Inside the Box

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

: Sony DRU-500A"> The software bundle differs a bit from Pioneers, and is more in line with what youd expect from a consumer product:
  • RecordNow CD burning application
  • MyDVD 4 DVD authoring application
  • MusicMatch 7.1 digital music ripping and playback software
  • PowerDVD XP 4.0 DVD movie playback application
  • SimpleBackup software backup tool
Some, but not all, manuals are on disc. Sony supplies a fold-out folio with directions for downloading additional updates and applications, such as Veritas DLA packet writing driver.
The real strength of the DRU-500A lies in its ability to use multiple DVD recordable formats. Its not quite a "universal recorder", since it wont write to DVD-RAM disks. Being able to write to DVD-RAM would make this drive a serious tool for archival backups, but thats not the purpose of the drive. Its main purpose is to be a device suitable for consumers and pros alike. Pros will like the ability to write to DVD-R/RW when needed, as many of their clients or repro houses will likely want that format. But the ability to write to DVD+R/RW will appeal to consumers and users who need up to 4.7GB of casual backup. Bear in mind that this is not a serious tool for regular backups to the same disc -- DVD+R/RW media can only be written to perhaps 1,000 times at best. If youre constantly overwriting sections of the disc, you can hit that 1,000 time mark much more quickly than you might expect. Performance is generally pretty good, though DVD read performance is unusually slow. However, it doesnt seem to be slow as a CD-ROM reader, so most users might not notice. Its certainly fast enough for playing back DVD movies. The drive itself is a little more attractive than most optical drives, with the actual drawer bezel being platinum-colored plastic. The drive also lacks a volume control and headphone jack, but that will likely not be missed by most users.
Company: Sony
Product: DRU-500A DVD+RW / DVD-RW recorder
Pro: High degree of format flexibility; excellent performance in most tests
Con: Only 1x DVD-RW writing. DVD read performance oddly slow.
Summary:       Highly flexible standard support make this the drive of choice for most applications, but DVD read performance is slower than it should be.
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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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