Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1309




Introduction

Several months ago, we took a look at eight DVD dual format burners and threw a barrage of media at them to see who came out on top. We were very happy to crown the Plextor 708A as champion for its ability to recalibrate 4X media on the fly with an 8X write descriptor. Since then, we have had several new drive introductions.

This time, we will approach our roundup slightly different than the previous roundup. As it is a generally accepted fact that there are only a few significantly different designs and chipsets for DVD recorders, we have taken the liberty of mapping which burners are based on which chipsets; you will see similar performance between many drives based on the same construction and chipset. In the case of many of these drives, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is the same.

Today, we have five very widely used chipsets on six popular designs. As you will see, these six design variations encompass almost every 8X dual drive on the market to date.



NuTech DDW-082

The original NuTech DDW-081 was one of our favorite burners around the lab, since it was cheap and fast. The drive worked superbly for DVD+R, but did not originally support DVD-R media until the newest firmware revisions. The DDW-082 is very similar to the DDW-081, except for the fact that out of the box, it supports 8X DVD-R. Furthermore, the DDW-082 supports "bitsetting" and carries an $85 price tag.

As we looked at in the NuTech DDW-081 review, the DDW-082 is based on the same Philips Nexperia chipset from our last NuTech drive (in fact, the two drives are identical). The Nexperia chipset is one of the most documented chipsets on the internet, but at the same time, least adopted. NuTech stands out from other drives that use the Nexperia chipset, mostly for their ingenuity in squeezing every last drop of performance possible via firmware upgrades. The Nexperia PNX7850 chipset is not even supposed to support DVD-R capabilities, yet Quanta/NuTech engineers seem to have achieved just that. We went and bought a DDW-082 for this review, but you may be able to flash your DDW-081 into a DDW-082.

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

 Nu Tech DDW-082
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (CAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X, 16X (CAV)
10X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 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 Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
MultiSession
Mt. Rainier
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

As we can see, the CDRW speeds have been increased from 10X to 24X with this burner, a great improvement over the last drive. All other features remained virtually identical, including access time. Mount Rainier support has also been added since the previous DDW-081.

We should mention that the DDW-082 does not support true bit setting capabilities. Although there are some bit setting utilities floating around for the DDW-081/082, they do not set the DVD-ROM bit in the traditional sense. Your compatibility mileage may vary with this drive if you rely on bitsetting.

Another drawback of the DDW-082 is the occasional poor media support. Although the drive has come a long way, we occasionally find cheap unlabeled media that the drive cannot burn (particularly with DVD-Rs).




Gigabyte GO-W0808A

Another returning competitor to our roundup is Gigabyte. Gigabyte's GO-W0404A was based on the same LiteOn chasis and MediaTek MT1818E chipset found in the LiteOn LDW-411S and both drives showed very similar performance.

Gigabyte GO-W0808A
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 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 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 Max (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
MultiSession
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: 160ms
DVD: 160ms
Buffer 2MB

One thing that sets the GO-W0808A apart from the other drives in this roundup is its slightly shorter depth, under 7 inches.

There are several other drives that use the same 8X dual enabled MediaTek MT1818E chipset found in this drive. We would expect similar performance of the Gigabyte GO-W0808A with:
  • TEAC DV-W58G-A
  • LiteOn SOHW-812S
The MediaTek MT1818E has been highly reused in many other drives going all the way back to some of the original dual format burners only capable of 4X and 2X burn speeds. Updates on the analog controller seem to be the major contributor to increased performance.




ASUS DRW-0804P

We were recently impressed by ASUS' work on the latest DRW-0804P, a great blend of media support and speed. As we mentioned several times in the review, the ASUS DRW-0804P is based on the same chipset as the NEC 2500A and the Pioneer 107D. The drive is pricey at $120, but 6 months ago, we would have considered that a steal. The NuTech DDW-082 and NEC 2500A have brought our cost perception into a new level of clarity.

