We were glad to see that all five drives were able to execute all of the tasks that comprised our tests. We had them rip a DVD with DVD Decrypter, write a DVD with Nero and extract audio into Apple iTunes 7.1. In addition, we measured the time the drives required to load and recognize a freshly inserted disc.
The LG GSA-H42L is slow at ripping DVDs, but it is quiet and it comes with different front panels, so you can adjust the appearance to your computer case. The drives from Pioneer and Sony offered the best performance, but both don't support the LightScribe feature to label your discs using the drive laser unit. The Pioneer DVR-112 is a bit noisier, but supports faster speeds when writing to DL media.
Our recommendation goes to both the Sony/NEC AD-7170S and the Pioneer DVR-112. Both drives showed excellent performance when ripping and writing DVDs. The only drawbacks are missing support for LightScribe and somewhat longer times required to recognize new discs.