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The current crop of single-layer DVD burners runs the gamut from low cost drives with skimpy documentation to the almost over-engineered Plextor PX-712A. Of the drives we tested, we liked the PX-712A for its sheer performance and elegance of operation. But its not a cheap drive, so if you dont need the blistering speed, others are available.
Of the three Pioneer-based drives we tested, the Asus stands out as the price/performance leader. It offers a decent software bundle, great compatibility and is only a few dollars above the $100 mark. The Memorex drive offers an attractive appearance at only a few dollars more.
Of the sub-$100 drives, the Lite-On SOHW-812S stands out as a good performer, but the software bundle is sparse. The Toshiba drive just plods along, but probably will do so solidly for years and it comes with the full Nero 6.3 suite. The AOpen drive seems a little quirky in its behavior, but certainly is capable, although the software bundle seems a little dated.
We should also add that the Sony DRU-530A still acquits itself very well, especially with the new firmware update. Its certainly on our recommended list for single layer burners. At around a $120-125 street price, its a good performer for the price.
So, the bottom line is that if you want raw performance and some terrific amenities--and are willing to pay for them--the PX-712A from Plextor is the right choice. On the other hand, the Asus DRW-0804P offers Pioneers quality mechanism at a fairly low price. We liked the Memorex and Pioneer drives, too, but they do cost a bit more. Lastly, the Sony DRU-530A is still a contender, offering a good blend of price, performance, and aesthetics.