The PLDS Lite-on DH-401S is the latest in a string of DVD drives that can read Blu-ray media, but have no interest in writing to them.

Early features on Blu-ray and its high-definition rival HD DVD tended to focus on their ability to store and write huge amounts of data. Unsurprisingly then, especially given the war between competing formats, early comparisons were made with the DVD-R/DVD+R melee.

As it turns out, however, the recording abilities of the high definition drives are rapidly becoming less and less relevant.

Behind closed doors HD DVD has been focusing on its read-only performance and the PLDS Lite-on DH-401S, a new Blu-Ray ROM drive from Lite-on, is the latest in a string of drives that can read Blu-ray media, but have no interest in writing to them.

The PLDS Lite-on DH-401S is actually quite a nice solution to the high prices of previous Blu-ray Disc writers.

The estimated retail price of the PLDS Lite-on DH-401S is £125, although we suspect that reasonably quickly it'll be available for a good £20-£25 less then that. And this would make it a very viable option.

So far the pace-setter among BD-ROM drives has been the Pioneer BDC-202, which can read single layer BD-ROM, BD-R and BD-REs at a five-speed rate. The PLDS Lite-on DH-401S, though, can manage only four-speed. However, this figure does also apply to double-layer discs – and here it's twice as fast as the Pioneer.

Playback comes courtesy of CyberLink PowerDVD 7.3 BD. This slick package is among the best of the high-definition viewers, and we found the PLDS Lite-on DH-401S did a very good job of playing our test Blu-ray discs. You will need a Serial ATA interface, although this does keep up the performance levels.

Indeed, the PLDS Lite-on DH-401S will do a good job of adding Blu-ray Disc facilities to your PC. We still believe discs won't start moving in large numbers until customers are confident their film libraries won't have become obsolete within a few years. However, more drives like the PLDS Lite-on DH-401S can only speed up the transition to high-definition media.


For BD-ROM playback, the Pioneer BDC-202 remains the drive to beat. However, should the DH-401S come in at a decent price (we'd be looking at no more than £105-£110) then its slightly better overall speeds could just push it ahead.