Today, I’ll show you the 14TB Western Digital Easystore Hard Disk Drive. This is an external hard drive sold at Best Buy in the United State, and sometimes they sell them at a special price.
The drive comes with a USB 3.0 conection. It has plenty of space to store our precious data as well as allowing us to store backup copies of it. These hard drives are filled with helium which makes them not get too hot when we are using them.
The box comes with a simple presentation, usual of hard disk drives boxes:
When we open it, we see the hard drive:
On the side, we see the cables and the manual:
I connected the drive on Windows which recognized it as a 12.7TB drive. I then went ahead and ran a benchmark using the CystalDiskMark utility. It reported over 200MB+ read/write speed:
Here’s a video of the benchmark, altough I used another drive and it reported over 170MB+. The difference was that this other 14TB drive already had data in it:
With 12.7TB reported on windows, this drive allows us to store huge amounts of data and store backups. It is very fast and comes with typical Western Digital quality. I expect this drive to hold still for a lot of years, as my previous Western Digital drives are still operating excellent.
You can buy this hard disk drive on Best Buy here.
This is a Bluetooth adapter that works as a PC audio card. It transmits audio via Bluetooth using the SBC, FastStream, aptX, or aptX Low Latency codec, depending on which codecc your headphone or adapter supports. Having the aptX codec provides us with a better audio experience.
The aptX Low Latency codec allows us to watch movies and videos without any audio delay. Most Bluetooth receivers today support this codec and having a transmitter with it makes us take advantage of this.
The DG80 packaging is small and simple.
We can see the adapter along with its manual and documentation behind.
We can see the transmitter is really small.
Finally, we have the included documentation.
Using the transmitter
Using this transmitter is as simple as plugging it into a USB port and going into pairing mode.
We can see Windows detects it as Avantree DG80.
The transmitter has a bit depth and sample rate of 16bit/48khz, which is common with these adapters.
I paired it with my Fiio BTR5 and we can see it is using the aptX Low Latency codec.
Here’s a video of the pairing process of the adapter:
Becuase this transmitter uses a Qualcomm chipset, the sound quality is realy great, thanks to its support of the aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs.
Avantree claims the adapter will work up to 30 meters or 100 feet. This may be true unless there are some obstacles in the way. In my tests with the Whooshi adapter, known to have signal issues, I was able to listen to music while I was in the same room. However, going away I could hear the audio getting cut. If you’re looking for the best signal range, the Avantree DG60 is a better choice.
If you still do not have a USB Bluetooth audio transmitter, the Avantree DG80 is a good start. It’s small, portable, and cheap. It also supports the aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs to provide excellent audio quality.
The OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure
This is an enclosure designed for Internal 5.25″ CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray drives. It uses a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connection to transfer files faster than when using USB 2.0. This mainly applies to Blu-Ray discs since they can have a very high transfer rate when compared to CD or DVD, hence having a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connection allows us to benefit by having faster transfer speeds.
The enclosure comes in a simple box where when opened, we see a box that contains the power and USB cable as well as the screws needed to mount the drive:
We then see the enclosure below:
It comes protected inside a plastic bag:
Once we take it out of the bag, we can see the shiny metal enclosure:
On Friday, I got a used LiteOn iHAS124 A delivered. This model use the SF-DS19L OPU that all LiteOn iHASx24 use (x being a number from 1 to 6).
The LiteOn iHASx24 series are all the same, except that the iHAS224, iHAS424 and iHAS624 has the hardware for LightScribe burning, while the iHAS124, iHAS324 and iHAS524 doesn’t. Other than that, the hardware is identical but they have different firmwares. The capabilities between models are the following:
LiteOn iHAS124: Base model.
LiteOn iHAS224: LightScribe.
LiteOn iHAS324: SmartErase.
LiteOn iHAS424: LightScribe and SmartErase.
LiteOn iHAS524: LabelTag and SmartErase.
LiteOn iHAS624: LightScribe, LabelTag and SmartErase.
