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DVD test drive

DVD test drive

Sony DRU-120A

The second-generation Sony DRU-120A is rated to burn to both DVD+RW and DVD+R 4.7GB media at 2.4x (3.31MBps). The drive took 5 minutes, 20 seconds to back up 500MB of data to a 4.7GB DVD+RW disc, not counting format times. One caveat: manufacturers' current pricing on DVD+RW and DVD+R media is about the same as that for DVD-RW and DVD-R media. However, +RW and +R media is not typically sold in bulk, so the costs may be substantially more if lots of discs are used with this drive.

Unlike DVD-RW drives, DVD+RW units manage formatting of rewritable media themselves, rather than relying on software on the computer. That saves CPU cycles and makes writing to a DVD+RW disc a breeze.

Drive installation went smoothly, even though the documentation didn't provide as much help as we would have liked. The ample bundled software comes on two separate application discs, and each app must be installed separately, with a system reboot after each installation.

Sony ships the drive with B's Recorder Gold and B's Clip for mastering and packet-writing; Dantz's Retrospect Express for backup; MedioStream's NeoDVD standard for DVD-video authoring; MusicMatch Jukebox; and CyberLink's PowerDVD software DVD player.

Upshot: Speedy DVD+R and DVD+RW writing and a good software bundle separate this drive from the rest of the pack.

Pioneer DVR-A04

Pioneer's DVR-A04 makes no major technological leaps over its predecessor, the DVR-A03. But it does feature a few improvements; it ups the DVD-ROM read speed from 4x to 6x, and ups CD-ROM read speed from 16x to 24x. The drive's DVD write speeds remain unchanged, however, putting it behind the Sony and HP DVD+RW drives in this regard. The Pioneer drive burns DVD-R at 2x - not too far off from the others' 2.4x for DVD+R, but it writes to DVD-RW at only 1x (1.38MBps). A significant speed lag showed up in the rewritable tests; it took the Pioneer 8 minutes, 33 seconds to back up 500MB of data. In addition, the drive's CD-R/RW speeds are rated significantly slower than those of the HP DVD Writer Dvd200i: 8x/4x versus 12x/10x.

Drive installation was smooth and the included documentation adequate. The drive ships with Veritas RecordNow DX and DLA 3.25, Sonic's MyDVD 3.0 DVD authoring software, and CyberLink's PowerDVD XP 4.0. However, unlike the HP and Sony drives, the Pioneer drive includes no backup utility.

The DVR-A04 took nearly an hour and a half to complete a full format on a 4.7GB DVD-RW disc. The DVR-A04 (like other DVD-RW drives) supports faster formats but the included Veritas DLA 3.25 software can only perform a full format, hence the lengthy format time.

Industry experts say that DVD-R discs are more compatible with the existing installed base of DVD-ROM drives and DVD players than DVD+R discs are, so users are probably a bit more likely to be able to burn a video DVD that will work with an older DVD player. Another advantage of the format is the lower cost of media.

Upshot: The least-expensive DVD we've seen, this drive produces video DVDs with the greatest degree of compatibility with DVD-ROM drives and players, but its -RW performance is slow, especially in terms of format times.

HP DVD Writer Dvd200i

Hewlett-Packard's second-generation DVD+RW drive writes to both rewritable +RW and write-once +R 4.7GB DVD media; the latter type typically is more compatible than other rewritable DVD media with the installed base of older DVD-ROM drives and DVD players.

The Dvd200i is rated to burn to DVD+RW and DVD+R at 2.4x (3.31MBps), compared to the 1x rewritable speed rating of the rival Pioneer DVR-A04, a DVD-RW drive. It took 5 minutes, 20 seconds to back up 500MB of data.

+RW and +R media are not typically sold in bulk, so the costs may be substantially more if using lots of discs with this drive. Like the Sony, the DVD+RW units' self-managed formatting of rewritable media saves CPU cycles and makes writing to a DVD+RW disc a breeze.

The easy-to-install HP model uses similar hardware to the Sony DRU-120A; the biggest differences lie in the software bundle. Here, HP excels with a neatly organised, unified installation routine and a powerful software package that includes HP RecordNow and DLA; HP Simple Backup; Sonic MyDVD 3.0 for DVD-video authoring; ArcSoft ShowBiz for basic video editing; and the CyberLink PowerDVD DVD player.

Upshot: A terrific software bundle and documentation, as well as fast performance, make this drive a good choice for both video and data applications.


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