Pioneer DVR-A11XLA

Pioneer's latest optical drive has placed the company back on top in our Best Buys charts. It produced excellent quality burns and didn't falter once in any of our tests, making it a marked improvement over the last Pioneer drive we looked at, the DVR-110.

The DVR-A11XLA is a fully featured burner that comes in a retail package with Nero 7 Essentials. It can burn to CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD-RAM (non-cartridge discs), DVD-R DL and DVD+R DL discs. It had no problems burning CDs and single-layer DVD discs in our tests and it was particularly impressive when burning a maximum amount of data to TDK 2.4x DVD+R DL media. It burnt data to these discs at a rate of 8x without any stability issues or burn inconsistencies at all. A full 8GB of data was burnt in 17 minutes and 12 seconds, at an average transfer rate of 7.7MBps.

Transfers from a dual-layer disc to the hard drive of our test PC progressed at an identical transfer rate. This is on par with our previous Best Buy - the ASUS DRW-1608P2S.

In CD tests, the drive took 3min 36sec to burn a whole disc, which averaged a transfer speed of 3.2MBps.

Beyond the functionality of the drive lays a foundation that aims to temper burn problems stemming from imprecise laser focus and vibration. The structural design includes adjustment holes that can control the airflow in the drive in order to minimise disc warping. Likewise, a divided case structure helps absorb resonant vibrations from fast spinning discs. Pioneer's tilt compensator has been improved by adding astigmatism (when rays from the laser fail to meet in a focal point and become blurred) correction to the existing tilt correction. The other major stand out of this drive is its quiet operation. It would definitely make a nice addition to any media centre PC.

In future, firmware updates are expected to enable a LightFlash feature in the drive, which is pretty much the same as HP's LightScribe technology, and will allow you to burn pictures onto the top of specially designed discs.

Verdict: There isn't really anywhere in the performance that this drive falters, and that's all that counts. It's well priced for a retail drive and comes with a good software bundle, which includes Nero 7 Essentials. While the burning software is great, it does lack tweaking tools (such as the ones offered in BenQ's Qsuite utility for its own drives), however, this won't bother most users.

Pioneer DVR-A11XLA
Price: $99
Vendor: Pioneer
Phone: 1800 331 763
Specifications: 2MB cache, IDE interface, DVD-R 16x, DVD-RW 6x, DVD-R DL 8x, DVD+R 16x, DVD+RW 8x, DVD+R DL 8x, CD-ROM 40x, CD-RW 32x, CD-R 40x, DVD-RAM 5x, Nero 7 Essentials

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Damien Donnelly

PC World
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