Basically they have a different firmware enabling LightScribe, LabelTag and SmartErase depending on the model you have. Even if you have a different model, the firmware can be crossflashed by using some tools and firmware. I will not be covering that here, but it’s good to know if you’d like to add some features to your drives. The only feature that depends on hardware is LightScribe.
My LiteOn iHAS524 has been with me since 2010, and it’s probably the best CD and DVD burner available given its ability to overspeed 16x media to 20x. It also has HyperTuning, Online HyperTuning and SmartBurn, which are essential features to burn media with great quality. This is why I still count on this drive as sometimes I like to store data on optical media.
The drive had its optical pickup unit changed to the SF-DS1XD some years ago because one CD broke inside the unit, damaging the original SF-DS19L. I also didn’t use DVD+R DL media, so everything was fine, until last week. It turns out that the OPU had problems burning the discs. Specifically, it had problems focusing on the second DVD layer, failing at 50%. This is why I brought the used LiteOn iHAS124 A drive.
Because this unit is an A revision unit, the hardware between the iHAS124 and iHAS514 is the same. I did changed the iHAS524 disc mechanism to the one from the iHAS524 C revision, with the exception of the OPU:
On both photos, the iHAS524 is on the left while the iHAS124 is on the right.
Here we can see the disc mechanism from the iHAS124 unmounted:
And the Optical Pickup Unit taken out of it:
I’ll be using this OPU in the original iHAS524 mount, so I placed it there:
And finally, here’s the disc mechanism attached to the iHAS524:
The OPU started working immediately. It is now loading discs faster and wasn’t making weird noises. I was also able to burn some DVD+R DL media without issues. I’ll be talking about that on another post, but for now, this is it.
Yesterday, I received my very first BDXL media. These are way more expensive than BD-R and about twice the cost of BD-R DL media.
For my first BDXL recordable media, I decided to get the Verbatim 10-pack spindle. These seem to be one of the lowest-priced media when compared to 3-packs or 5-packs variants of other manufacturers.
These BDXL discs are rated at 4x, but my LG WH14NS40 crossflashed to the WH16NS60 firmware detects them as having a write speed of up to 8x.
The Media ID is VERBAT-IMk-000.
On my Panasonic UJ260, these have a maximum write speed of just 2x.
I added files to burn using ImgBurn, and made sure to use the most space possible. I then started the burning process on my WH14NS14 at the maximum supported speed of 8x.
Añadí archivos a ImgBurn y me aseguré de llenar el disco lo más posible. Luego, comencé a quemarlos con mi LG WH14NS14 a la velocidad máxima de 8x.
It seems the drive use a Z-CLV (Zoned Constant Linear Velocity) strategy to burn these discs. The write pattern was as follows:
Layer 0: 4x -> 6x -> 8x
Layer 1: 8x -> 6x -> 4x
Layer 2: 4x -> 6x -> 8x
We can see the pattern below:
Some times, when the writing was at 4x, the drive would go down to 3.3x for about 1 second or 2:
The same happened when the drive was recording at 6x, going down to 5x for a second or 2:
The drive successfully burned this media, having an average speed of 5.7x:
Verification was slower than the writing itself, as it limited the read speed to 6x:
The verification was successful and no errors were reported:
The average read speed was 4.3x, slower than the 5.7x average when writing to it. It also seems that while ImgBurn set a read speed of up to 6x, the drive went all the way to 9x, according to the Maximum Verify Rate.
Here, we can see the written disc with its Z-CLV zones:
These discs seem to be compatible with the LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray writer. They also burn at a faster 8x speed which is more than its rated speed of 4x. The drive was able to successfully burn them and read them. These discs, while expensive, allow us to write up to 100GB (about 93GB of actual storage) on a single medium. It would have taken us 4 25GB BD-R or 2 50GB BD-R DL media to write an equivalent amount of data.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any BDXL scanner I can use to test the quality, but the media can be read back on the LG drive as well as on my Panasonic UJ260. The latter seems to read the disc in Z-CLV too, but it was able to read the data back successfully too. It is just slower than the LG drive.