 ASUS DRW-0804P DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 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 Max (16,620KB/s) (CAV)
Supported Modes DAO / DAO-RAW 16 & 96
TAO
SAO / SAO 16 & 96
Packet Write
MultiSession
Supported Formats DVD+R (DAO, incremental, seq)
DVD+RW (random)
DVD-R (DAO, incremental, seq)
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, UDF
Access Time CD: 130ms
DVD: 140ms
Buffer 2MB

The largest issues that we had with the DRW-0804P were high access and slow CDR burn speeds. The NEC design based around the same chipset has similar problems as well. Our DRW-0804P is capable of reading DVD-RAM media, although it is not capable of writing it.

There are several other drives that use the same NEC D63630GM (found in this drive) and also use the Pioneer assembly. We would expect similar performance of the ASUS DRW-0804P with:
  • Pioneer 107D
  • Memorex True 8X
Also check out our individual analysis of the ASUS DRW-0804P from last week. In our preliminary tests, the ASUS 8x8 did an excellent job of burning even the worst branded media; something the more picky Sanyo and Philips chipsets do not do very well.




Sony DRU-530A (2.0C)

The Sony DRU-530A is our first drive returning from our previous roundup. Just after our last roundup, Sony released a firmware revision that enabled full 8X DVD-R burns. This came as a surprise for us, but definitely benefits the consumer. Feel free to check out our previous thoughts on the DRU-530A.

 Sony DRU-530A DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 40X, 32X, 24X (P-CAV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 24X (P-CAV)
16X, 10X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
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

Again, our only change on the DRU-530A is the addition of 8X Zone Constant Linear Velocity (Z-CLV) support for 8X DVD-R media. Recall that in our previous roundups, the DRU-530A did not recalibrate on the fly; we were forced to use 8X media to achieve 8X write strategies. Although this is technically the most sanctioned stance by the DVD-R and DVD+R forums (in both of which Sony has a large presence), it is a hinderance in performance.

The Sony DRU-530A debuted in September 2003 with a $300 price tag. Now it hovers around $140; a 50% cut in 6 months.

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

There are several other drives that use the same Sanyo LC897490 chipsets found in this drive. We would expect similar performance of the Sony DRU-530A with:
  • MSI DR8-A (with 140D firmware upgrade)
  • Optorite DD0405
Alas, our award winning Plextor 708A, which is also based on the LC897490, is not capable of 8X DVD-R, so we could not include it in this roundup.

Oddly, our near identical MSI DR8-A burner supports HD BURN, while the Sony DRU-530A does not. Since a feature like HD BURN is almost entirely based on firmware, we suspect that our Sony DRU-530A is capable, but not enabled.

One downside of the Sony and MSI burners that we have seen in the past is its susceptibility to CPU usage. Even minor peaks in CPU usage force the drive to recalibrate. This was not the case with the Plextor 708A (with the same Sanyo LC897490 chipset) or other drives that we tested in this roundup.




Toshiba SD-R5272

This is our first Toshiba drive to date.

 Toshiba SD-R5272 DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 32X, 24X, 16X (Z-CLV)
12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 16X (Z-CLV)
10X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
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: 130ms
Buffer 2MB

Notice that the drive has relatively poor CDR and CDRW write speeds. Like the ASUS DRW-0804P, the Toshiba drive is capable of DVD-RAM reading.

The Toshiba SD-5272 was a last minute addition to our roundup, but we thought it was important, since it uses a completely different design and processor than any of our other drives. The Toshiba TC93A51FG chipset is not found on any other drives either. All components are Toshiba manufactured and assembled inside the SD-5272.




AOpen DDW8800

The second drive in our roundup to sport the NEC D63630GM chipset is the AOpen DDW8800. This is the same chipset used in the NEC 2500A, ASUS DRW-0804P and Pioneer 107D. For all intents and purposes, the AOpen DDW8800 and NEC 2500A are identical. Even when it comes to manners of price, the NEC 2500A and AOpen DDW8800 are within a dollar or two of each other. There are some slight differences between the DDW8800 and NEC 2500A, including pickup/servo and construction.

