Sony first to ship dual-layer 8.5GB DVD drives

June will see the first double-layer write-once DVD drives and media to hit Australian shores.

Sony's internal DRU-700A drive will sell for $349, while the external 700UL will sell for $549. Both products maintain full backward compatibility. Although the internal drives will be available in retail stores from June with external versions following in July, customers can pre-order these products on-line at www.sonystyle.com.au.

Sony’s 2.4X DVD+R DL media costs $12.95.

These drives will support the DVD+R format (one of two major write-once DVD formats in the market). The new 8.5GB discs (up from 4.7GB) should be compatible with most of the drives and players already in use, because many commercial movies already come on DVD discs with two layers.

The drives will write double-layer discs at 2.4X, so it should take about 45 minutes to record a full disc, says Robert De Moulin, marketing manager for Sony's optical storage group. While your video or data file may not need the full capacity, the format requires you to burn an entire disc, he says. Software solutions will likely help fill the unused space.

Philips also expects to release its own drives mid-year.

Verbatim will be one of the first companies to offer double-layer discs. Such discs will likely sell for less than $20, at least initially, according to Verbatim. But media will be in short supply until later in the year.

Although the first double-layer drives on the market will be DVD+R, rival format DVD-R will also have its own double-layer drives. Because the format has not yet been approved by the DVD Forum, the drives may not appear in the market until year's end or the beginning of 2005, according to Andy Parsons, Pioneer Electronics' senior vice president of advanced product development. These drives will likely record double-layer discs in 2X speeds.

(This is an updated version of a story which appeard on the PC World site last Wednesday.)

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