Burn high-def movies to Blu-ray discs
- Good build quality, bundled Cyberlink software, attractive price, writes to all Blu-ray media (BD-AV, BD-R, BD-RE, BD-ROM)
- Slow burning times
The BWU200S isn't the fastest Blu-ray burner on the market and lacks some of the features found on competitively priced rivals. Nevertheless, it should still satisfy high-def enthusiasts who require an all-in-one burning solution.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
The BWU200S is Sony's second stab at an internal Blu-ray recorder, following in the footsteps of the pioneering BWU-100A. It can be viewed as an upscale version of the read-only BDUX10S, which we reviewed earlier in the week. Combining the functionality of a DVD/CD burner with full Blu-ray support (including re-writable BD-RE discs), it is fully equipped to take care of all your recording needs. However, it's not the fastest device on the market and it faces some stiff competition from rival vendors.
With its user-friendly Serial ATA interface (SATA), bonus BD-R disc and bundled Cyberlink software (including PowerProducer, PowerDirector, PowerDVD Ultra and Power2Go), the BWU200S provides everything a budding Blu-ray enthusiast needs to get started in one cost-effective package.
Before we kick off the review, special mention must go to Cyberlink's suite of DVD software. With a combined RRP of around $200, this is a tidy little bundle that adds plenty of value to the product — especially after the recent $300 price-slash. The included programs cover all major bases, from authoring slick DVD menus to editing AVCHD camcorder footage. (For further info on the included software, check out our standalone review of Cyberlink's DVD Suite 6.0 Ultra.)
Provided you know your way around a computer chassis, installing the drive should be a breeze: simply slot the BWU200S into the 5.25in drive bay, connect the SATA cables and screw everything into place. While you're at it, you might as well insert the included Blu-ray tray cover, which looks suitably nifty.
Naturally, our first test involved watching a Blu-ray movie. As expected, the BWU200S was perfect for this task (the format is Sony's brainchild after all). Using the supplied PowerDVD software, we ran the drive on a system equipped with an ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card and a Samsung SyncMaster 275T monitor, both of which are HDCP-compliant. Our copy of Finding Neverland played back smoothly at the screen's maximum resolution of 1920x1200. Meanwhile, sound and drive vibrations were kept to a pleasing minimum.
Next up, we measured the burning speed of the drive across the supported formats. For CD and DVD, the drive's speeds are almost (but not quite) as good as a standard burner. It will burn DVD +/- discs at a rate of 16x, which means a 4GB disc will finish burning in around 6 minutes. For our DVD transfer tests, we transferred a 1.23GB folder of mixed data from our desktop to the drive, using a blank DVD-R. The BWU200S took 2min 13sec to complete this task, which works out at around 9.2 megabytes per second (MBps).
Our Blu-ray results were slightly less impressive. It took us over 90min (!) to fill a single-layer BD-R disc with AVCHD files, despite an advertised 4x write speed. By contrast, the Pioneer BDR-202BK took just 24min to complete the same task. Apparently, the BWU200S's lethargic burn times are down to Sony's inbuilt error-check software, which runs in the background. Disabling this feature should thus yield faster results.
While we're on the subject of Blu-ray discs, it's important to note that BD media remains prohibitively expensive when compared to other recordable formats. A 50GB BD-RE disc currently retail for around $90, which works out at almost $2 per gigabyte. This makes them less than ideal for archiving data. That being said, they do remain the only effective way of storing large amounts of HD video on a single disc. If you'd prefer not to spread your movies over three or four DVDs, then BD-R is definitely the way to go.
While the BWU200S isn't a bad product in its own right, it fails to stand head-and-shoulders above many of its competitors. If you're willing to downgrade to USB 2.0, then LG's Super Multi Blue Blu-ray Disc Rewriter (BE06) might be the better option. For one thing, it's an external drive, which means you can use it with multiple computers, including HD-compatible notebooks. Plus, it even supports HD-DVD playback (yeah, yeah, we know the format's dead, but HD-DVD movies are still available at dirt-cheap prices, so it's a nice option to have).
Nevertheless, this is still a worthwhile product that provides excellent Blu-ray playback and reliable burning to Blu-ray discs. Tentatively recommended.
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