If we compare the price of having 10x 100GB Blu-Ray discs to owning a 1TB Hard Disk Drive, we can see that the BDXL media is a couple dollars more:
The BDXL media on eBay (It was at $53.15 at the time of puchase):
On Amazon. They seem to have lowered the price to $49.99 at the time I took this screenshot:
The price of 1TB Hard Disk Drives on Amazon:
Ultimately, it all would depend on your needs. Personally, I like to write data that will not be used frequently on optical media, while having frequently-changing data on the discs. I’ve also had a bad experience of having Hard Drives fail, and while I’ve had optical media fail too (Some bad Blu-Ray batches that deteriorated in a couple of years), the data loss is not as much as losing a whole hard drive. Remember to back-up your data!
On Saturday, I received the LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray Writer Drive. This is my 3rd Blu-Ray writer and it will replace my LiteOn iHBS112 which was causing several bad burns. The other drive is the Panasonic UJ-260, which is a slim drive that burns discs successfully.
This drive is one of the cheapest Blu-Ray XL writers available on Amazon. It is also able to read and burn CDs and DVDs.
Here, we will see the drive unboxed and teared down.
The drive came in this simple box:
There’s no branding. Just a box with the part number printed on a label.
Opening the box we see the drive:
Just the drive. No cables or software are included.
The drive is protected in bubble wrap:
Also also comes inside a plastic bag:
Taking it off we see the drive itself:
Now, let’s take a look at the top, where we will find some useful information:
The drive is the WH14NS40, with SVC code NS50. It was manufactured on January 2020 and comes with firmware 1.04:
Finally, this is the drive with the tray opened:
We will begin the teardown by removing the 4 screws on the bottom:
We can then remove the bottom cover:
Let’s take a closer look at the drive chipset:
It is using a MediaTek MT1959HWDN chip.
Let’s now see the Eject Button, LED and Tray Motor board:
A look at the bottom tray mechanism:
The internal tray loading mechanism and Optical Pickup Unit:
A closer look to the Optical Pickup Unit:
And finally, here’s how the drive looks in my Desktop PC:
This Blu-Ray writer can be crossflashed to the WH16NS60 16x variant. In fact, that was the first thing I did.
The drive is identified as HL-DS-ST BD-RW WH16NS60.
Here is the drive capabilities according to ImgBurn:
So far, I was able to successfully burn a BD-R with media code RITEK-BR2-00 and a BD-R DL with media code RITEK-DR3-000. Both discs were burned with ImgBurn and verified successfully.
Look forward as I test Blu-Ray media with this drive!
In the past few days, I brought a LiteOn iHAS524 C DVD drive on eBay. This drive is quite rare and was being sold as used, but the unit seems to be in good conditions.
The reason to have this drive is due to its unique LabelTag feature. This allows you to create labels on the data side of a CD-R and DVD+/-R. It, of course, will consume space, but the advantage is that you don’t have to manually label the discs as long as there is enough storage. It can also be created as soon as the data is burned given you use Nero Express with the LabelTag software present.
I also currently have the LiteOn iHAS524 A, which had its optical pickup unit replaced with the one used in the B revision. They are compatible with the A units and have been working great. However, the C unit laser is NOT compatible with the A unit, and I guess the same is true with the B units.
Here, I’ll present you with a side by side comparison of the internals as well as its exterior photos.
LiteOn iHAS524 C External Photos
We start with the front of the drive:
As is usual with DVD drives, you get to see the CD and DVD logos; and because this drive also features LabelTag, it has the logo in the front too.
Here is a closer look at the top:
And the back:
This C unit was manufactured on August 2012.
LiteOn iHAS524 A Exterior Photos
Now, let’s take a look at the exterior photos of the iHAS524 A. This drive has been with me since its release in 2010, so it doesn’t have the same condition as the iHAS524 C:
Again, we see the CD, DVD, and LabelTag logos.
