Fast Burn

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2004-05-25 Print this article Print

When the first DVD burners came to market, they were exotic beasts costing hundreds of dollars. On top of the steep price tag, the battle waged between the Recordable DVD Council (which supports a DVD-R/-RW standard) and the DVD+RW Alliance (with its competing DVD+R/+RW standard) only served to stymie users further. While the two groups never really kissed and made up, hardware manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and are offering universal recorders that handle a variety of formats. Iomega even shipped a drive that would burn the somewhat uncommon DVD-RAM format, as we noted in our previous universal drive roundup.
Now that Sony has shipped the first dual layer DVD burner for the PC, its time to revisit the "old" technology of single layer DVD burning. With the price of high-speed, multiformat, single layer burners dropping precipitously, now may be a good time to take the plunge. If you either dont need dual layer burning, or dont want to pay the cost for new dual layer drives and media, then a low-cost, single layer burner may be just the ticket.
So we took a look at a good cross-section of current DVD burners, ranging from the very inexpensive Lite-On 812S to the fast-burning Plextor PlexWriter 712A. We also look at three burners based on a Pioneer-designed mechanism, a drive from AOpen, and the latest Toshiba 8x burner. We compare all of them to the Sony DRU-530A, one of the earliest 8x burners. First, well examine the drives performance, then take a look at individual features, including software bundles. Finally, well pick the drive or drives we think are best-suited for different users.

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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