The State of PC

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

DVD Recording"> 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.
DVD+RW Pros:
  • 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.
And here are some advantages of DVD-RW over 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.
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.

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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