on 2 April 2012
Physically, a very solid piece of hardware, but it comes with a shovel-load of dodgy software that you have to uninstall.
In the box there is the drive itself, a weird looking USB cable that allows the drive to pull power from two USB ports, a DVD with software and a folded piece of paper showing how to connect to the two required USB ports.
When attached to Win7 64bit, the driver installs automatically and the drive just works, no further installs required. As a bluray burner, the drive works well and hasn't produced any faulty discs for me. Bear in mind that the quality of your media really matters, so if you're finding problems with one type of discs, buy some pricier, branded bluray blanks to see if this resolves the matter. Contrary to other reviewers, my drive has loaded dirty, scratched DVDs just fine, so this really is a full replacement for any earlier, external drives you may own.
On the included DVD is PowerDVD 9, amongst a heap of other Cyberlink products. You can only install these together. Obviously you'll want PowerDVD 9, as it plays commercial, encrypted bluray discs (AKA "films"), but you'll want to uninstall most of the other applications as soon as possible. Amongst these are an atrocious "media manager", a dreadful "label maker", two awful software packages for burning blurays, a forsaken "software launcher" for those who fail to successfully operate the Windows Start menu and more undesirable software from the shovelware department of Cyberlink. Thankfully, all of these can be uninstalled individually, without affecting PowerDVD 9.
On the software DVD there is also a link to update the drive's firmware. While the drive should arrive with current firmware, it is worth occasionally performing this test manually as the drive's firmware contain decryption-keys to play the most recent bluray films. If nothing else, check if you fail to play a new bluray movie.
Much touted by Samsung's marketing department, the drive also supports "AV connectivity mode". This does not turn the drive into a bluray player for your TV, as it lacks decoding hardware to actually play a movie. At best, probably connected to a Samsung telly only, the drive can show photos from whatever DVDs you pop in the drive. The sooner you forget about this AV connectivity mode, the better: This is an external bluray drive for your PC and for this purpose, it works well.
PowerDVD 9 is fully capable of playing blurays, so there is no need to upgrade, but it's worth mentioning that within the software is a link to a special PowerDVD 12 Ultra price, at £39 rather than £89 pounds. If you absolutely must have the latest piece of software, buy it through this link. By the time you read this, of course, Cyberlink will undoutedly have changed the destination for the upgrade link, so your mileage may vary.
One last note: Before you buy this drive, do run Cyberlink's "BD & 3D Advisor", which is freely downloadable from Cyberlink's website. This will test your hardware setup for HDCP compliance, and hardware muscle to ensure you can actually play bluray movies with the drive. Without a fully encrypted connection from player to monitor, blurays will not play and you will be left with a solid blu-ray burner and nothing more.