Fall 2004 DVDR Roundup: Dual Layer and 16X DVD+Rby Anand Shimpi & Virginia Lee on November 1, 2004 12:05 AM EST
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PricingWe've tested various media from many different manufacturers to benchmark each drive's performance in reading and writing to see which unit performs the best overall, and we have come to the conclusion that LG's GSA-4160B has the features as well as the all around performance to put it close to #1 on our chart behind the NEC-3500A. That isn't the end of the story though. We need to factor in the cost of each drive to see if their performance matches their worth in dollars. We've searched around the web for retailers carrying each of these models and have come up with some figures. Note that the prices of 16X burners are steadily falling, so the numbers may differ at the time of publication of this review.
At $78, the DVR-108D is a great value. We saw in our benchmarks that Pioneer's drive performed as one of the best drives that we have tested. It had little to no trouble burning both high and low quality media in all flavors and kicked it into high gear, writing to 2.4X dual layer media at an average speed of 4.00X. The DVR-108D also performed well on - R media, writing at an average of 10.01X and reading it back at an average of 9.38X. More importantly, the quality of the writes was extraordinary. When read back on our Plextor drive with the PlexTools software, we encountered 0 PO errors on all of them.
As we mentioned earlier, the ND-3500A has taken the gold in read/write performance. It not only burned 2.4X DL media at an average of 4.13X like the DVR-108D, but again, even more important than the speed of the write, it burned each type and brand of media flawlessly. As we read each media back with PlexTools, we encountered only one problem with the Ritek 003 +R media. It seemed to be written perfectly, but both the NEC unit and the Plextor drive had trouble reading the disc back. Out of the 14 different types of media that we tested, though, one bad disc does not make much difference in the overall performance and quality of the drive. The ND-3500A is priced $10 lower than Pioneer's DVR-108D at $68 and features the bitsetting capability, which makes it the cheapest and best deal so far.
BenQ's DW1620 had some trouble with a few types of media including Ritek's D01 DL media. It did handle Verbatim's MKM 001 DL media and single layer ( - R/RW, +R/RW) media well, writing to each with no PO errors as the PlexTools results showed. The price, however, does not seem to go with the drive's performance and features. The 1620 does not support DL burning at 4X like the ND-3500A and the DVR-108D, nor does it support DVD-RAM as does the LG GSA-4160B. At $90, the DW1620 is hardly a deal when there are other models that will outperform this unit in many areas.
The DR16-B did an extremely good job of burning most of the single layer media that we threw at it. Unfortunately, it had a lot of trouble with any DL media that we tried to burn, including Ritek's and Verbatim's media. It could barely make it past the 2GB mark when creating a disc and obviously could not read it back. We hope that MSI releases a firmware update in the future to fix this problem; and currently, a $94 price tag does not fit this drive, especially when it is competing against the three mentioned above in performance as well as a price (that was as much as $12 lower). With a firmware fix for dual layer compatibility, the DR16-B could become one of the best drives on this list, and again, this model includes the bitsetting feature as do the DW1620 and the ND-3500A.
The LiteOn drive, the SOHW-1633S, did not live up to the level of performance of any of the other drives in this roundup. Its performance was about average; although it wrote to both the Ritek and Mitsubishi media as it was supposed to, performance ended there. The dual layer Burn quality was not as great as that of the DVR-108D or the ND-3500A, with PlexTools reporting 192 PO errors on the burned disc. For $73, the unit is worth the retailers' prices, but we recommend sticking to one of the top 3 that we mentioned in the previous section, for their quality in burns on all of the media.
The DRU-710A is identical to LiteOn's SOHW-1633S. Though the internals were the same, the price of the Sony, at $115, exceeded our estimates for the performance it put out. We had some trouble writing to DL media just as we did with the MSI DR16-B. We were surprised, since LiteOn's unit is completely identical to the Sony, in every way. The DRU-710A also had trouble reading lower quality media such as that from Platinum, VDSPMSAB 001 as well as AN31, both 4X media. They seemed to write fine at a steady 4X all the way through, but bottomed out towards the end of the disc. A PlexTools reading showed a little over 100 parity outer errors, which is enough to render a disc unreadable. And, we know it is not the media, since many of the other units produced much fewer errors.
Since LG has implemented DVD-RAM write and read capabilities into the GSA-4160B, it is worth the $85. The performance of this drive is not as great as the Pioneer or the NEC due to its slow DVD-R write speeds that we mentioned earlier, but competing with those manufacturers with all of the features that LG has implemented in the GSA-4160B, it is well worth its price. It averages 2.41X in writing to DL media and has one of the fastest DL read times, at an average of 6.17X. Even with the lower quality AN31 and VDSPMSAB 001 media, this LG model didn't produce one PO error. Though there was an issue with reading the 16X Ritek R04 media with the Plextor drive, it just didn't want to recognize the disc. The booktype setting feature offered in this unit also makes this a great drive. The GSA-4160B is a bit on the steep side when compared to that of the ND-3500A for its overall performance and feature list, but is still affordable and worth the price.
NU Tech DDW-163
NU Tech's DDW-163 is priced at around $70 and with its almost solid writing performance, it competes directly with LiteOn's SOHW-1633S. All but one media that we tested on this drive had successful write and read with Ritek R03 media, which is rated at 8X, topping out at 12x burn speeds. Unlike LG's GSA-4160B, the Ritek R04 16X media burned with the DDW-163 read perfectly fine with Plextools - 0 PO errors.
Other 16X Drives
The list of 16X DVD burners with dual layer capabilities is growing larger. We have benchmarked these 8 drives, but there are a few other big names that remain. One of the largest is ASUS with their DRW-1604P, offering 16X -/+R write capabilities. It is priced around $80 and from the experience that we have had with ASUS in the past, we predict the 1604P to be a direct competitor with Pioneer and NEC.
Plextor has also released information about their PX-716A, boasting a wide range of CD/DVD media compatibility, which we expect to revolve around the next generation Sanyo core logic. The unit seems to be making its way slowly to retailers and looks like it will be priced at around $150. We planned to include the unit in this roundup, but we did not receive a sample in time. We look forward to seeing how the PX-716A performs in the coming weeks.
Other 16X DL capable drives, from Samsung, Optowrite as well as Aopen, are all priced between $60-$80. The upcoming AOpen drive was promised to be another Ricoh-based unit, although we have our doubts. We hope to check out their features as well in the future to see how they perform compared to those in this roundup.
So it looks like NEC has done it again with pricing, placing a $68 tag on the ND-3500A. NuTech follows at $70 with its DDW-163 and the SOHW-1633S at $3 higher. We were disappointed to see the DRU-710A priced so high, $115, for the performance it gave us on this test run. Hopefully Sony will work on firmware updates to help their unit climb the charts.