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  DVD Burner round-up: Top 16x drives tested

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If you have been around long enough, you will notice this is the third DVD Burner comparison I write for TechSpot. In our first round-up, written about two years ago, we reviewed what could be considered second generation drives; these could burn discs at 2x and 4x speeds, depending on the recording format supported. During this, and even earlier stages, the DVD recorder market used to struggle because of high prices, expensive media, and slow burning speeds.

So, after a turbulent start, prices began to drop, but media types became the focal point. This left the customer baffled when they went shopping for media, not knowing if their drive accepted DVD+ or DVD- formats. I canít imagine how many returns retail stores like Staples and Office Max have gone through because of such customer confusionÖ drive returns, media returns, what a darn mess!

About one year later, we showed you a much better-looking picture in our second round-up. Drives could finally burn both formats almost without compromises, and full disc compilations could be made in less than 10 minutes. What we showed you then were 8x and 12x generation drives, which were sold for the magical price of $100, or even a bit less if you went for OEM products.
 


 

DVD Burners have had a long way growing towards maturity, and after reviewing these three heavy hitters, I would say the technology has almost been perfected. This time around we bring you last generation units from LG, Plextor and NEC. Not only these will support both kinds of media and burn them at 16x speeds, but also support dual layer media, which means you can store ~8 gigabytes of information in one disk, these hot tamales do it all!

Take a look to the following chart for detailed burning capabilities in all drives:
 

 
Plextor
PX-716A

NEC
ND-3520A

LG
GSA-4163B
DVD-R 16x 16x 16x
DVD-RW 4x 6x 6x
DVD-R DL 6x - -
DVD+R 16x 16x 16x
DVD+RW 8x 8x 8x
DVD+R DL 6x 4x 4x
CD-R 48x 48x 40x
CD-RW 24x 24x 24x
DVD-ROM (read) 16x 16x 16x
CD-ROM (read) 48x 40x 40x
DVD-RAM - - 5x
Price
(click for details)
$115 $55 $55

 

Only three different products out of the dozens you will likely find in the market may not seem to be enough, however we were very careful when choosing the drives for this round-up. These are some of the most popular and acclaimed products by system builders and enthusiasts alike.

Test Setup

This article was written on a test PC with the following specifications:

  • ABIT IS7 Motherboard

  • Intel 865PE Chipset

  • Intel Pentium 4 Hyper-Threading Processor 2.8 GHz

  • 512 MB DDR PC3200 Ram @ 800MHz

  • GeForce 4 128MB Video Graphics Card

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2

  • Antec 300W Power Supply

 

Dual Layer Technology

Dual layer technology was developed by Philips in cooperation with MKN, and was first unleashed in 2003. This new technology allows you to store up to 8.5 gigabytes of data (approximately 4 hours of DVD-quality video) on a single DVD dual layer disk. Here is a paragraph I grabbed from the press release:

The dual-layer DVD+R system uses two thin embedded organic dye films for data storage separated by a spacer layer (see figure). Heating with a focused laser beam irreversibly modifies the physical and chemical structure of each layer such that the modified areas have different optical properties to those of their unmodified surroundings. This causes a variation in reflectivity as the disc rotates to provide a read-out signal as with commercially pressed read-only discs.


 

Basically, itís like taking a thinner layered single disk and adding a second layer to it.

Dual layer (DL) media is backward compatible with current DVD players. But could it be too good to be true, you ask? Well, there is a big drawback. Currently, pricing for blank DL media is in the $5-10 range per disk. That is very expensive compared to less than 40 cents for a single layer DVD+R, but do realize this is still new technology, so prices are expected to continue dropping in the coming months, even more so once blu-ray and other similar superior burning technology hits retail.



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