Here is the top:
And the bottom of the drive:
It has a missing screw which I lost some time ago when I replaced the drive optical pickup unit. This drive was manufactured on June 2010.
Here, we will see the internals side by side. We will start with the top cover interior:
Now, a look at the drive’s inside:
Both drives looks almost identical, with a few diferences.
This is the iHAS524 B Optical Pickup Unit. The part number is SF-DS1XD. It is compatible with the LiteOn iHAS524 A and is the one it’s using.
And here’s the iHAS524 C Optical Pickup Unit:
The part number is SF-DS1X1. It doesn’t have the small potentiometer on the lower left. Other than that, it looks almost the same.
The back also looks similar. The board from the A model is a bit bigger than the C model.
Here, we see both drives internals with the disc tray opened, giving us a better look at the reader mechanisms.
Unfortunately, the iHAS524 C Optical Pickup Unit is not compatible with the iHAS524 A. The drive refused to turn on, but it seems that what really happened was that there was a short circuit. This caused the ribbon cable to burn:
The iHAS524 A didn’t suffer any damage other than the burned ribbon cable. The SF-DS1X1 laser didn’t get damaged and the iHAS524C was able to work fine. After I made sure it worked, I placed its ribbon cable to the iHAS524 A and it started working with the SF-DS1XD OPU again. Phew!
Long story short, the SF-DS1X1 OPU is not compatible with the iHAS524 A. Use the SF-DS19L (The one that should be used in the A revision) or the SF-DS1XD (For B units, but also works with the A units).
This is the SF-DS19L Optical Pickup Unit which I replaced with the SF-DS1XD:
If you need one of these Optical Pickup Units, you can find them on AliExpress.
Yesterday, I received some Pocket/Mini CD-R I purchased on eBay, which were being sold for cheap due to them not being branded or not having their specs listed.
The seller was selling 3 packs of 100 unbranded silver surface Mini CD-R, and since the price was lower compared to other branded media, I decided to buy all 3.
The discs were wrapped with no spindle.
The discs have a silver surface:
Here we can see a single CD-R:
They have the usual light green color on the data side.
The disc loaded fine on my LiteOn iHAS524 drive. I launched ImgBurn which says that the discs are made by Ritek. Their media ID is 97m15s17f:
They also have a capacity of 210MB or 24 minutes and a maximum write speed of 24x.
This is the first Mini CD I use with this LiteOn drive, which has the unique LabelTag feature to add labels to the data side. The software detected the disc and a label can be created:
I burned some of these CD-R with Nero Express, which allows the creation of the label on the same run. I also burned them at its maximum speed of 24x without any failure.
I ran a Disc Quality test using Nero DiscSpeed. Below you can see the results of those tests. I limited the test to the first session of it, as the second one is the label produced with the above software and contains unreadable data. This makes the test fail. By limiting it to the first session, we can get the actual data track quality.
The first test gave us a maximum of 14 C1 errors with a total of 58. The average was 0.11. There were no C2 errors reported. The Quality Score was 98%.
This test was perfect! No C1 or C2 errors were reported, making the Quality Score be 100%.
This disc had a maximum of 9 for the C1 Errors with a total of 13. The average was 0.07. No C2 errors were reported. The Quality Score was 99%.
This final disc I burned had a maximum of 13 C1 errors with a total of 27. No C2 errors were reported. The Quality Score was 98%.
These blank CD-R media seems to be good to write small amounts of data. This could be an MP3 album, some photos, or software you’d like to archive. The burns seem to be of good quality and the 24x burning speed is adequate. This sure was a great find on eBay!
In the past few weeks, I purchased the Techin Wi-Fi LED Smart Bulb, as I was curious about Smart Bulbs in general. These are LED bulbs that connect via Wi-Fi, and this was a factor I took into consideration since some other Smart Bulbs require having a hub.
These bulbs also are RGB, and also allows configuring their brightness and white balance. This is really nice because sometimes you want to have less brightness in your room, while at other times, you want it to be well illuminated.