 AOpen DDW8800 DVD-/+R Drive
Interface IDE
CD Write Speed 32X, 24X (Z-CLV)
16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Rewrite Speed 16X, 12X, 8X, 4X (CLV)
CD Read Speed 40X Max (CAV)
DVD-R Write Speed 8X (Z-CLV)
4X, 2X (CLV)
DVD-RW Rewrite Speed 4X, 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 Max (16,620KB/s) (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 (restricted overwrite)

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: 140ms
Buffer 2MB

Even though the AOpen DDW8800 shares an identical chipset with the ASUS DRW-0804P, it carries a higher CDR write speed, and a lower CDRW speed. Whether this is due to royalty issues or minor adjustments to the pickup, it is not clear.

There are several other drives that use the same NEC D63630GM (found in this drive) and also use the NEC assembly. We would expect similar performance of the AOpen DDW8800 with:
  • NEC 2500A
  • TDK AID+880




Tech Support

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

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

 Average Customer Support Response Time
ASUS (Dec 2003) No Response
ASUS (Mar 2004) No Response - Invalid
ASUS (April 2004) 66 hours, 20 minutes
AOpen (April 2004) No Response
Gigabyte (Dec 2003) 38 hours, 12 minutes
Gigabyte (April 2004) No Response
LiteOn (Dec 2003) 41 hours, 20 minutes
MSI (Dec 2003) No Response
MSI (Mar 2004) 27 hours, 11 minutes
NEC (Dec 2003) 29 hours, 48 mintues
Nu Tech (Dec 2003) N/A
Nu Tech (April 2004) No Response
Plextor (Dec 2003) 11 hours, 10 minutes
Sony (Dec 2003) 6 hours, 44 minutes
Sony (April 2004) 7 hours, 21 minutes
Toshiba (April 2004) N/A

We retested our ASUS tech support email under the suspicion that our tech support emails were being filtered by spam software. We worked with ASUS to rectify the problem, and the results for this roundup were much more favorable. As with the other benchmarks on ASUS' tech support, we found almost every answer to our questions from their website. An important thing to consider with ASUS' tech support email: if you do not receive an email confirmation within 30 minutes of your initial request, your email has probably been blocked by their spam software. Using their tech support line, (510) 995-0883, seems to be the best solution for immediate help.

AOpen and Gigabyte both had similar problems. For both manufacturers, your information must be entered into a form and then your problem should be answered within 48 hours. Unfortunately, neither website sent us a confirmation after submission, and neither website responded to our questions within 72 hours.

NuTech has a contact information page that brings up an email window for you to email some of their technical contacts directly. There are some general FAQs on their website, but they do not have the knowledge base of AOpen or ASUS just yet.

Since we received our Toshiba drive very late in the review, we did not have the opportunity to test customer support response time before the publish date of this article.

Again, Sony leads the pack in product support, and not just in the timed response aspect. Not only were we able to find all of our questions answered in their FAQ section, but there was also an online email submit form. Probably the icing on the cake was Sony's instant help chat. The first two questions we asked took less than 30 seconds for a Sony rep to walk us through. The third question took about two minutes. The rep also emailed us a log of our conversation for later. The live chat is available 24 hours a day. The extra cost of a Sony drive is easily justifiable if product support is an important issue.




Burn Tests CDR Media

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

Below are the corresponding firmwares to each drive that we used:

Drive Firmware
ASUS DRW-0802P 1.13
AOpen DDW8800 1.4A
Gigabyte GO-W0808A USY1
Nu Tech DDW-082 B372
Sony DRU-530A 2.0A
Toshiba SD-R5272 1030

Notice the Gigabyte firmware is designated as USY1. The retail drive (when it ships) may use a slightly more advanced firmware. The NuTech B372 firmware is not officially supported yet. You may download it here, though. Please use this firmware at your own risk.

You may download our entire burn time spreadsheet here. Higher burn speed averages are more desirable.

