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Appeared on: Friday, September 17, 2004
Pioneer DVR-A08XLA


1. Introduction

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 1

After we finished testing the Pioneer DVR-108 drive, Pioneer sent us the DVR-A08XLA (retail version) with a new firmware (v1.10) that promised a lot, with lowered writing times and improved writing quality. In this review, we mainly test the DVR-A08's writing quality with several DVD recordable media and we also check whether the various negative points mentioned in the DVR-108 review, have been fixed with the new firmware.

New readers are advised, before proceeding, to read the Pioneer DVR-108 review that contains the full reading tests.

- What are the main differences between the DVR-108 and DVR-A08XL series?

Probably, most users have this question in mind when reading the reviews. We have already answered this question in our Pioneer DVR-108 review, but we will repeat it one more time for new users. :-)

Generally speaking, the DVR-108 and DVR-A08XL drives have exactly the same reading/writing specs and performance but not the same "hardware". Pioneer manufactures the DVR-108 drives for other manufacturers (OEM), while it supplies the retail version as the DVR-A08 offering an advanced feature called "QuietDrive" technology. According to Pioneer, "...QuietDrive features a honeycomb design in the unit's top outer casing that reduces vibration from the drive mechanism. Together with noise dampening firmware and the lack of an integral fan, ambient noise from the DVR-A08XL is significantly reduced..."

Another difference is the front bezel design, which is very well designed for the DVR-A08XL series. Lastly, the OEM version (DVR-108A) does not include any kind of software (Recording/Authoring) nor any DVD-R/RW media.

If you are wondering which drive you should buy, we could say, the retail price will make your mind up for you. The DVR-108 is already being sold on the market for a low enough price, so the DVR-A08XL will be priced a little higher (you pay for QuietDrive feature and good looking design). But you won't notice any performance differences between the two:-)

- Specifications

The Pioneer DVR-A08 supports 16X DVD±R, 4X DVD±RW and 4X DVD+R DL writing according to the official specifications. As a CD recorder it supports 32X CD-R and 24X US-RW writing along with 40X CD-ROM reading. Below are the full specs for the drive:

Drive
Pioneer DVR-108
Media
DVD
CD
Transfer Rate Read
16X CAV SL DVD-ROM
12X CAV DL DVD-ROM
40X CD-ROM CAV
12X CAV DVD±R
8X CAV DVD±RW
32X CD-RW CAV
2X CLV DVD-RAM
8X CAV DVD+R9
Transfer Rate Write
16X DVD±R Z-CLV
32X CD-R Z-CLV
4X DVD±RW CLV
24X CD-RW Z-CLV
4 DVD+R9 CLV
Access Time
145ms
125ms
Mechanism
motorized Tray load mechanism for horizonal and vertical use
Interface
IDE / ATAPI
Burst Transfer Rate
PIO mode 4 / Ultra DMA 33
Cashe Memory
2MB
Supported Media formats
DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Audio, CD Extra, CD Text, CD-IReady, CD-Bridge, Photo-CD, VideoCD, Hybrid CD
Audio
headphone jack and volume control at front plus digital-out and line-out at the back (MPC compatible)
Writing methods
DAO(disc at once), SAO(session at once), TAO(track at once) with zero gap, variable or fixed packet, multisession
Weight
1.1kgr
Dimensions
148(W) × 42.3(H) × 198(D) mm

The drive does not support Mount Rainier, as is the case with most new DVD recorders, for either of the CD or DVD formats. It uses the well known RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times. Till now, there has been no known way to make the drive region free.

Below are the drive's main characteristics as given by NeroInfoTool. and DVDInfoPro:

- The Package

We received a retail Pioneer DVR-A08XLA from Pioneer.

The drive is also available with black bezel under a different code name (DVR-A08XLB):

All retail packages include MyDVD Deluxe v5.3, DLA (Drive Letter Access) v4.9, RecordNow! v7.2, Simple Backup v5.0 and CinePlayer software v2.0.1.

The front bezel on the drive is probably the nicest we have seen on an ODD device, with Pioneer's logo at the center as well as the DVD-R/RW, DVD+RW, DVD Multi and US-RW logos. Pioneer also includes the 16X16 logo that helps users distinguish the drive's main writing speeds.

On the rear you can find the analogue and digital audio outputs (SPDIF), the IDE master/slave/cs selection pins, the IDE connector and the power input. There are even vent holes for a fan, however one is not installed.