Being Smart Bulbs, they integrate very nice with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. This means that you can use Google Assistant or the Google Home app, as well as connect them with an Amazon Echo device, to control them via Alexa. This is another great feature because I can speak to Alexa and she will turn the lights on or off.
The packaging and the LED bulb looks like a normal LED bulb would look:
Setting up the Smart Bulb is as simple as replacing your existing bulb:
Configuring the Smart Bulb requires downloading the Smart Life app to your phone. This is before you can link them to Alexa or Google Home since you need to have a Smart Life account first. The Smart Bulbs must be linked in the app first, and then Google Home and Alexa will find them.
It’s as simple as following some quick instructions, however, I ran into some problems with my router. I’ll talk about this in a later blog post, but the important thing is that I was able to successfully connect them to the Wi-Fi.
Once it is connected, the Smart Bulb will turn white by default:
By using the Smart Life app, you can configure the white balance or change colors:
The colors are accurate. Here is a picture of it turned red and blue:
In the Smart Life app, this is how the color control looks:
Because we have set up our Smart Life account, we can now link our account with Alexa, and Google Home. This is how the light control panel looks in Alexa:
Alexa also allows us to change the brightness and color. It provides us with a list of colors to choose, as well as different shades of white:
We can also speak to Alexa, and this is one of the benefits of having Smart Bulbs, as we can turn them on, off, or change colors by just talking to it.
If you prefer to use Google Home, it is also compatible. Take a look!
As with Alexa, we can also change the color in Google Home:
In conclusion, these lights work as expected and the interoperability across different Smart Home ecosystems is a plus. I’m planning on getting more of these Smart Bulbs to finish replacing the traditional LED bulbs.
One feature I like is that they are compatible also with Alexa Guard. When paired, Alexa will turn them on or off as if someone is in the house. Apparently, this helps keeps the house safe. Just a word of caution, don’t get scared if you come back home and see them turned on. It happened to me, and it took me a while to realize that it was because of Alexa.
These Smart Bulbs are not only convenient, but their power usage is really low, at just 8 Watts. Now, keep in mind that even when the lights are off, it will still consume a bit of power, since they are always-connected, but the power usage is still relatively low.
The final point would be regarding price. My 4-pack Smart LED Bulbs cost about $41.99, with a $4-dollar coupon attached bringing it down to $37.99. Almost at $10 dollars per bulb, this is one of the cheapest ways right now to replace your lights with smart, wi-fi-enabled ones.
If you’re interested in these LED Smart Bulbs, you can check them out on Amazon at the following link:
The HyperDrive 2018 iPad Pro Edition is a USB-C Hub designed mainly for the 2018 iPad Pro, but it is also compatible with other USB-C devices. It has a USB-A 3.0 port, SD and MicroSD Card Reader, 3.5mm TRRS connector, compatible with headsets including inline buttons, USB-C Charging passthrough, and an HDMI output.
Because I backed it on Kickstarter, it was nice to have received it in a Kickstarted-branded case.
Immediately after opening it, we can see the HyperDrive along with another grip, USB-C extender cable, a screwdriver and some additional screws.
The HyperDrive features a grip that is removable, to make it compatible with other devices. It is attached using screws, so it makes sense to include the screwdriver. Also, since the screws are small, it comes with additional screws in case we lose the originals.
Let’s take a closer look at the HyperDrive:
The HyperDrive Front does not have any branding in it. That’s on the back. It looks beautiful in the Space Grey color, which I chose when the project survey was sent so that we could choose our HyperDrive color.
As I stated above, here we can see the HyperDrive branding and other regulation logos. We can see the USB-C port better since the grip didn’t allowed us to see it in the previous image.
