Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1206




The upcoming holiday season has us swamped with recordable DVD drives. In the past few weeks, we have seen recordable devices from just about every major player in the optical storage forum. Typically, only about 5 or 6 unique devices exist in the market, making the life of a hardware journalist fairly easy. Unfortunately, right now, there are literally dozens of devices based on dozens of chipsets. We will take a look at some of these chipsets and burners, and see which one is right for this holiday market.

For some of these burners, we have done independent reviews in the past. The Nu Tech DDW-081, Plextor 708A, and ASUS DRW-0402P/D have all received extensive reviews from us. Remember, the ASUS DRW-0402P/D is identical to the industry standard Pioneer 106; and, the Nu Tech DDW-081 and DDW-061 are identical drives with different firmwares. In this review, we will add a few more drives to our existing mix, including Gigabyte's GO-W0404A, the new Sony DRU-530A, and the MSI DR4-A. Furthermore, we went on a shopping spree and purchased newer units from NEC and LiteOn to keep the analysis well-rounded.




Nu Tech DDW-081

The Nu Tech DDW-081 became one of our favorite burners instantly because of the incredibly attractive price. We just finished a review on the unit back in October, and from our benchmarks, you can see that performance was quite high. Of course, the enormous selling point of this drive was the $140 price tag. Complete with bitsetting book types and stable burn speeds, we couldn't have been more pleased with our DDW-081.

Unfortunately, the DDW-081 is not capable of burning DVD-R format discs. However, since it can burn 8X DVD+R (even on most 4X media), we were able to accept the deficiency in features. Interestingly enough, Nu Tech has made numerous claims that its DDW-081 will become dual capable via a firmware upgrade available around the 15th of December. We were not able to get a beta copy of this firmware, so during its actual release, we will include additional DVD-R(W) tests to this roundup. It is interesting to anticipate how Nu Tech does this on the existing Philips Nexperia platform.

Below is a quick overview of specifications on the drive. The Nu Tech website has the specifications listed as well:


 Nu Tech DDW-081
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (CAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 10X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD+R Write Speed 8X, 4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, UDF
Access Time CD: 120ms
DVD: 120ms
Buffer 2MB

Obviously, the 8X DVD+R write speed is the big eye catcher for this drive. Like the champion Plextor 708A, the Nu Tech DDW-081 is able to burn 8X on most 4X media. Nu Tech has released several new firmwares for its drive, so we will be retesting all of the media with this new firmware.




Gigabyte GO-W0404A

Gigabyte has been in the DVDR business since about September of this year, but their units have been slightly hard to find. Our Gigabyte GO-W0404A is pretty much your standard dual format burner; it comes with a decent software package, including Sonic MyDVD, and retails for about $160 or less.


 Gigabyte GO-W0404A
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (CAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X, 16X (CAV)
12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD-RW (random)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, UDF
Access Time CD: 130ms
DVD: 130ms
Buffer 2MB

The GO-W0404A has higher access times than the Nu Tech DDW-081 and cannot burn 8X DVD+R. The GO-W0404A is based on MediaTek's MT181E chipset (similar to LiteOn's weapon of choice).

Our initial benchmarks on the drive have been quite favorable. Media compatibility is great and actual burn speed is right on the money. It is somewhat of a shame that the drive is hard to find, but most likely, this drive will become a prelude of Gigabyte's next generation recordable DVD drive, which should be coming down the pipeline any day.




Plextor 708A

Currently, the Plextor 708A is “the” drive to beat. We had one of the first samples of this drive back in September and we were thoroughly impressed. Since we did a full review on the drive once before, we won't spend too much time beating around the bush here. Due to a newer firmware release (1.03), we will be running all of the benchmarks on the unit again.

Quickly, we will try to sum up some of the features of the Plextor 708A. Feel free to check out the full review from September if you would like a more indepth analysis. The bundled media with the drive is just average — a demo of Dantz Retrospect, Roxio DVDMax, Easy CD & DVD Creator and one DVD+R. (Compare this to Nu Tech's DDW-081, which comes with the entire SonicDVD suite). We found the documentation with the drive to be excellent. The 60-page manual is a clear indication that Plextor had ample time to prepare and QA this unit during production.


