Our sample of the eTAU108 is finished in gloss-white plastic but it is also available in black. This looks very sleek now but is likely to attract grime and scratches over time. Thankfully the gloss-white surface doesn’t show up fingerprints as readily as most gloss-black surfaces we’ve experienced. Build quality is reasonably good but the entirely plastic construction isn’t likely to stand for much abuse. It does have its advantages, though, as the lack of a metal backbone means weight is kept to a minimum.
In terms of design, size and weight, the drive is very similar to one of Sony’s old Walkman personal CD players (yes one of those devices that we used before iPods were invented). This means it is very portable and should fit easily into most laptop or netbook cases alongside the machine.
The USB cable supplied is obviously designed for use with laptops, being only around 12cm in length. LiteOn have carved a section into the base of the drive to store the USB cable in when travelling. This is a very convenient addition that should also reduce the chances of losing the cable.
There aren’t really any specific benchmarks we can use to judge the performance of this drive, and if we did there would be little to compare it against. But we did test its basic functions, playing and writing both CDs.
For testing we used our Macbook Pro 13″ which has a built in 8x Slot-Load CD/DVD Writer (Hitachi GS23N). In our DVD playback test, we found the external drive to be audible over the movie (playing through the Macbook’s speakers at maximum volume), whereas the inbuilt drive was inaudible over the same movie.
We also decided to test the write performance of the external drive against that which is built into our Macbook. Using iTunes, we burned the same 20 tracks to identical blank CDs and measured the time taken with a stopwatch. The LiteOn drive took 6 minutes and 16 seconds to burn the CD whereas the Macbooks drive took only 4 minutes and 48 seconds. During the burn test, the Macbooks drive was noticeably louder than the LiteOn as it seemed to spin faster and caused the whole machine to resonate slightly.