On one of the sides of the HyperDrive, there’s nothing. However, that changes in the other side, where we can see the HDMI connector:
We can plug our HDMI cable into it to duplicate or extend our screen (If we are using the HyperDrive in the PC). Now, let’s take a look at the other connectors
From Left to Right, we can see an LED, followed by the passthrough USB-C charging port, which we would use to charge our devices. We then have the SD Card slot on the top and the MicroSD Card slot on the bottom, followed by the USB-A 3.0 port and a 3.5mm TRRS jack. This is compatible with headsets and is also compatible with in-line controls.
The USB-C port is pretty standard, and is centered in this Hub.
This is the other Grip that came with my HyperDrive:
Altough we cannot see it in the above picture, it says that it is for use with covers. The grip that initially came with it was for use WITHOUT screen protectors. I myself don’t have any use for these grips, so I removed it from my HyperDrive.
The HyperDrive came with a USB-C extender cable and grip that you can use if you’d like to connect your HyperDrive without it having direct contact with your devices.
This way, we can simply attach the USB-C cable to our devices and the HyperDrive will fit perfectly, because when we use it without any grip or the extender, our HyperDrive will have a little gap in between.
To remove the grip from the HyperDrive, we’ll use the included screwdriver.
Be sure to keep the screws in a safe place! They are so tiny that they may get lost.
In the above picture, I have attached the USB-C Extension cable to my HyperDrive so that you can see how it look.
I have removed the grip in the above photo. The reason is so that I can use it directly connected to my laptop. I do not have the iPad and my main reason to get this is to use it in my Windows machines and other devices:
I attached the HyperDrive to my Lenovo Y720 laptop I purchased as my birthday gift. This laptop has a USB-C connector and you can see that the HyperDrive fits into it. You can also see there’s a bit of a gap, as I explained above. We could have solved this by using the extender USB-C cable, but I prefer to just have the HyperDrive in direct contact with it.
I attached my KZ ZS7 IEM to the HyperDrive. The PC does not detect the USB Audio if there’s no headphone connected to it. Once we connect them, the laptop recognizes the audio adapter as USB PnP Audio Device.
The volume is very loud!! I always turn it down before playing back anything, and having it at just 1 or 2% was just enough.
As seen in the above image, I have the audio at just 2%. Let’s take a look at the device settings itself:
We can see the HyperDrive audio listed as USB PnP Audio Device above. We’ll double click it and then go to the Advanced tab to see the device bit deph and sample rate:
The DAC (Digital-Analog Converter) used in the HyperDrive only has a bit depth of 16-bit and a sample rate of 48 Khz. This is enough for some, but audiophiles would have preferred it to have a depth of 24 or 32 bits and a sample rate way above the 48 Khz. However, we must remember that Audio CD has a depth of 16 bit and a sample rate of 44.1Khz. Since the HyperDrive supports 48Khz, that means that Windows needs to resample the audio to 48Khz. Still, the audio quality is good.
I’m using Tidal to stream CD-Quality tracks and I’m not noticing any quality degradation. In fact, it sounds excellent, altough I do need to turn down the volume further down. Also, there’s a little background noise, but it’s barely noticeable when there’s audio playing.
So, the HyperDrive does a great job handing audio. It even works in my Nintendo Switch!
What does the HyperDrive looks like with its ports being used? It looks like this:
It’s been less than a day using this USB-C Hub, and so far it is handling everything great. I have experienced some problems, but it’s most likely problems related to the operating system rather than the HyperDrive. My laptop sometimes would not detect the HyperDrive or would not show any image in my external monitor, but now it’s all working fine. Also, it’s worth noting that the HyperDrive heats a little. You’ll not get burned while touching it, but I would also not have my hand at it. Even with it being warm, I wouldn’t say it overheats. It’s also working fine and haven’t experienced any disconnection issues with it.
The Kickstarter experience with this project was great. It is usual of the start of the year to get some delays due to China celebrating the Chinese New Year holiday, but this was a project where the holiday didn’t affected them so much. We are just starting March, and today I received it. Delivery was quick and they sent the tracking number very fast. It was also working at the moment they sent it to me.
I’ll definitely consider backing another of their projects, supporting them while having another gadget to play with.