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Tuesday, December 03, 2002
Sony offers fix for DVD rewritable drives

Many owners of Sony's latest DVD rewritable drives will get an error message and won't be able to record when they try to use low quality discs. More than half of Sony Electronics' recently released rewritable DVD drives can't record to low-quality media, the consumer-electronics giant confirmed on Wednesday, but the company has made a fix available.

Owners of Sony's latest DVD rewritable drives, the external DRX-500UL and the internal DRU-500A, will get an error message and won't be able to record when they try to use low-quality discs with the drives, according to Sony marketing manager Bob DeMoulin.

The internal drives are used with PCs and went on sale about 45 days ago. The external drives just started shipping. The company has shipped a total of about 30,000 of both drives, but although more than half could be affected, only a few dozen people have called to complain, according to DeMoulin.

Sony representatives said the problem occurs only with discs that are slightly outside the tolerance levels of the DVD+RW disc specification. The company has made an upgrade available for free on its Web site: the Firmware Upgrade 1.0d, which fixes the problem.

"The upgrade makes the drives more forgiving for media that's on the ragged edge in terms of quality," said DeMoulin. He added that the problem does not occur with Sony media or other discs from name brands, such as Verbatim, Memorex or TDK, but it does with "off brands".

The Sony drives are noteworthy because they're compatible with several formats, DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW, which are being promoted by opposing industry groups, the DVD Forum and the DVD+RW Alliance. Both groups are battling to establish their respective formats as the dominant ones in the market. Companies are hoping to build off the momentum of popular video products, such as DVD players and digital video devices, by offering drives that can record content onto DVD discs.

Sony is a member of both groups and has been on the fence when it comes to committing to one or the other.

The Japanese consumer-electronics giant expects to ship between 55,000 to 60,000 drives by the end of the year.

Sony announced Monday that it will be making an upgrade for its DRX-500UL and DRU-500A drives available on or before 9 December, which will allow drives to reach 4X recording speeds with DVD+R discs, cutting recording times roughly in half. The drives support 4X DVD-R, 2X DVD-RW, 2.4X DVD+RW and DVD+R recording.

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