 Plextor 708A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (CAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X, 16X (CAV)
12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD-RW (random)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, UDF
Access Time CD: 130ms
DVD: 180ms
Buffer 2MB

Not only does the drive boast 8X writing speed for DVD+R, but it also claims 12X DVD read speeds. As far as specifications go, this drive outperforms the Nu Tech DDW-081 with dual write capability. The access time is a little too high for DVD's, but we will get more into that later during the rest of the roundup.

We should also mention that we were very impressed with Plextor's PowerRec II technology. Even though all of the burners we are looking at today have some on-the-fly laser optimization, PowerRec II is probably the most promising.

The Plextor 708A uses the LC897490 chipset, which is identical to the chipset in the Sony DRU-530A. It will be interesting to see which drive has a more capable mechanical solution.

Unfortunately, our reigning champion is not perfect. Obviously, the DVD Access time is a little high, bitsetting is not (officially) supported and there have been quite a few reports of poor DVD-R compatibility. We have determined that the burner has no default strategies for cheaper media. Some of the media we bought online simply does not work with this burner (the cheap stuff; some disks we tried didn't even have MIDs!). On the other hand, the cheapest DVD+Rs that we could find burned quite well in this burner. We have always been impressed that the 708A sees 4X available write descriptors for 1X and 2X rated DVD+Rs. Does the 708A have enough to hold onto the crown against its most formidable competitor yet, Sony?




ASUS DRW-0402P/D

Our first look at this burner was back in September where we saw decent performance, but obviously, no cost benefit over the already existing Pioneer 106. Occasionally, we will interchange the ASUS DRW-0402P/D with the Pioneer 106, since they are exactly identical. We are all very anxious for the Pioneer 107 (ASUS DRW-0804P/D), which we had a first look at Computex, but the specifications were not finalized at that time. Tried and true, the 106 was an evolutionary step in the long line of burners that made DVDRs a consumer product. Early this year, the Pioneer 106 and the Sony DRU-510A were the only dual format burners available (NEC followed soon after), and it was clear that all three of these burners were going to bring DVDRs to the masses.


 ASUS DRW-0402P/D DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 10X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 32X Max (4,800KB/s) (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max(CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (incremental)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, multi-border)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, Mount Rainer
Access Time CD: 130ms
DVD: 140ms
Buffer 2000 KB

Specifications on the DRW-0402P/D (Pioneer 106) are now just “OK” by today's standards. Access time is good and DVD read speed is excellent, even for a dated model. Unfortunately, all of the write speeds are a step behind. 16X CD write speed is really no longer acceptable, and DVD+R is already pushing the upper bound of 8X. Of course, this hit in specifications comes at a great benefit in price. Maybe it is true that slow and steady wins the race?

Again, like most of the other drives that we are revisiting, newer firmware has forced us to retest all of our media.




MSI DR4-A

MSI took their time entering the DVD recordable market. You may recall that MSI has traditionally been one of the largest producers of optical storage products in the world! (This probably stemmed from their ability to produce drives cheaper than LiteOn without sacrificing too much quality). Like ASUS and Pioneer, the MSI DR4-A shares virtually the same specifications, chipset and bundle as the Sony DRU-510A. MSI already has a newer 8X burner comparable to the Sony DRU-530, which we will look at in a later roundup.

MSI's DR4-A does not seem up to par with their excellent line of motherboards. The media bundle was good — Sonic MyDVD and Ahead Nero's Burning Rom. Unfortunately, the single page of documentation that came with the drive was disappointing, to say the least. It looks as though MSI spent more time on the box art than what they put in the box.


 MSI DR4-A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 24X, 16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 10X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (incremental)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, multi-border)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, Mount Rainer
Access Time CD: 160ms
DVD: 200ms
Buffer 8MB

We enjoyed the fact that MSI/Sony went with an 8MB buffer on their 4X dual capable drives. Even though critics and skeptics argue that larger buffers will not help when it comes to burning a DVD, we feel that the proof is in the pudding. It costs the manufacturer literally a few cents to add a slightly larger buffer, but the benefit of lower errors pays off.

