Although I had suspicions that the Panasonic LF-D101 DVD-RAM drive might be a bit toyish for corporate computing, I found it to be a worthwhile addition to almost any organisation. The product offers a whopping 5.2GB of rewriteable capacity on a single digital video disc (DVD) cartridge. In addition, it reads CD-ROMs and plays DVD video with an optional DVD/MPEG decoder card. In short, though it will not pop up on every desktop in your organisation, it can be a valuable tool to keep around.
I tested the Panasonic drive as offered by OEM La Cie in a desktop enclosure with Software Architects' (SAI) included DVD software for Windows and Macintosh. I attached the drive to a Hewlett-Packard PC with a 333MHz Celeron processor running Windows 98.
Once I had installed a SCSI adapter and Sigma Designs' Hollywood Plus DVD/MPEG-2 playback card along with their requisite drivers, I was able to install the Write DVD software from SAI, which provided the drivers for the DVD-RAM.
The only glitch I encountered was a nasty conflict between the DVD-RAM software and (I believe) Active Desktop. I fixed this by installing Service Pack 1 for Windows Internet Explorer 4.
The DVD drive appeared as two drives on my Windows desktop. One drive was a standard CD drive, used when CDs are inserted into the DVD-RAM. The second was a removeable media drive, used when the drive contained a DVD.
I tested the drive with a single-sided 2.6GB capacity Panasonic DVD-RAM cartridge. A double-sided cartridge holds 5.2GB and sells priced at approximately $US40. I used Seagate Backup Exec to back up my hard drive to the DVD-RAM, and I was able to get throughput of 620KBps without software compression and verification and about 520KBps with software compression and verification enabled.
More than adequate
This performance is more than adequate for backing up and archiving data; and with its 5.2GB capacity, you can keep more data online at a given time. Some resellers offer the drive installed in a DVD library, which should offer incredible capacity and fast response.
I also tested the video capability of the DVD-RAM by picking up a copy of Godzilla. With the optional playback card, this feature worked fairly well, though several times the playback software froze.
If it wrote CDs as well, the DVD-RAM drive would be a must-buy for its versatility. Without this capability, and in light of the price tag, I'd rate the DVD-RAM as a "probable should buy". If you're looking for high-capacity removeable storage, you may find the appeal of the multiple media formats supported by the Panasonic DVD-RAM drive and its support for state-of-the-art DVD irresistible.
The Bottom Line
Panasonic LF-D101 DVD-RAM
The Panasonic DVD-RAM drive offers huge storage capacity on a DVD cartridge. It also reads CD-ROMs and will play DVD video with an optional DVD/MPEG decoder card. It is an ideal solution for those who need high-capacity removable disk media, or for those who need the video capabilities offered by DVD.
Pros: Large capacity; reads a variety of media; DVD video is great.
Cons: Will not write to CD media; expensive - especially if you want video playback.
Platforms: Windows and Macintosh
Price: Australian pricing not yet available.
Tel 13 2600