After years of promises, HP has finally shipped a DVD+RW drive. The good news? It stores up to 4.7GB of data per disc, and rewrites discs more than twice as quickly as rival Pioneer's DVR-A03 DVD-R/RW drive. It also runs rings around its rivals in writing CD-R/RW.
The bad news? It can't write to write-once DVD media. Write-once discs are typically made from what's known as high-reflectivity media, and so are far more compatible with the huge installed base of DVD movie players and DVD-ROM drives. HP wouldn't give us a hard estimate, but our best guess is you have a 50-50 chance that an older player or drive will read a DVD+RW disc (or one of the DVD-RW discs that the Pioneer uses).
The DVD+RW Alliance is aware of this problem and has put together a spec for its own write-once disc called DVD+R. And DVD+RW drive manufacturers are rumoured to be including DVD-R support in future models. Unfortunately, you cannot retrofit the current crop of DVD+RW drives with +R or -R capability.
Still, the speed and the capacity of DVD+RW drives make them an excellent backup device and all-in-one optical drive solutions. In test conditions HP's $1499 DVD100i lives up to its specs, writing DVD+RW at 2.4x, CD-R at 12x, and CD-RW at 10x; it reads CD-ROM at up to 32x and DVD-ROM at 8x. (For CD media, 1x equals 150KBps; for DVD, 1x equals 1.38MBps.) The installation procedure was problem-free. Bundled software for the HP DVD100i includes RecordNow for the mastering chores, DLA (Drive Letter Access) for packet writing, Simple Backup for, well, backup, and PowerDVD for playing DVD movies. In addition, it includes Sonic's MyDVD for importing or capturing video, burning DVD movies, and storyboarding.
If speedy backup is your primary "concern, this DVD+RW drive might be in order. Most users, however, should probably wait another generation to get both speed and better compatibility.
An excellent performer with an impressive software bundle, it is great for fast backups.
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