The State of PC
Weve written extensively on DVD recording in the past. Alfred Poor covered the basics of competing optical recording standards back in 2001, in his excellent overview. We covered several DVD+RW recorders back in April, 2002, then touched on the topic again, comparing DVD+RW to the older DVD-RW standard in our overview of various optical storage hardware in August, 2002.
At that time, we found the DVD+RW drives to be good, but not perfect solutions for data backups and DVD authoring. Also at the same time, we found Pioneers aging DVR-A03 to be slow and awkward to use for backing up data. Recently, the DVD+RW camp has been readying new drives capable of 4x performance. Meanwhile, Pioneer went back to the drawing board and developed the DVR-A05U, their own 4x drive -- something that some members of the DVD+RW camp had privately suggested wasnt possible.
In some respects, though, the pros and cons of the competing standards -- performance aside -- still hold true.
Where things have changed has been mostly on the DVD+RW front. Various computer manufacturers, especially Dell and HP, have been rapidly deploying DVD+RW on their product offerings. DVD+RW has become the standard of choice for non-critical backup operations. With DVD+RW media dropping to under $2 in bulk, backing up large drives has become easier. However, if DVD+R/RW media has dropped substantially, the prices for DVD-R/RW media have practically fallen off a cliff, with DVD-RW(G) disks falling to well under $1. This, of course, brings up the specter of DVD copying, which no doubt caused sleepless nights among quite a few people in the motion picture industry. But this isnt about copying DVD movies, but about using DVD recorders to either create original content or as a backup medium for data. Well also examine how these drives perform as CD recorders and CD/DVD readers. Today we examine two prime examples of the DVD recording art. The first is Pioneers recently released DVR-AO5U DVD-R/RW drive. This is an ATAPI drive capable of recording DVD-R at 4x speed (roughly 40 megabits or 8 megabytes per second). Our other contender is the Sony DRU-500A, which can record on both DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW media. Well look at these drives in more detail after we check out the performance tests.
- DVD+RW supports defect management; DVD-RW does not.
- DVD+RW drives support both CLV (constant linear velocity) and CAV (constant angular velocity) spin rates. The second is particularly important for PC users, as it allows for higher speed DVD and CD-ROM reading.
- DVD+RW has been adopted by Microsoft to natively support the Mount Rainier standard for drag-and-drop, rewritable optical storage.
- DVD+RW supports high-accuracy editing of 32K blocks in place, called "lossless sector linking"
- DVD+RW supports variable bit-rate encoding for video, resulting in better image quality in high-motion scenes.
- Theres no lead-on or lead-out times needed during write
- Theres no "finalize" state to creating a DVD video disc, unlike DVD-RW.
- Despite the goal of universal compatibility, more consumer DVD players to date will read DVD-RW disks than DVD+RW disks "out of the box". If allowed to set the compatibility bit (as in the HP drive we review), that number goes up. Note that newer consumer drives can read both formats.
- Most mastering houses that will press consumer DVDs are set up to accept DVD-R media; some will accept DVD-RW as well.
- Theres currently greater penetration and awareness of DVD-RW among authoring professionals. Although aftermarket DVD+RW solutions exist for the Macintosh, the Macintosh can natively read and write DVD-RW.