Ritek 97m31s01f - 52X CDR
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 27.13X 79:57.71 Z-CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 22.39X 79:57.71 Z-CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 31.65X 79:57.71 CAV
Nu Tech DDW-082 23.51X 79:57.71 P-CAV
Sony DRU-530A 29.39X 79:57.71 P-CAV
Toshiba SD-R5272 22.89X 79:57.71 Z-CLV

Mitsubishi 97m23s24f - 24X CDRW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 16.00X 74:43.00 CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 22.26X 74:43.00 Z-CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A - 74:43.00 -
Nu Tech DDW-082 21.22X 74:43.00 Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 22.40X 74:43.00 P-CAV
Toshiba SD-R5272 15.78X 74:43.00 Z-CLV

You will notice that the Gigabyte GO-W0808A could not recognize the Mitsubishi CDRW for burning or erasing. Reading the disc was no problem, but it looks like future firmware will have to solve this issue. This will most likely be solved before the Gigabyte drive begins retail shipments. The Gigabyte GO-W0808A smoked everyone else's burn speeds for CDR.




Burn Tests DVD+R Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.

RICOHJPNR01 - 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.11X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.04X 4.38GB CLV

MCC 002 - 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.14X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.11X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.10X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.11X 4.38GB CLV

MCC 003 - 8X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 6.80X 4.38GB Z-CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 7.71X 4.3GB Z-CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.57X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 7.64X 4.38GB P-CAV
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.51X 4.38GB Z-CLV

YUDEN000T01 - 4X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 6.82X 4.38GB Z-CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.12X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.60X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 7.61X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.11X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.51X 4.38GB Z-CLV

YUDEN000T02 - 8X DVD+R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 6.82X 4.38GB Z-CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 7.72X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 7.16X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 7.62X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 7.66X 4.38GB Z-CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.55X 4.38GB Z-CLV

Notice which drives in our burn speed tests burn 8X-ish speeds on 4X media. Since 8X media costs significantly more than 4X media (as of April 2004), this is something that will affect the price/performance ratio of a good burner.




Burn Tests DVD-R Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.

RITEKG04 - 4X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.04X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.03X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 3.97X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.02X 4.38GB CLV

MCC01RG20 - 4X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.04X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 3.96X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.11X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.05X 4.38GB CLV

MCC 02RG20 - 8X DVD-R
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 6.80X 4.3GB Z-CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 7.70X 4.3GB Z-CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.57X 4.3GB Z-CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 7.54X 4.3GB Z-CLV
Sony DRU-530A 6.85X 4.3GB Z-CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.52X 4.3GB Z-CLV

Not surprisingly, none of our drives would record 8X speeds on 4X DVD-R media. The ASUS and NuTech drives support the most aggressive write strategies for 8X.




Burn Tests DVD Rewriteable Media

Higher burn speed averages are better.

RICOHJPNW01 - 2.4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 2.48X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 2.42X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 2.48X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 2.48X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.48X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 2.47X 4.38GB CLV

RICOHJPNW11 - 4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.11X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 3.97X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.08X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.02X 4.38GB CLV

MKM A02 - 2.4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.13X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 - 4.38GB -
Sony DRU-530A 4.11X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.01X 4.38GB CLV

PHILIPS 041 - 4X DVD+RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.12X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 4.03X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.05X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.07X 4.38GB CLV

PVCW00V00245 - 2X DVD-RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 2.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 2.01X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 1.91X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 2.03X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 2.01X 4.38GB CLV

MCC 01RW4X - 4X DVD-RW
Drive Average Burn Length Mode
AOpen DDW8800 4.13X 4.38GB CLV
ASUS DRW-0802P 4.00X 4.38GB CLV
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 4.10X 4.38GB CLV
Nu Tech DDW-082 3.97X 4.38GB CLV
Sony DRU-530A 4.02X 4.38GB CLV
Toshiba SD-R5272 4.07X 4.38GB CLV