Our MSI burner was based on the LC99390K chipset, and used the same in the Sony DRU-510A. With the announcement of their DR8-A just last week, MSI will begin to phase back on the DR4-A some time after the holiday season. Unfortunately, for those of you who bought a DR4-A, your burner was only new for 4 months before it became obsolete.




Sony DRU-530A

Enter the sleeping giant, Sony. We would not be giving Sony enough credit if we didn't say they created effectively the dual format product category with the DRU-510A. Of course, it's easy to say that it was inevitable, as Sony happens to participate officially and unofficially in both the DVD+R and DVD-R forums.

In any case, on the heels of the success of the DRU-510A, we present the DRU-530A. Sony's experience in the DVDR market shines in both its software bundle and documentation. Sonic RecordNow, Sonic DLA, Sonic MyDVD, PowerDVD 5 and MusicMatch were all bundled with the drive. Documentation seems to cover everything, but troubleshooting. However, it should be mentioned that Sony has a technical support contact number plastered all over the box art and literature. Hopefully, Sony will also do well in our Technical Support portion of this roundup.


 Sony DRU-530A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X (CAV), 32X, 24X (PCAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X (PCAV)
16X, 10X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (incremental)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, multi-border)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, Mount Rainer
Access Time CD: 160ms
DVD: 200ms
Buffer 2MB

The specifications on the DRU-530A look excellent, certainly comparable to the Plextor 708A. We noticed that the DVD read speed is not as quick as the MSI DR4-A, but everything else is a significant improvement over the DRU-510A.

The external design on the DRU-530A is identical to the DRU-510A, but the internal components are similar to that of the Plextor 708A. In true Sony fashion, there is no external headphone jack or volume adjustment. Regrettably, we noticed immediately in preliminary burns that the DRU-530A was not burning some of our 4X media at 8X, including the bundled media. This was very discouraging, particularly since the near-identical 708A burns the same media twice as fast.

Originally, the Sony DRU-530A debuted with a $300 price tag, but has since fallen to under $250 (and also has a $30 mail-in rebate). Still pricey, but competitive in price to the Plextor 708A. With identical chipsets and similar pickups, it's going to be a constant battle of price and support between these two drives.

Special thanks to Sony and Verbatim for providing us with lots of media for our benchmarks.





LiteOn LDW-411S

LiteOn might not make the highest quality of components, but it would not be fair if we didn't say that they kept everyone else's prices honest. The drive came with an average software package, including PowerDVD and Sonic MyDVD The LDW-411S is slightly interesting because it is one of the few DVDRW drives that comes in a shorter format. Edit: We overlooked that the drive also comes packaged with Sonic RecordNow and DLA.


 LiteOn LDW-411S DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X. 32X, 24X (PCAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X (PCAV)
16X, 10X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (incremental)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, multi-border)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, Mount Rainer
Access Time CD: 140ms
DVD: 160ms
Buffer 2MB

Surprisingly, the specifications of the drive are quite good. Access time and read speeds are all fairly average, but this burner will ultimately win our price award as it costs less than $100. Of course, the real question is whether or not LiteOn can bring quality with this incredibly affordable price tag. Technical support is also going to be a big factor for this drive.

There are quite a few sources claiming that you can flash the firmware on a LDW-401S into an LDW-411S. If you have an LDW-401S, your drive is probably quite capable of upgrading into the same drive that we used in this review.




NEC 1300A

Along with Sony and Pioneer, NEC was one of the original risk takers that brought DVDR and dual format DVDR home to the mass, particularly in OEM systems. We included the NEC 1300A as somewhat of a legacy control.