The top of the drive includes the identification sticker with the code number, serial number, manufacture date and place of manufacture ("Made in China"), as well as various approvals among other things:

The top also includes the honeycomb design in the unit's top outer casing that reduces vibration from the drive mechanism

Removing the screws and opening the drive's cover voids the drive's warranty. For reference reasons, we post the following pictures. Click on the photos for an enlarged view.

Click To Enlarge!

The main chipset is from NEC and its part number is NEC D63635GM, which is used in combination with the NEC C333500:

Model name
C3335
Process
Bi-CMOS 0.35
Voltage
5V
Package
120-pin TQFP (14x14mm)
Power consumption
0.66W (8x DVD playback)
0.74W 8x DVD recording)
Speeds
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
4x
DVD recording
16x
CD playback
48x
CD recording
48x

Model name
D63635
Process
CMOS 0.15
Voltage
1.5V core, 3.3V I/O
Package
216-pin LQFP (24x24mm)
Power consumption
0.35W (8x DVD playback)
0.95W (8x DVD recording, LVDS)
Interface
Host
ATA/ATAPI5
Buffer
16Mbit SDRAM
Speeds
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
4x
DVD recording
16x
CD playback
48x
CD recording
48x

- Installation

The device was connected to our test PC and was identified as "PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-108" under WinXP.

- Testing software

In order to perform our tests we used:

  1. Nero CD-DVD Speed v3.12
  2. CDVD Benchmark v1.21
  3. ExactAudioCopy v0.9 beta5
  4. Nero Info Tool v2.24
  5. PlexTools v2.16 (Reader: Plextor PX-712A firmware v1.05, Reading speed 8X CLV for CD-R)
  6. DVDInfoPro v2.64
  7. Nero Burning Rom v6.3.1.20
  8. DVD Decrypter 3.5.1.0
  9. CopyToDVD 3.0.30

2. DVD Recording Tests

Pioneer DVR-A08XL DL Recorder - Page 2

DVD Recording Tests

- Writing Performance

The Pioneer DVR-A08XL supports 16X ± R (Z-CLV) writing speeds along with 4X CLV for DVD±RW, 4X CLV for DVD+R9 media. Nero Burning Rom reported speeds are shown below, after inserting a DVD-R media.

The Pioneer DVR-A08XL uses Zone-CLV recording strategy, meaning the disc area is divided into zones, where in each zone the speed is constant. In order to reach the 16X recording speed, the drive uses 4 zones (6X->8X->12X->16X).

As Pioneer explains "...ZoneCLV is a method for data writing in which the writing area within a disc is separated into "zones", between the inner, mid, & outer circumferences. Within each zone, writing speed is maintained at one fixed speed, this allows for the writing speed to be perfectly stable. Pioneer considers ZoneCLV writing as an important method for ensuring high quality writing and maintaining data integrity..."

The 16X speed is reached at the 4.00GB point, meaning that unless you are burning a full 4.36GB project, you will not benefit from the promised 16X speed. By using Nero CD-DVD Speed with DVD-R and DVD+R media, we are able to see the 12X/8X Z-CLV recording technology being used by the recorder.

Click to enlarge!

By using the TDK 8X DVD-R we can see the writing strategy graph for reaching the 16X writing speed. There are 4 zones, 6X from 0 to 0.8GB, 8X from 0.8GB to 1.8GB, 12X from 1.8GB to 4.0GB and 16X from 4.0GB to the end. The average writing speed reaches 10.34X.

By using a DVD+R media (create Data Disc), the average writing speed drops a little to 10.28X and the total recording time rises up to 6:48mins.

Click To Enlarge!

Below are the writing transfer tests for the 12X and 8X writing speeds:

Click To Enlarge!

Click To Enlarge!

- Burning Tests

We burned 4315MB of data on various DVD±R, DVD±RW media. We used the maximum allowed writing speed for each disc. All tests were carried out with the latest available firmware (v1.10) and we burned only ±R media supported at 8+X speeds and not at 4X.

- Writing Time Results

Below are results after inserting several media in the drive. BenQ 16X -R and LeaData 8X -R are only supported at 4X, as were also TY and Verbatim 4X media which with some drives have allowed speeds of 8X. Future firmware upgrades hopefully will support more media at 8X.

8X DVD-R

12X DVD-R

16X DVD-R

The drive supports 4X writing with various 4X DVD-RW media we used. The burning times were from 14:35 ~ 14:48mins.

