LG GMA-4020B, Sony DRU-500A Multi-format DVD Writers

One of the most exciting DVD drive newcomers is Sony’s ground­breaking $899 DRU-500A. Not only does this suber-burner write DVD+RW and +R at 2.4x, it also writes the competing DVD-R and DVD-RW formats. And get this: it does so at 4x and 2x — twice as fast as current dedicated DVD-R and DVD-RW drives. Plus, it offers up to 24x CD-R burning and 10x CD-RW burning.

Another contender is the $644 GMA-4020B from LG Electronics, which writes DVD-R at 2x, DVD-RW at 1x, CD-R at up to 12x, and CD-RW at up to 8x — and also writes DVD-RAM discs at 1x (0.5x with data verify activated). The more popular DVD-RW drives lack this last talent. The GMA-4020B is a minor boon for people who have DVD-RAM video recorders or use the format for backup, but it offers no relief to average buyers, who are more likely to be concerned with choosing between drives supporting the DVD Forum’s DVD-RW/-R standard and models supporting the DVD+RW Alliance’s DVD+RW/+R standard.

LGE’s engineering sample of the GMA-4020B performed flawlessly with every type of media the drive supports, and even surprised us by reading DVD+R and DVD+RW discs. Unfortunately, the tray mechanism won’t accept the protective cartridges in which DVD-RAM discs norm­ally reside — you’ll have to pop the discs out to use them. LGE says the drive will ship with BHA Software’s B’s Recorder Gold 5 Basic for mastering, B’s Clip for packet writing, and B’s DVD for authoring DVD movies, plus a DVD-RAM driver and InterVideo’s excellent WinDVD 4 software for DVD movie playback.

Our informal testing of a preproduction Sony DRU-500A was limited by the device’s immature software and by the lack of available high-speed 4x DVD-R and 2x DVD-RW media. Still, we confirmed that the drive will write to all four of the DVD formats it claims to support. Sony plans to ship the DRU-500A with Veritas RecordNow for mastering chores, Veritas Simple Backup, Musicmatch Jukebox, Sonic MyDVD 3.5 for movie authoring, Cyberlink PowerDVD for playing DVD movies, and ArcSoft ShowBiz for video editing.

Even in its preproduction stage, the LGE model proved to be an exceedingly reliable burner. The Sony DRU-500A, though, promises to run much more quickly, cost less, and eliminate the +R versus -R conundrum. Both drives should be available as you read this.

In brief: LG Electronics GMA-4020B
(Preproduction unit, not rated)
DVD-RW/-R/-RAM and CD-RW/-R burner offers a well-rounded software bundle and decent, reliable performance.
Price: $644
Distributor: LG Electronics
Phone: 1800 643 156
URL: www.lge.com.au

Sony DRU-500A
(Preproduction unit, not rated)
Superfast DVD-RW/-R, DVD+RW/+R, and CD-RW/-R burner eliminates the need to choose formats.
Price: $899 internal, $1299 external version
Distributor: Sony
Phone: 1300 137 669
URL: www.sonystyle.com.au

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