Dueling Standards

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-01-23 Print this article Print

Company: Sony Pioneer Electronics
Product: DRU-500A DVD+RW / DVD-RW recorder DVR-A05U DVD-RW recorder
Pro: High degree of format flexibility; excellent performance in most tests Significant improvement in DVD-R/RW write performance.
Con: Only 1x DVD-RW writing. DVD read performance oddly slow. Only 8x CD-RW writing performance; extremely long format time for packet writing prep.
Summary:       Highly flexible standard support make this the drive of choice for most applications, but DVD read performance is slower than it should be. If youre a DVD-R/RW shop, this is your drive. But its not an optimal solution for data backup.
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A few years ago, the idea that two standards could compete, yet coexist, was one that left most technology pundits and consumers cold. After all, we had witnessed the great struggle between BetaMax and VHS, the crashing and burning of the Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) and the abject failure of the DivX pay-per-view DVD format (not to be confused with the video codec of the same name). The conventional wisdom is that two similar standards that serve the same essential function cant really coexist.
Or can they?
Recently, two standards for high end, multichannel audio playback -- SACD and DVD-Audio -- have managed to coexist in the marketplace. The reason for this is twofold. After the great standards wars of the 80s and 90s, consumer electronics and PC companies have become somewhat jaded about the idea of standards fights. And as these devices have become more digital in nature, they can be easily accommodated by clever hardware design coupled with equally clever software and firmware. On the consumer front, were seeing support for both DVD-Audio and SACD in multiformat players, some of which are dropping below $500. So it was inevitable that someone would do the same for the competing standards for recordable DVD. That someone is Sony, but well get to that in a bit.

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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