Five Multiformat DVD Recorders

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.

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