Iomega unveils multiformat DVD burner

Iomega is taking multiformat DVD burning a step further, unveiling this week the Super DVD Drive, which combines all three rewritable DVD formats into one drive.

The internal drive can write to DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM and is slated for release in August. An external USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 model is scheduled to ship in September.

Pricing will be announced upon release, but Iomega plans to offer the drive at a price that's competitive with the dual-format drives (which support DVD-RW and DVD+RW) currently flooding the market.

"We are positioning this product at parity with Sony's dual-drive," the DRU-510A, which runs about US$329, says Scott LeFevre, a product manager at Iomega. "And we'll be competitive with those dual drives" in the future, he adds.

Iomega will preview the Super DVD Drive at the CeBIT show in New York this week.

Drive Specs

The drive will support write speeds 4X DVD-R and DVD+R, 2.4X DVD+RW, 2X DVD-RW, and 3X DVD-RAM. It also serves as 24X/16X/32X CD-RW drive, joining the Sony DRU-510A as the only other drive to support 24X CD burning. It ships with Iomega's Automatic Backup and HotBurn (for mastering and packet-writing CDs and DVDs) software, as well as Sonic MyDVD 4.0, Sonic CinePlayer, and MusicMatch Jukebox.

Iomega's first DVD burner was a single-format DVD+RW model. But the company always intended to support multiple formats, given customer interest, according to Richard Giannini, Iomega product manager for branded solutions.

"From the DVD side, obviously dual--to have the dash and plus formats in the same drive--is the way to go," Giannini says. "With video, you find that some players support one format better than the other. So, this way, it serves consumers to be able to choose."

Only one drive manufacturer--LG Electronics--has announced intentions to ship a drive that supports writing to the dash, plus, and RAM formats. That drive, the latest in the company's Super Multi DVD drive line, is expected to ship by July.

Boosting RAM

Although DVD-RAM is the oldest of the three DVD-burning formats, it hasn't caught on in a significant way, partly because the media is interchangeable with comparatively few DVD-ROM drives and standalone DVD players. Even so, once it became technologically feasible to support all three formats, Iomega says it made sense for the company to offer such a product.

Users may find it a useful bonus, Giannini says.

"DVD-RAM is the best optical format to record data to. It provides the customer with a more reliable data backup medium," he says. "DVD-RAM provides the end user greater reliability than CD-RW or DVD- or + RW media, since it's designed to handle many more rewrites, and has better defect management capabilities." CD-RW, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW media is rated for up to 1000 rewrites, but DVD-RAM is rated for up to 100,000 rewrites.

Giannini notes that users might not be familiar with the advantages of RAM. The technology has largely been relegated to a niche market in the United States, but has enjoyed broader acceptance elsewhere.

"But that's why we press on our documentation when and how to use RAM," Giannini says. "And that's where our DVD Solutions Wizard comes in."

Help from a Wizard

Created by Iomega, the DVD Solutions Wizard helps guide users through tasks such as making a movie, backing up data, and making an audio CD. It launches the appropriate software application and recommends the best media to use for that task.

The wizard is designed to assist users and help fill the void left by competing manufacturers, adds Iomega's LeFevre.

"Other drives leave customers to fend for themselves. With all of the other drives out there, more is better," LeFevre says. "The wizard takes a lot of the confusion out of the user's hands and into the software, where it belongs."

The company says that for a daily backup, it suggests using DVD-RW or DVD+RW; for unattended, "more permanent" types of backup, it directs users to use the RAM.

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