand of ROM drive. It's long been a rule that the most accurate ripping can only be done with a CD or DVD burner, and in fact Lite-On drives have been known as some of the best for that purpose. To the best of my knowledge they made the first DVD drives of any kind (their second gen burners IIRC) to support accurate audio ripping.
Lite-on have never know as being good for this, Plextor has always been known as the best.

A lot of people disagree with this statement. Lite-On has made a lot of drives which rip audio very well and frankly Plextor's drives are nice, but not necessarily better than everything else. Even when they are the difference isn't significant enough to justify their generally ridiculous prices. But what Plextor's price or quality, or the ripping capabilities of any burner has to do with this subject is beyond me so I'm not inclined to debate the subject here.
Quote:
C2 does help quality, and this drive does not have it...it is a simple fact. Audio caching does cause audio imperfections...another simple fact. Accurate stream almost makes up for the lack of C2 (it is just slower, and it won't read through errors as well)...but the audio cache kills the deal; you might as well use burst mode.

Did I say otherwise? If you're going to debate me I recommend sticking with the points we disagree on. Complaining that a BD-ROM (or CD-ROM/DVD-ROM) drive isn't good for ripping is like saying the miniature spare that came with your car isn't good as a snow tire. It's not made for that and no one who knows what they're doing would use it for that purpose. If you do you should expect poor results. And not just from this drive or Lite-On drives in general, but from any optical drive that isn't a burner. No matter how many times you repeat the complaint it doesn't become any more valid.
Quote:
I know that it is generaly the rule to use a cd or DVD drive for ripping; but I figured that was just to save wear and tear on the $200 bluray burner...at $50, I don't mind risking a little wear and tear.

So you agree with me then. And since when is a Blu-ray burner, which most people don't even own, the only other choice. I say continue to rip with a CD or DVD burner like you should have been doing before Blu-ray even existed. Those drives don't stop working because you install a $60 BD-ROM. At least mine didn't. Furthermore, if you're buying the cheapest BD-ROM drive on the market it seems unlikely you're also buying a BD-R drive.

We get that you don't like Lite-On drives, but aside from a small amount of anecdotal evidence you've brought nothing to the discussion to suggest there's some overall quality issues with the brand. I've owned 2 Pioneer DVD burners. One of them died after a year. That doesn't mean Pioneer drives have a high failure rate. It means I got one that's an exception to the rule that their drives are of higher quality than most other brands.

Rich Fiscus
@Vurbal on Twitter
AfterDawn Staff Writer

1126.12.2009 4:40

My Rom drive is not sata, is there a lot involved if I wanted to install this sata drive, I know my HDD is sata but both my writer and reader are IDE

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