 NEC 1300A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 10X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 4X, 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 2X, 1X (CLV)
DVD+R Write Speed 4X, 2.4X (CLV)
DVD+RW Rewrite Speed 2.4X (CLV)
DVD Read Speed 12X Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
Multi-Session
Supported Formats DVD+R (incremental)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, multi-border)
DVD-RW (restricted overwrite)

CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM, CD-DA,
CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode, CD Extra
Photo CD, CD Text, Bootable CD, Mount Rainer
Access Time CD: 120ms
DVD: 140ms
Buffer 2MB

The 1300A is really not up to par with the more capable Sony DRU-530A and Plextor 708A, but it does get the job done for a decent price, around $100. Unfortunately, for that price, the LiteOn LDW-411S has our NEC unit totally beat. NEC's saving grace will probably come in the form of better quality than LiteOn's LDW-411S, but that's why we have our benchmarks.

NEC has had a lot of quality problems with this burner, particularly with unusual media. Fortunately, we haven't experienced any first-hand problems with the newest firmware; and, there were certainly no problems with the media used in this roundup.




Tech Support

One key item that we have overlooked in most of our optical display reviews is technical support. Our very our Evan Lieb pioneered the original tech support benchmark for motherboards and today, we will attempt to replicate that benchmark with our optical storage vendors.

We used three camouflaged email addresses and emailed particularly trivial questions concerning our burners to each vendor. For other tech support that was capable of responding to all 3 emails within 72 hours (5 business days), we averaged the three times together for a final result.


 Average Customer Support Response Time
ASUS No Response
Gigabyte 38 hours, 12 minutes
LiteOn 41 hours, 20 minutes
MSI No Response
NEC 29 hours, 48 mintues
Nu Tech N/A
Plextor 11 hours, 10 minutes
Sony 6 hours, 44 minutes

Hands down, Sony had the best technical support. An interactive ticker kept our problem up to date via email. There was also an online interactive help, which we used, and had our problem answered in less than 8 minutes. However, even by using the email ticker, we had our problems answered by an average of 4 hours before the nearest competitor (no surprise, Plextor).

You may be surprised that neither MSI nor ASUS were capable of responding to any of our three questions within 72 hours. However, to give these two some credit, the answers to our questions were found in their knowledge database. Nevertheless, the same could be said for Sony and Plextor. (Looking carefully, Plextor answered our problems right in the manual). Unfortunately, there was not much difference in support between our two $100 burners. We were expecting much better product support from NEC than LiteOn, but our averaged response time on our emails was less than 3 hours apart.

Nu Tech's customer support was lacking by a little. There was no email address, nor number to contact for technical support. Unusually, the general “comments” section required a birth date in order to submit. The site also had problems working under Mozilla. We informed Nu Tech and they are currently working on the problem.

Our customer support response time test did not give Sony or Plextor the leading edge since all our questions were answered incredibly fast via more than one method.

Let's get burning!




Burn Tests CDR Media

For our burn tests, we conducted a battery of burn and simulation tests using Nero DVD/CD Speed and NicSoft DVD Info Pro. Special thanks to Nic for providing us with lots of support during our roundup (Nic, as you may know, wrote the Nu Tech/QSI bitsetting utility). Our test bed has slightly changed since our last set of benchmarks, so any new media that we test will have slightly different (hopefully better) performance.

We used the following configuration to test our burners:
Albatron 865PE Pro II
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz 800FSB
2 x 512 DDR OCZ PC3200 EL
Maxtor 80GB 7200RPM 8MB IDE
Windows XP SP1



Some of the media used in this analysis.


What better way to spend a weekend than by burning random data on hundreds of dollars worth of media? If you would like to see the DVD Info Pro Media Information for the discs used in this roundup, feel free to download the text file. Note: Not all of the media in the text document was used in the final benchmark.

Below, you can see how each burner faired on various types of media. The computer had no processes open other than Nero while we were burning the media. We will start with CDR media first. Higher burn speed averages are better. You may download our entire burn time spreadsheet.


