While most people have given up on optical media (and I don’t blame them), as an early adopter of Blu-ray, I continue to stay the course somewhat. Part of that involves getting compatible drives for my gear. I recently purchased an refurbished Asus laptop, which I was very happy about, but the internal drive supplied was a PLDS DVD+/-RW drive.
Luckily, such items are generally upgradeable, and a Panasonic/Matsushita UJ240 6x Slim 12.7mm SATA Blu-ray burner was available for a very reasonable price of AU$72 from eBay. It took a few weeks before it got here in a plain cardboard box, but I was so excited that I had already swapped the face plates and screwed the attachment tongue to the drive!
This particular drive was manufactured March 2013, so it’s a while back. It seems like inventory doesn’t move very quickly, and that might just be down to a slow PC market and the lack of users demanding such high specification optical drives. This drive was a UJ240 of hardware revision 1.01 and firmware revision 1.01 (fairly early, it seems some earlier drives have later firmwares as well, which is interesting).
The drive has been warranty sealed by a Chinese PC distributor it seems, but the top label also mentions Fujitsu Technology Solutions, so this may have been a FRU for a Fujitsu laptop sold as a “bare” unit.
The original flat face panel (for very old fashioned laptops) is emblazoned with all the applicable logos. The drive itself features a (barely adequate) 2Mb buffer, and is detected by applications as MATSHITABD-MLT U with no firmware revision.
From what I can ascertain, this drive is specified for maximum write speeds of:
- BD-R: 6x CAV for Single Layer, 4x P-CAV for Dual Layer
- BD-RE: 2x CLV for both Single and Dual Layer (some sources claim 4x, but no 4x BD-RE exists to my knowledge)
- DVD+/-R: 8x Z-CLV
- DVD+/-RW: 4x Z-CLV
- DVD-R DL: 2x CLV (some sources claim 4x)
- DVD+R DL: 2.4x CLV (some sources claim 4x)
- DVD-RAM: 3-5x Z-CLV
- CD-R: 8x CLV (some sources claim 24x)
- CD-RW: 8x CLV (some sources claim 16x)
It seems some sources may have got read and write speeds mixed up, or there are firmware differences between drives. As a result, it’s likely not to be compatible with the fastest DVD-RAM, DVD+/-RW or CD-RW discs. The available specs don’t make it clear, but it is capable of burning and reading LTH discs. Compared to a dedicated DVD+/-RW drive, the CD operations seem rather slow, as most are capable of 24x CD-R recording.
The drive feels slightly weightier than a regular drive, and upon looking at the laser carriage, it’s obvious there are two lenses – one is used for the DVD and CD operations, with the other used exclusively for Blu-ray discs.
But how well does it write? It’s an interesting question to ask, as historically, my experience with slim type drives is for very poor write quality especially at higher speeds because the Z-CLV strategy creates step-wise changes in burn quality with issues very common around speed transitions.
Blu-ray Write Quality Assessment
I only have a limited selection of media around me right now, unfortunately. I haven’t bought new blanks in ages, and I’ve probably spent more in testing than I have in serious writes over the past half-year. But I suppose you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette … just that this guy breaks more than the average number :).
PRODIS-CR0 4x BD-R
These are cheap discs, which work surprisingly well with my gear. The drive detected the Prodisc blanks and offered to write them at 4x. The first disc was written successfully, and the drive itself read it back flawlessly at 6x.
Asking the Lite-On iHBS312 what it thought about it, it felt the disc was burnt horribly. The key values should be an LDC Average of 13 or less, and a BIS Maximum of 9 or less for a good burn, although I did establish this was overly harsh, and read errors were only likely for BIS values >40-50 or so.
This is worse than all of my “ageing” Blu-rays written by old burners. Needless to say, cross-compatibility checking with my Lite-On iHBS312 showed difficulty in reading.
A cross-check was also made with my most recent acquisition, a Pioneer BDR-209DBK (more on this in another post), which also had difficulties.
Cross-checking with my old and reliable LG GGW-H20L revealed that the drive mis-identifies the disc as a video disc and applies a rip-lock to it, but the drive had only minor hiccups when reading back at a leisurely 2x.
Thinking this was a one-off media issue, I risked a second PRODIS-CR0 at 4x, and this time, it seems there was a few tiny hiccups on read-back on the burner itself.
Alas, the Lite-On thought no better – in fact, this disc was worse. Damn.
It was so bad that there were read issues with the disc on the Lite-On.