As we have seen with the DVD-R format, newer 16X DVD+R media is not supported at 16X, only at 4X. Hopefully Pioneer will fix this with new firmware.

8X DVD+R

12X DVD+R

16X DVD+R

The recording times with DVD+RW format were impressive at 13:43mins.

- DVD Overburning Tests

Using Nero CD-DVD Speed, we tested if the drive can overburn using DVD+R and DVD-R media. Unfortunately, the drive does not support overburning with either ±R media, returning an error message while trying to start the burning process.

- DVD+MRW Tests

The drive doesn't support the Mount Rainier feature.


3. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 1

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 3

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 1

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers and two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth and may include speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

16X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

The DVR-A08 with TDK's 8X media reached 16X with very low PIE error rates. No POF errors were reported, while the POE error rates were also rather low. The SOHD-167T slowed its reading speed near the end of the disc indicating a very good performance.


4. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 2

Pioneer DVR-108 DL Recorder - Page 4

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 2

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth exhibiting speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

12X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

The best results were achieved with TY and Verbatim 8X DVD-R media with almost perfect graphs and very low PIE/POE.


5. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 3

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 5

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 3

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth exhibiting speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

8X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Summary

Despite the fact that both media were identical (both are based on FujiFilm03), the produced CDSpeed graphs are different. We can say that the performance is average but nothing to worry about.


6. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 4

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 6

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 4

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth exhibiting speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

16X DVD+R Writing Speed

- Summary

Although the A08XLA burned CMC Magnetics 8X +R at 16X, it didn't manage to produce a "clean" disc and at the outer area, there are problems, causing the LiteON SOHD-167T to report seek errors and abort the transfer rate test. The performance with TY and Verbatim media was excellent.


7. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 7

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth exhibiting speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

12X DVD+R Writing Speed

- Summary

The recording quality at 12X +R speed was very good with Maxell and Verbatim 8X +R media. With the other tested media, there were some minor reading speed drops, especially after 3.0GB.


8. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 6

Pioneer A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 8

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth exhibiting speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

8X DVD+R Writing Speed

- Summary

The general performance of the drive was very good with most tested media. With Optodisc and Philips DVD+R media, we can see several speed dropds near the end, while with Intenso and BeALL 8X +R media, the reading curve was excellent.


9. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 7

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 9

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero POF error rates. Most times, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth exhibiting speed drops. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality but as an indication level.

4X DVD-RW Writing Speed

4X DVD+RW Writing Speed

- Summary

The recording quality with DVD Re-writable media was good with several media brands, while with other media, the drive needs improvement.


10. DVD+R DL - Page 1

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 10

DVD+R DL - Page 1

The Pioneer DVR-A08 supports the 4X DL (CLV) writing speed with 2.4X Verbatim DL media.We took a source disc, "Gladiator Movie - Special Edition" Disc1 with a total size of 6.86GB. We then transferred the movie to the hard disc with DVD Decrypter in ISO format (single file). We chose the "GLADIATOR.ISO" image file and we selected the Pioneer burner to start burning.

When we pressed "OK", the burning procedure started after 22secs:

The writing process finished after 23:06 minutes.

The recorded disc had DVD-ROM booktype, important for the highest possible compatibility with DVD players.

We then tried to burn a Double Layer media from Traxdata. The disc was recognized without any complaints from the drive, and burning started after 24secs.

The project finished after 38:05mins:

For comparison reasons, we post DL burning results from other writers, with the same disc content and same recording software:

Drive
Time (mins)
NEC 2510A
37:17
BenQ DW1600A DL
40:16
BenQ DW830A
39:14
LiteON SOHW-832S DVD+R DL BookType
38:33
LiteON SOHW-832S DVD-ROM BookType
38:36
SONY DRU-700A

38:39

LG GSA-4120B
38:12
ASUS DRW-1604P (4X)
23:10
ASUS DRW-1604P (2.4X)
38:08
Pioneer DVR-108A (4X)
23:10
Pioneer DVR-108A (2.4X)

38:23

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA (4X)
23:06
Pioneer DVR-A08XLA (2.4X)
38:05

The Pioneer DVR-A08XLA has the lowest recording time at 23:06mins.


11. DVD+R DL - Page 2

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 11

DVD+R DL - Page 2

- Writing Quality

* Verbatim 2.4X DVD+R Double Layer Media

The Nero CDSpeed graph with the SOHD-167T drive was very good.