Ritek 97m31s01f — 52X CDR
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 15.97X 74:43.00 CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 30.23X 74:43.00 CAV
LiteOn LDW-411S 30.22X 74:43.00 CAV
MSI DR4-A 21.04X 74:43.00 Z-CLV
NEC 1300A 16.00X 74:43.00 CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 29.87X 74:43.00 CAV
Plextor 708A 33.33X 74:43.00 P-CAV
Sony DRU-530A 29.28X 74:43.00 P-CAV


Mitsubishi 97m23s24f — 24X CDRW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 8.36X 74:43.00 CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 23.44X 74:43.00 P-CAV
LiteOn LDW-411S 23.43X 74:43.00 P-CAV
MSI DR4-A 10.04X 74:43.00 CLV
NEC 1300A 10.00X 74:43.00 CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 9.94X 74:43.00 CLV
Plextor 708A 23.78X 74:43.00 P-CAV
Sony DRU-530A 23.31X 74:43.00 P-CAV




Burn Tests DVD+R Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.


RICOHJPNR00 — 2.4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 2.43X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 2.46X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV


MCC 002 — 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.67X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV


MCC 003 — 8X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.72X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 6.63X 4.38GB Z-CLV


RICOHJPNR01 — 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.65X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.20X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV


YUDEN000T01 — 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 7.66X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Plextor 708A 7.65X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.03X 4.38GB CLV

It was quite disappointing that none of the burners could find a better write descriptor for the 2.4X Ricoh DVD+Rs. We were severely upset with the lack of 8X burn speeds on the Sony DRU-530A. Even though we achieved some fairly good burn speeds, the fact that we could only get 8X write descriptors for “MCC 003” (Verbatim) media was not very comforting. “MCC 003” media is not nearly as easy to find as “MCC 002” DVD+Rs. Both Plextor and Nu Tech did a great job of sweeping up the DVD+R competition.



Burn Tests DVD-R Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.


PRINCO — 1X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 1.02X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 N/A 4.38GB N/A
Plextor 708A 2.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.02X 4.38GB CLV


RITEKG04 — 4X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 N/A 4.38GB N/A
Plextor 708A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.04X 4.38GB CLV


MCC01RG20 — 4X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 N/A 4.38GB N/A
Plextor 708A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV

There was not much difference between each burner for DVD-R. We did notice that both the Sony and Plextor burner recognized the PRINCO 1X DVD-R media with a slightly higher write descriptor.




Burn Tests DVD Rewriteable Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.


RICOHJPNW01 — 2.4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 2.45X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 2.40X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 2.37X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.41X 4.38GB CLV


PHILIPS 041 — 4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 3.92X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV


RICOHJPNW11 — 4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 3.96X 4.38GB CLV
Plextor 708A 3.99X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV


MCC00RW11N9 — 1X DVD-RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 1.01X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 1.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 N/A 4.38GB N/A
Plextor 708A 1.02X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 1.01X 4.38GB CLV


PVCW00V00245 — 2X DVD-RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 1.95X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
LiteOn LDW-411S 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
MSI DR4-A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
NEC 1300A 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-081 N/A 4.38GB N/A
Plextor 708A 2.01X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.03X 4.38GB CLV




Read Tests Printed Media


Seek Times — Pressed CD 74:40.02
Drive Random Full
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 123ms 163ms
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 92ms 187ms
LiteOn LDW-411S 88ms 179ms
MSI DR4-A 128ms 188ms
NEC 1300A 121ms 183ms
Nu Tech DDW-081 102ms 167ms
Plextor 708A 94ms 167ms
Sony DRU-530A 125ms 199ms


Seek Times — Pressed DVD 4.38GB
Drive Random Full
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 145ms 188ms
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 142ms 173ms
LiteOn LDW-411S 120ms 196ms
MSI DR4-A 166ms 249ms
NEC 1300A 124ms 167ms
Nu Tech DDW-081 135ms 144ms
Plextor 708A 170ms 228ms
Sony DRU-530A 175ms 242ms

We used various DVD and CD media around the lab for this portion of the benchmark. We attempted to use disks that contained no errors or scratches. Higher read speed averages are better.