Read Tests Printed Media


Seek Times - Pressed CD 74:40.02
Drive Random Full
AOpen DDW8800 122ms 188ms
ASUS DRW-0802P 127ms 296ms
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 116ms 232ms
Nu Tech DDW-082 113ms 160ms
Sony DRU-530A 86ms 155ms
Toshiba SD-R5272 110ms 169ms

Seek Times - DVD 4.38GB
Drive Random Full
AOpen DDW8800 114ms 272ms
ASUS DRW-0802P 130ms 312ms
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 102ms 194ms
Nu Tech DDW-082 99ms 171ms
Sony DRU-530A 129ms 204ms
Toshiba SD-R5272 97ms 180ms

Similar to our first roundup, the NuTech drive had the best overall seek times.

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

Read - Pressed CD
Drive Average Read Length
AOpen DDW8800 31.35X 79:57.71
ASUS DRW-0802P 30.89X 79:57.71
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 30.12X 79:57.71
Nu Tech DDW-082 33.22X 79:57.71
Sony DRU-530A 31.80X 79:57.71
Toshiba SD-R5272 31.22X 79:57.71

Read - DVDR
Drive Average Read Length
AOpen DDW8800 3.75X 4.38GB
ASUS DRW-0802P 6.27X 4.38GB
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.16X 4.38GB
Nu Tech DDW-082 6.53X 4.38GB
Sony DRU-530A 5.79X 4.38GB
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.61X 4.38GB

Read - Pressed DVD Video
Drive Average Read Length
AOpen DDW8800 3.44X 7.88GB
ASUS DRW-0802P 6.34X 7.88GB
Gigabyte GO-W0808A 6.31X 7.88GB
Nu Tech DDW-082 4.30X 7.88GB
Sony DRU-530A 6.45X 7.88GB
Toshiba SD-R5272 6.44X 7.88GB




Bitsetting and Calibration

We have not touched very much on bit setting over the last few DVD reviews. For those of you who do not know what it is, let us go over it quickly.

Whenever we play a DVD in a DVD drive (stand alone or PC based), the player queries the disc for what "type" of media it is. Typically, a DVD identifies itself as a "DVD-ROM". Unfrotunately, DVD+R and DVD+RW discs commonly identify themselves as "DVD+R" and "DVD+RW". Whether intentionally or just through lack of foresight, some DVD players do not understand any identifiers other than "DVD-ROM". This commonly affects only much older players and does not particularly affect many DVD players now.

With the problem of compatibility between this miniscule difference in discs, some DVD manufacturers released third party tools to allow the end user to select which kind of DVD booktype the drive should use. This process is also known as bitsetting, since the difference between a "DVD+R" and "DVD-ROM" identifier is literally one bit. Unfortunately, many very common drives (such as the NEC 2500A and the Plextor 708A) do not have official sanctioned firmwares that allow such practice. However, there is an excellent underground community that has worked very hard to modify manufacturers official firmwares for this support. When all goes well, the ability to bitset appears in Nero during the burn process.




Click to enlarge.


There is another important aspect of firmware modification that we have not touched on, and that is write strategy. In very simple terms, the firmware contains a list of hundreds of media types (such as MCC 002), and at what speed/mode the drive should burn that media. This is called a write strategy.

When looking at our burn processes from the burners in our recent roundup, it seems as though our drives are regressing in terms of speed. The Plextor 708A and NuTech DDW-081 would burn 8X speeds on 4X (and sometimes 2X!) media all the time. Sony's DRU-530A and AOpen's DDW8800 appear much more picky with the media at which they will actually burn 8X. Just like the bitsetting community, there is an even larger community of programmers who actively modify write strategies within firmwares to increase speed on common media.

Although we did not install any of these third-party firmwares for our roundup, it should be noted that when you buy a drive, increased speeds and booktype options may exist, but you have to travel to the fringe of tech support to get them. Installing these modified firmwares will certainly void your warranty. Consider these options similar to overclocking, but for your DVD burner (there are multiple hacks to get your NuTech DDW-082 to burn at 10X).




