Lite-On DVD External with LightScribe 

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Strange how some things pass you by, HP made a big thing of the ability to write on CD’s or DVD using lasers, not that long after all HP CD and DVD drives are being made by Lite-On.

Firstly what is LightScribe, it is the ability for the laser that writes the CD/DVD to also write or draw on the reverse of the drive - the side that may normally get a felt pen or even a label attached to it. Currently this is only mono but I am told that there are coloured discs about but even these only remove the top colour to expose the one below so if the surface was green with a yellow coating below the text or image would be in yellow.

There is one problem with LightScribe is that it is not quick, even with the latest generation of faster discs just printing something like 4th Quarter Sales Projections on the disc in normal size will probably take around 3 minutes. Should you wish to print an image and text that takes the whole surface it will take more than 20 minutes.

This unit goes under the name of HP dvd840, it is an external drive, black in colour. The dimensions are 21x18x6cm and it weights around 1.3kilos. The rear has the power and USB lead inputs. The front has a single LED and eject button. This is super multi DVD writer with a baffling array of various speeds - read the details on the HP site - but these can be up to 40x for a CD and 16x for a DVD.

I have used this unit without any problem with two separate notebooks and a desktop PC. As far as data writing and reading this unit is no different to any other it works well and I have no complaints.

Should you wish to use the LightScribe abilities you need CD/DVD with a special coating. When you have done your normal burning of data to the CD/DVD the disc is ejected and then turned over so that the data side is on top. A utility is supplied to allow you to enter the text and or image you want to put onto the disc, type it in and then preview the output if you are happy tell it to print and between two and more than twenty minutes later dependant on what you are writing you have a completed disc.

All the time it takes so long - less than it was a year ago - I cannot see a huge takeup, other printing options are available but this to me is not the problem. The problems are the time taken and the fact that manual intervention is required to turn the disc over after the data is written.

Certain inkjet printers can print direct onto the surface of special CD/DVD discs I have reviewed several of these and the output is stunning and of course in full colour. The other option is to use standard CD/DVD and then use special circles of adhesive paper that you print with a standard inkjet (or laser) printer and then using an applicator stick onto the CD/DVD, this latter process works fine provided the disc of paper is correctly centred, if not there could be problems reading the data.

The final solution - the cheapest solution - and the one favoured by most is a felt tip pen and while there are lots of special pens about there is a possible problem with ink corrupting the disc surface and potentially the data.

The discs I have burned with LightScribe all seem to read correctly but the real test is will they still do so in 'x' years.

Doing my Internet searches found the HP dvd840e available for a best price of £56.22 from the link below.

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