Read — Pressed CD
Drive Average Read Length
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 25.10X 4.38GB
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 30.42X 4.38GB
LiteOn LDW-411S 30.39X 4.38GB
MSI DR4-A 30.81X 4.38GB
NEC 1300A 31.01X 4.38GB
Nu Tech DDW-081 32.22X 4.38GB
Plextor 708A 31.66X 4.38GB
Sony DRU-530A 31.59X 4.38GB


Read — DVDR
Drive Average Read Length
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 4.62X 4.38GB
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 5.22X 4.38GB
LiteOn LDW-411S 5.23X 4.38GB
MSI DR4-A 4.05X 4.38GB
NEC 1300A 3.66X 4.38GB
Nu Tech DDW-081 6.26X 4.38GB
Plextor 708A 6.05X 4.38GB
Sony DRU-530A 3.48X 4.38GB


Read — Pressed DVD Video
Drive Average Read Length
ASUS DRW-0402P/D 2.18X 7.88GB
Gigabyte GO-W0404A 9.26X 7.88GB
LiteOn LDW-411S 9.24X 7.88GB
MSI DR4-A 2.04X 7.88GB
NEC 1300A 3.66X 7.88GB
Nu Tech DDW-081 3.11X 7.88GB
Plextor 708A 9.14X 7.88GB
Sony DRU-530A 2.01X 7.88GB




Conclusions

Hopefully, our look at these eight burners was enough to help draw some conclusions about the burner that really is the drive to own. Typically, we do not give out Editor's Choice awards but for this cross-section of burners, we feel there is enough data to provide us with a winner for this holiday season.

Sony's DRU-530A and Plextor's 708A were the most viable opponents in this roundup. However, it is very clear that Plextor's PowerRec II technology isn't just a cookie cutter optimization. Even though the 708A and the DRU-530A are based on identical chipsets, the Plextor 708A smokes the Sony DRU-530A in DVD+R writes and compatibility. The only real advantage of the DRU-530A was slightly higher media compatibility on poorer quality DVD-Rs, and slightly better technical support. Right now, the Plextor 708A is priced slightly better than the Sony DRU-530A ($199 versus $219, respectively, with MIR), but given Sony's leverage, the DRU-530A will probably be priced equivalent to the 708A after the holiday season. Kudos to Plextor for winning our well-deserved Editor's Choice award in this roundup.


For those who argue the NEC and LiteOn burners are “good enough” for $100, we feel that this is partially correct, but you get what you pay for. When you end up spending an additional $50 for decent burning software, the savings from these two burners isn't quite that dramatic. Our issues with customer support and media compatibility were something to be desired as well. Don't forget to check out the following second part of this roundup when we have first generation 8X DVD-R burners to evaluate.

We are not fans of honorable mentions, but we think Nu Tech actually deserves one here. Since they did not have a dual capable firmware in time for our roundup, it would not be fair for us to give them an Editor's Choice award in our Dual Format Roundup. However, if Nu Tech does indeed debut with their dual firmware on December 15th (as claimed), we will re-evaluate their burn speeds and price. After all, Nu Tech does have all the components right for winning this roundup (bitsetting, price tag, performance, software bundle). Good luck to Nu Tech, and we will see them again in a couple weeks.

Not only were we analyzing each individual burner in this roundup, we were also analyzing which DVD forum came out ahead in burn time and burn quality. Compatibility with various DVD drives has become less of an issue with DVD+R lately, particularly due to the die-hard fans and companies who write bitsetting utilities. It is slightly unfair to claim DVD+R the leader in this roundup because DVD-R does not support 8X burn speeds yet, but that is exactly what we feel is correct. Not only does DVD+R excel in 8X burn speeds, but DVD+RW outperforms DVD-RW with 4X and 2.4X burn times versus 2X.

Today, we looked at eight burners that make up the majority of this holiday season's DVD recordable market. Unfortunately, we couldn't include everyone. Within the upcoming weeks, we are anticipating 8X DVD+R and DVD-R capable drives from LiteOn, Pioneer, ASUS, and AOpen. Of course, had we waited for their debut, Anand would be wondering why I charged six dual format DVD drives to his credit card. Stay tuned in the next couple of months for the follow up — 8X DVD-R roundup!

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