Bye-bye CD-RW?

A CD burner used to be the only practical and affordable option for a rewritable optical drive. That has changed radically. Selecting DVD burners over older CD-RWs is becoming a no-brainer, with the future clearly moving to DVD. And now multiple generations of DVD burners are available, giving you a range of speeds and prices to choose from.

Today, a top 52X/24X/52X CD-RW drive costs less than US$150. But for $100 more, you can get a DVD burner with CD-RW functionality. If you add another $50, you can buy a fast, new rewritable DVD drive like Pioneer's DVR-A05.

DVD offers plenty of benefits. While standard CDs store up to 700MB of data, DVD discs hold a whopping 4.7GB per side. That means enough capacity for a full-length DVD-quality movie, fewer discs to swap during backups, and less wasted space on the shelf.

CD media is still cheaper than DVD media, but both 2X DVD-Rs and 1X DVD-RWs have dropped well below $2 apiece, putting them on a par with CD-R/RW in cost per GB. Though 4X DVD-R and DVD+RW/+R media are pricier, all DVD media costs are falling with no end in sight.

Most Cons Gone

High-end CD-RW drives are faster with CD media than rewritable DVD drives, which max out at 24X for CD-R and 10X for CD-RW, with typical speeds of 16X/10X. If you burn lots of music CDs, a fast CD-RW drive might be best. You would notice the difference if you're upgrading from, say, a 16X CD-RW drive--our tests show that a 52X model cuts the burning time in half.

But burning DVDs at 4X is every bit as fast as, if not faster than, 52X maximum CD-R recording, which varies from 16X to 52X depending on the laser's position on the disc. (Note that 1X for DVDs means 1.385-MBps throughput, while 1X for CDs means 150 KBps.)

And though a format war is still in progress, it should not dissuade you from buying a DVD burner. Any recent DVD movie player will play the four most common formats (DVD-RW/-R and DVD+RW/+R), and many will even play DVD-RAM discs. However, you can hedge your bets with a multiformat DVD+RW/+R/-RW/-R drive such as the speedy, top-rated $350 Sony DRU-500A.

Because users now have real choices, bargain hunters who don't need that many formats can opt for older drives like Pioneer's DVR-A03 (DVD-RW/-R), priced at just $200. Owners of DVD-RAM video recorders should consider DVD-RAM/-RW/-R drives such as Panasonic's LF-D521 (less than $300 on the street; older drives hover around $200). DVD-RAM also holds appeal for users who back up lots of data: These discs are rated for 100,000 rewrites, versus the other formats' 1000.

Software, too, is no longer a worry. Mastering packages like Easy CD Creator handle all DVD formats, and entry-level DVD movie authoring packages such as Sonic's MyDVD are simple to use and produce excellent results.

Sooner or Later

Unless price is your main concern, rewritable DVD is now the right choice, both for an upgrade and as a new PC's optical drive. And while you could save $50 to maybe $100 (and perhaps get faster rewritable DVD speeds) by waiting until year's end, think of all the home-movie fun you'll have missed--and all the disc swapping you wouldn't.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon L. Jacobi

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?