Write Quality

In our last few DVD and CD recordable roundups, we have not taken the proper time to analyze read and write errors. For this section of the review, we give many thanks to our friends at cdfreaks.com for their insight and guidance with the KProbe error analysis tool. We used version 1.1.29 for this review. A disc written from each burner is loaded into our LiteOn LWD-851S drive and then run through KProbe. Since we are using the same DVD reader for all six probes, the errors on the disc should only represent errors generated by the write process. Lower averages are better.

We used one DVD+R (MCC 003) and one DVD-R (MCC 02GR20) for each burn test. Both discs were burned at 8X. Our KProbe analysis was run at 4X read.

AOpen DDW8800 MCC 003



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AOpen DDW8800 MCC 02GR20



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On both media tests, AOpen had an unusual imperfection at 2/3 through each disc. Fortunately, both discs had very low PO error averages, lower than most of our other drives.

ASUS DRW-0802P MCC 003



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ASUS DRW-0802P MCC 02GR20



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Gigabyte GO-W0808A MCC 003



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Gigabyte GO-W0808A MCC 02GR20



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From the two burn modes, Gigabyte's GO-W0808A pulled the lowest PO averages. On DVD-R media, the GO-W0808A had fairly high PI errors, but at the same time, we had very low PO errors. We have seen this as a trend in most drives based on the MT1818E chipset.

NuTech DDW-082 MCC 003


NuTech DDW-082 MCC 02GR20


Our PO errors are incredible considering the almost laughable benchmarks on the original B364 firmware. Drives based on the MT1818E might produce better results, but considering the difference in price between the Gigabyte GO-W0808A and the NuTech DDW-082, we have to give NuTech a respectable nod here.

Sony DRU-530A MCC 003



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Sony DRU-530A MCC 02GR20



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Sony had real troubles writing 8X DVD-R media. Recall our DVD-R write tests that found the DRU-530A extremely touchy on CPU usage. This may have much to do with the fact that the DRU-530A was originally released as a 4X burner with firmware upgrades to an 8X drive.

Toshiba SD-R5272 MCC 003


Toshiba SD-R5272 02GR20





Conclusions

Our recent roundup made us think long and hard about the performance of many of today's drives. We were mildly surprised on how few designs really exist in the DVD recorder market; the choices are fewer than you think.

Like with any roundup, the ultimate equalizer is always the price. Is there a need to buy a $300 burner if a $100 one performs almost the same? The newest drive in our review, the Gigabyte GO-W0808A, has not even hit store shelves yet, but when it does, it is expected to cost around $115. The Toshiba SD-R5272 cost us $93 last week, while the NuTech DDW-082 and the NEC 2500A cost about $85. Our most expensive drive, the Sony DRU-530A retails for about $140. Obviously, the lower priced drives have a slight edge over the more expensive drives. In the case of Sony, we proved that while their cost is high, it clearly pays off in the Tech Support benchmark.

When we first set out to do this roundup with NuTech DDW-081 firmware upgraded to a DDW-082 (with the B364 firmware), the drive was almost unusable. We went out and bought a DDW-082 instead, and then flashed our drive to the B372 firmware. The difference was night and day concerning media support and errors. Incredibly, this drive went from one of our worst performers to our best performer with simple firmware upgrades. Another great feature of this drive is the supported 8X write strategies on 4X media. The fact that this drive is also the cheapest drive in our roundup makes NuTech's DDW-082 a true underdog champion. The DDW-082 deserves our editor's choice award for this roundup.


There are some exciting drives on the way. 16X NuTech drives should be here before the summer (Dual Layer compatible). Plextor's 12X drive is already starting to show up here and there (CyberDrive already has a 12X drive based on the same Sanyo chipset). MSI and Plextor both have SATA drives on the horizon, and Philips and Sony both have Dual Layer DVD recorders of which we should see samples in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for more DVD reviews!

Special Thanks to Sony and Verbatim for providing media for this review.


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