PROS: Inexpensive, compact, light, quiet, low-power, reads/burns everything, solid performance
CONS: ridiculously short cable
Optical drives have become such common items nowadays that finding a review of one is almost rare - some people confess to no longer even using them anymore. Granted, short of installing Windows or disc-based programs, flash storage has all but made optical media redundant. But the need for optical burners still exists, many people still require them for the work they do, and netbooks by their nature lack any built-in optical drive at all.
Likewise, you may be in the situation that you need a more portable solution than a built-in drive on a desktop system can offer, you find that your burner is old and no longer compatible with the newest blank media, or you need to burn a disc for a client on the go. For these and many other scenarios, a portable external optical drive can become not only extremely useful, but extend the functionality of your PC.
In my case, my full-size external Sony DRU-820A was beginning to act up when trying to burn a newer set of 16x DVD+R media. At least I thought it was the drive, until it turned out the media was not quite up to spec. On another angle, I had ran out of dual layer DVD's, and the newer 8x DL media I acquired failed to burn on either the Sony or my notebooks built-in burner. Needless to say, after almost a dozen coasters, I realized I needed to try a different drive to see just what was going wrong.
Measuring at a compact 5.1 x 5.5 inches in size and just 8oz in weight, the Liteon eNAU108 is possibly the smallest burner you will ever encounter. It's so light that it will slide across the table when you go to push the drive tray in, and you can comfortably throw it in your gear bag and not know it's in there. But small size and weight aside, it can burn and read pretty much anything out there. DVD+R at 8x, DVD+R DL at 6x, DVD+RW at 8x and all CD's at 24x.
HP fanboys may recognize the resemblance to the HP DVD557S optical drive. This Liteon model is physically and functionally the same unit, the only difference is that while the HP model offers Lightscribe, the eNAU108 does not. Maybe the ability to burn Lightscribe labels on the go is something you desperately need, but considering the HP drive costs over $20 more, I'm happy with what the Liteon drive offers.
|1 netbook + 2 burners = great flexibility|
Thankfully the eNAU108 works with whatever media I throw at it. Using a fresh set of Memorex 8x DVD+RW discs I was able to copy another DVD+R disc on the fly in just 23 minutes. Compare to a regular copy time of 33 minutes using the HDD as a temporary image store, and you can see how using two drives instead of one makes sense. Turn off the verify option in your burning software, and that on-the-fly copy time now becomes just 13 minutes. Need to burn an ISO image from your HDD? 23 minutes at 8x with verify on, 11 minutes with verify off.
The drive itself is rated for 5V at 1.5A power draw, but as can be seen, my 10" netbook was able to power both drives at the same time (at full 8x burning speed on both) using just two USB ports, and without the need for a Y power cable. Some machines may not provide the juice needed, so Liteon includes a Y power splitter on the cable.
Except that the way the cable is arranged makes no practical sense. You get a short 3-inch power/data lead with a longer 12-inch power-only lead. That leaves users with the optical drive sitting shotgun next to their netbook's USB port, as shown in the photo, with the longer lead dangling uselessly off the table. I can see how Liteon wanted to assure the second power lead would reach over to a more distant USB port, but it could have been done better the other way around, making the main connector the longer one, and leaving the power lead short for an adjacent USB port, if needed at all.
|Priced so well, you will want to buy two|
As a final mention, Liteon includes Nero 9 Essentials burning software with the drive, which is more than adequate for any burning purposes you should encounter. I've found that using just Nero Express alone is enough for my needs, and I don't even install any of the other Nero applications to clog up my system.
Given it's wide availability, solid performance, and super-low price (I paid just $34 each for mine) the Liteon eNAU108 makes for a great portable burner that you can use with any PC to burn pretty much any disc. For netbook users on the go, it's the best mobile burning solution I can think of, and the ability to use two drives together makes copying a no-brainer. Yes, the short cable is a nuisance, but for the price I paid I can definitely live with it.