There were no read errors with the Pioneer drive, although many difficulties. It is clear, Z-CLV strategy is thy enemy as the 4x zone is poorly written.
The LG had issues with it too … even at 2x.
It’s clear that this drive is hopeless at writing PRODIS-CR0 at 4x with acceptable quality, so I spent a third disc at 2x to see just how it would perform.
The burning drive had no issues with the disc, as has been the case throughout so far.
The Lite-on agrees that the burn quality is now excellent, which is what I would have expected.
All three cross-checkers had no problem with it at all either. It looks like the burner is only good for 2x for PRODIS-CR0.
CMCMAG-BA5 6x BD-R
This particular media doesn’t seem to work well with Lite-On drives, as I established earlier. Lets see what the Panasonic makes of it.
The drive happily wrote the disc at the rated speed of 6x, using a CAV strategy. The readback with the burner had a tiny blip, but nothing too major. Lets see what the Lite-On thinks …
Surprisingly, the Panasonic seems to like this media and burns it better at 6x than the Lite-On could ever manage. So, if you have a Panasonic slim burner, buy these!
All three cross-check judges agreed that the burn was good!
UMEBDR-016 6x BD-R
A bit of a surprise contender, since I don’t have many of these, but generally these fared well with other burners. Lets see if the Panasonic likes these …
The disc was detected and only 4x was offered. The readback from the burner is perfectly fine, lets see what the Lite-On thinks.
It’s another dangerously marginal burn, which exceeds our normal criteria but isn’t initially unreadable.
All three cross-check drives only reported minor undulations in the read speeds with no serious slow-down, but it’s a sign of a poor burn. Maybe burning at 2x will improve it, although I don’t have enough of them to “spend” on this burner right now.
Taiyo-Yuden That’s TYG-BDY05 LTH 6x BD-R
While LTH media offers no great compelling benefits to the end user, these discs were purchased as a curiosity, and burnt well to extremely well. The Panasonic drive said nothing about LTH, so lets give it a try.
Whatdya know? It detected and offered to burn at 6x, and it came out with only a tiny glitch when read out by itself.
It seems, despite using a CAV strategy, the burn quality isn’t very impressive with the errors starting to get a little high on the outer edge of the disc. Maybe 2x is a better choice but I am not going to spend another disc to find out.
The cross-check readers show minor undulations, but nothing severe.
VERBAT-IMv 4x LTH BD-R
Why not throw another LTH at the drive and see how it does? This is another quality disc, so it should do well …
It detected as a 4x disc and interestingly chose to burn using a P-CAV strategy rather than a Z-CLV strategy, which is faster and normally preferable! The readback on the burner itself looks happy.
The result from the Lite-On seems to suggest the burn could be better. It’s a pretty average result, but by far, the best of the 4x burns so far. It does have blocks and bunches of error spikes, which suggests the power control of the laser might not be working as well as it can be. Peak BIS errors exceed 9, so it cannot be considered a high quality burn.
None of the cross-check readers encountered any problems, however, as can be expected.
Well, for one, I haven’t examined the quality of writing other types of media – say BD-RE, DVDs or CDs, so that remains an unknown. But I suppose with the data above, you’ve probably already made up your mind that this is a pretty average-to-poor BD-R burning solution.
It was only after performing all of the tests that I realized there is quite a big number of people who despise Matsushita drives because of their unusually strict compliance with RPC region controls, which makes most of their drives permanently region change limited and also incapable of software-based brute-forcing of CSS. An explanation for why this is the case is given here. Firmwares are also rare and far between. If you like to travel, this is probably not the drive for you. Unfortunately, this drive looks as to have been tested before shipment and that meant someone set the region code to 2, whereas I live in region 4, so I lost one region change out of the box.
At a glance, the Panasonic/Matsushita branding inspires confidence. Then, as soon as you begin using it, it gets shattered. The discs that come out of the drive seem to vary significantly, and the Z-CLV wreaks havoc. I haven’t seen such marginal burns before, even from my oldest LG GGW-H20L. Burning at 2x seems to be the safest option with this drive, and even then, I have some reservations.
I suppose, if you have one, it’s a good reader. But it’s also a terrible writer. You need to stick to either 2x CLV where it seems to do acceptably, or use 6x CAV (if your media supports it, and even then, not without risk). 4x Z-CLV is just trouble on the media tested, but maybe with more expensive media, it could manage some acceptable burns at 4x Z-CLV.
Or just buy something else. Maybe an LG for around the same price. Or a Samsung for a little more. Or better, a Pioneer if you can find one.