While the Plextools scan revealed low PIE and POE error rates.

* TraxData 2.4X DVD+R9 Double Layer Media

The DVR-A08XLA didn't managed to produce a good disc since both the LiteON SOHD-167T and Plextor PX-712A drives reported read errors near the end of the disc.

- Compatibility

The Pioneer DVR-A08XLA will burn directly all DVD+R9 projects with DVD-ROM booktype setting, making sure you will get maximum compatibility.


12. BookType Setting

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 12

BookType Setting

The Pioneer DVR-A08XLA doesn't support BookType Setting for the DVD+R/+RW formats. With DVD+R DL discs, Booktype is automatically set to DVD-ROM.

As Pioneer explains "...It is known that not all existing DVD-ROM drives and set-top DVD Video players will be able to if at all reliably play DVD+R DL discs. This could especially be the situation with DVD players manufactured over 12 months ago. The only way to know if a player is compatible with DVD+R DL media is to simply try it. In particular check if the player can reliably switch to the second layer and continue playing. It must be remembered that standards for Dual Layer did not exist when most earlier players were designed and manufactured so there was no way a manufacturer could have taken this into account.

With the new DVR-108 and DVR-A08XL writers the Pioneer engineers did what they could to maximize compatibility by instigating the following initiative.

Media Support - Book-type issue on +R DL media

+R DL media is tentatively-assigned the book-type field "1110h" which results in very low playback compatibility when the disc is placed into a legacy DVD player or legacy DVD-ROM drive. For "maximum compatibility" with legacy DVD players and DVD-ROM drives the book-type field should be set as "0000h" (DVD-ROM) when the disc is finalised/closed.

The DVR-108/DVR-A08XL's firmware will "automatically" set the default book-type field to "0000h" (DVD-ROM), thus eliminating the need for a separate "bit-setting utility" and further increasing the playback compatibility of +R DL discs when used with legacy DVD players and DVD-ROM drives
..."


13. QuietDrive Technology

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 13

QuietDrive Technology

When the disc's rotation gets faster, noise levels become much more audible. To dampen this noise level, the DVR-A08XL has adopted a "Quiet Firmware" which is used in conjunction with the "Quiet Drive Utility" to limit the disc's rotation speed "Automatically". According to Pioneer, this technology reduces the playback noise up to 75% compared with the previous DVR-107 series.


(Picture: courtesy of Pioneer)

Pioneer has made several tests and according to them, the DVR-A08XL series has the lowest CD-DA playback noise when compared with other well known recorders:


(Picture: Courtesy of Pioneer)

In order to use the QuietDrive technology, you have to use the QuietDrive Utility, which can be downloaded from Pioneer's website. The latest version is 1.05 which was used for all our tests:

The QuietDrive utility interface is rather simple and gives all the neseccery information to the users. There are three modes to choose from, Quiet, Performance and Standard:

The settings can be stored in the drive's memory and you can also limit all reading speeds up to 8X for DVD and 24X for CD to further reduce playback noise:

By pressing the "Check Setting" option, you can see which settings are already chosen:

For our tests, we tried to rip the Matrix DVD with the latest build of DVD Decrypter. Below are the test results:

As we can see, a side effect of the utility is that when we choose the Quiet and Performance modes, the ripping speed of CSS DVD-Video protected discs rises from 5.3X max to 12.4X max, cutting down the needed time by half.


14. Conclusion

Pioneer DVR-A08XLA DL Recorder - Page 14

Conclusion

The Pioneer DVR-A08XLA hits the market with an improved firmware over the DVR-108 drive. We have seen several improvements, mostly in writing quality over the previous v1.04/v1.06 firmware releases, but we feel there is still room for improvement. The biggest problem we saw was with TraxData DL media, since the produced disc was not readable near the end.

As was expected, the DVR-A08XLA is much more eye catching than the DVR-108 model, and you also get the QuietDrive Technology that reduces noise during playback and unleashes the DVD ripping speed up to 12X. However, at the same time, you will be forced to pay extra bucks, since the retail package costs a little more than the DVR-108. Pioneer gives an estimated retail price for the drive at around €159, but we feel it will be lower in order to be able to compete against NEC's and LiteON's 16X recorder proposals...

Certainly the DVR-A08XL series is a good buy, without too many risks for amateur and average users, but with some drawbacks for the more experienced users.

- The Good

- The Bad

- Like To be fixed



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