Five Multiformat DVD Recorders

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-10-06 Print this article Print

Review: Multiformat DVD recorders are here in droves. ExtremeTech tested five drives and liked what it saw.

At first blush, DVD recorders are very cool. You can use them to back up files (up to 4.7GB) or archive data. In practice, DVD recorders have caused nearly as many headaches as solutions. One major problem has been the bifurcation of media. Early on, it was DVD-R and DVD-RW, supported by the Recordable DVD Council ((RDVDC) and DVD Forum. Meanwhile, the DVD+RW Alliance brought us the DVD+RW standard.
If you want to record music onto a recordable CD, you go out and buy CD-R media, record your music and play it anywhere. Yes, some audio players dont understand CD-RW, but thats a nuance easily discerned by the price difference. With DVD recorders, users needed to be aware of the media type. A DVD+R disc wouldnt work in a DVD-RW drive. Issues like setting the "compatibility bit" to enable playback of DVD+RW/+R media in some consumer players add another layer of confusion.
Weve written extensively about this split in recordable DVD standards here, so we wont dwell on the format wars. However, having two standards (three, if you consider DVD-RAM, still a fairly minor player) creates tremendous confusion amongst users. Last spring, Sony was the first to bridge the gap between the two media types, shipping the first multiformat DVD recorder, the DRU-500A. We discovered quickly that DVD+RW offered faster performance and that, when using recordable media in consumer players, compatibility issues are gradually becoming a thing of the past. Now, a host of multiformat DVD recordable drives are arriving on the scene. We look at five of them, to get a feel for whats on the market and predict where the standards war might be heading. Each drive is interesting in its own way. For the full story click here
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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