Taiwan manufacturers gear up for dual-layer DVD

The trickle of drives and media supporting new dual-layer DVD formats looks set to turn into a flood in the coming months as Taiwan's major drive and disc manufacturers prepare to start mass production.

Dual-layer discs feature a second recording layer inside the disc and increase storage capacity to 8.5G bytes from the 4.7G-byte storage capacity of a single-layer disc. They are different from double-sided discs because both recording layers can be accessed from one side of the disc and so users don't have to take out the disc and flip it over to get access to the extra capacity.

Drives and discs supporting dual-layer versions of both the DVD-R and DVD+R formats were on show by many major vendors at the Computex trade show here this week with product plans for the latter of the two formats clearly more advanced.

DVD+R DL (dual layer) discs were on display by a number of companies including Ritek, Prodisc Technology, CMC Magnetics and BenQ and the companies were all saying they will start mass production during the third quarter.

"We'll be starting disc mass production for the DVD+R DL on June 20," said Vincent Lee [cq], product marketing director for disc-maker Ritek. "We are demonstrating a DVD-R DL prototype and have no production schedule because they are still working on the specification."

Drives supporting the DVD+R DL format were also on display by many companies. The majority support writing at 2.4 times standard speed (2.4X writing) for dual layer discs although second-generation drives supporting faster 4X writing to dual layer were also being shown.

BenQ had both types of drive on its booth and Product Manager Jo Chang [cq] said its 2.4X drives will be available from July with 4X drives following sometime during the fourth quarter. Among the planned drives is the DW1650 which will have a serial ATA interface, she said.

The BenQ DVD+R DL drives and those on show from other vendors such as Gigabyte Technology and Micro-Star International (MSI) also support faster 16X DVD+R writing.

The products on show at Computex aren't the first to support the DVD+R DL format. Sony, which helped developed the format, has already put a drive on sale and Mitsubishi Kagaku Media, which is better known by its Verbatim brand-name in some markets, recently began selling the first blank media for the format. But their appearance at Computex from so many Taiwanese manufacturers should help drive prices down in the coming months.

The disc from Mitsubishi Kagaku costs ¥1,500 (US$13.60) compared to around the same price for a pack of five single-layer DVD+R discs from the same company.

Ritek's Lee said the company is expecting to sell its first discs for a premium of around 75 percent over single-sided discs and thinks that will fall over time to a premium of around 50 percent.

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