One of the interesting aspects of the IT industry is its never-ending list of jargons. Every day we are drowning in a sea of computer jargon. This happened to me recently when I was sourcing for a DVD writer to burn some OS images. What I originally imagined would be a simple process turned out to be a day of research and study. With so many variations of DVD formats, which one is the right one for me? Should I buy a writer that supports “-“ or “+”. And is 4X fast enough for me?

This article is the result of my quest for the right DVD writer to buy. I hope the article will give you a better idea of the various DVD recording formats to choose from.

DVD Recording Standards

I have listed the various DVD recordable formats in the following sections.

DVD-R

DVD-RW

DVD+RW

DVD+R

DVD-RAM

DVD-RW DL

A newer standard exists–DVD+R DL. The DL stands for Dual (or double) Layer. Basically, it means that the DVD media uses two layers of standard disk that have been pressed together, separated by a transparent spacer and a thin reflector (see this site for more details on how DVD-DL works). Figure 1 shows the Sony DRU-700A, a DVD+R DL drive.

The Sony DRU700
Figure 1. DRU-700A: Dual RW DVD+R DL drive

When buying a DVD drive, check to see that the media it supports is also readable on your existing DVD-ROM drive. For example, if you have a couple of DVD-ROM drives that can only read DVD-RW disk format, then you might not want to invest in a DVD+RW drive that only supports DVD+RW.

Burning (Writing) Speed

Most DVD writers today support up to a maximum writing speed of 8X (with 12X and 16X reportedly coming soon). This speed rating simply indicates the speed at which the drive spins; the higher the number the faster the reading and writing of data. In general, a drive can read a disk faster than writing a disk, and a drive writes faster on a Recordable disk than a Re-Writable disk.

The DVD recordable media you buy today is also rated by the speed ratings: 2X, 4X, 8X, and so on. You should try to match the media with the speed rating of your drive. For example, if your drive supports up to 8X, you should buy media that is rated as 8X. This will allow your drive to write at the maximum supported rate and reduce the time spent on writing the disk. Of course, if you have an 8X drive and you buy a 4X media, you can still use the media, but the drive will write to the disk at a slower speed. On the contrary, if your drive is 4X and you buy an 8X media, then you won’t be able to take advantage of the media’s capability to write at 8X, since your drive can only write at 4X. (There is still a possibility of over-clocking your drive to write at a higher speed rate, but this is very much dependent on the media used and the drive type.)

Figure 2 shows some of the DVD media formats supported by vendors and their maximum writing speed.

DVD Media Types
Figure 2. The various DVD media types (brand listings here do not imply endorsement)

Do note that not all disks are compatible with a particular drive. There have been many reports on the web citing incompatibilities of certain disks with some drives. So, before you buy a dozen of them, buy a few and test them out first.

Some Drives in the Market

Let’s now take a look at some of the DVD writers available in the market at the time of this writing (brands listed do not imply endorsement). I have also listed the format supported by each drive and the maximum write speed capability.

The Pioneer DVR-A07XLB (Figure 3) supports DVD±RW, which means both DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats are supported.

The Pioneer DVR-A07XLB.
Figure 3. The Pioneer DVR-A07XLB

FORMAT
MAX. SPEED
DVD-R
8X
DVD-RW
4X
DVD-RAM
-
DVD+R
8X
DVD+RW
4X
CD-R
24X
CD-RW
24X
DVD-ROM (read)
12X
CD-ROM (read)
40X

 

The Plextor PX-504A (see Figure 4) supports the DVD+R/W format.

The Plextor PX-504A
Figure 4. The Plextor PX-504A

FORMAT
MAX. SPEED
DVD-R
-
DVD-RW
-
DVD-RAM
-
DVD+R
4x
DVD+RW
2.4x
CD-R
16x
CD-RW
10x
DVD-ROM (read)
12x
CD-ROM (read)
40x

 

The Pioneer DVR-A05 (see Figure 5) supports the DVD-R/W format.

The Pioneer DVR-A05
Figure 5. The Pioneer DVR-A05

FORMAT
MAX. SPEED
DVD-R
4x
DVD-RW
2x
DVD-RAM
-
DVD+R
-
DVD+RW
-
CD-R
16x
CD-RW
8x
DVD-ROM (read)
12x
CD-ROM (read)
32x

 

The Panasonic SW-9572C (see Figure 6) DVD Multi-Recorder (DVD-RAM/-R) supports DVD-R/W and DVD-RAM format:

The Panasonic SW-9572C
Figure 6. The Panasonic SW-9572C

FORMAT
MAX. SPEED
DVD-R
4X
DVD-RW
1X
DVD-RAM
3X
DVD+R
-
DVD+RW
-
CD-R
12X
CD-RW
8X
DVD-ROM (read)
12X
CD-ROM (read)
32X

 

Which Writer to Buy?

With so many different types of DVD recordable drives in the market today, that’s a tough question to answer. In a nutshell, there isn’t much of a difference between DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats.

If you are buying a drive today, I suggest going for those combo types that support both DVD-RW and DVD+RW (commonly known as DVD±RW). This will ensure that your drive can support both types of media.

If you already own a drive and are buying recordable media, make sure you buy the correct media for the drive you have. One note of advice, though, buy a few samples to test with your drive before buying in bulk – you never know which media may be incompatible with your drive.

Happy hunting!

Some Useful Links

DVD Player Compatibility List: http://www.videohelp.com/dvdplayers.php

DVD FAQ: http://www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html