The Burning Question

DVD recording is useful for businesses and consumers alike. PC Magazine tested 23 DVD burners, internal and external to uncover their performance and compatibility.

The rewritable DVD—and the different recipes for baking one—has been troubled from the start by battles among powerful corporations, culminating in a schism that has split the industry. Consumers are now faced with five recording technologies: the DVD Forums DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM (the "dash" formats), and the DVD+RW Alliances DVD+R and DVD+ RW (the "plus" formats).

Thankfully, the worst may be over. With rewritable DVD now moving into consumer electronics—such as the Elite DVR-57H and Pioneer DVR-810H personal video recorders—manufacturers are intent on avoiding the confusion that slowed adoption in the computer industry.

Rest assured, however, that almost any new DVD player you buy will read both "plus" and "dash" discs. And most hardware manufacturers have announced recorders that support both "plus" and "dash" media (both PC Magazines Editors Choice winners are dual-format drives).

For this story, we ran a battery of performance tests on 23 of the latest DVD burners. We tested each drives ripping and burning speeds with every type of supported media, and we measured relative performance when writing to write-once DVD and CD media.

Copy Protection and Piracy

Laden with more than half a dozen copy protection technologies, DVD could be the most heavily secured storage medium devised. But despite massive efforts to develop foolproof copy protection, crackers have circumvented most of the measures already. It doesnt take long to discover the wealth of freeware and commercial applications that make duplicating copy-protected DVDs (read: movies) easy. Ironically, this may be the best thing to happen to the rewritable-DVD industry. The ability to back up movies has become the technologys killer application. If there were a sure way to prevent unauthorized copying, rewriters might never have succeeded.

Since 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has made circumventing DVD copy protection and content access mechanisms a crime. But a recent lawsuit filed against the movie industry by 321 Studios (makers of the disc-backup app DVD Copy Plus) has challenged the law on constitutional grounds. If the studios lose, using a DVD rewriter to copy movies or to make personal backups may become legal. A decision is expected before year-end.

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