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Appeared on: Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Sony DRU-540A


1. Introduction
Sony DRU-540A DVD±RW Burner

Introduction - Retail Package

The recorder is capable burning at speeds up to 12x for DVD+R media, 4x for DVD+RW, 8x for DVD-R and 4x for DVD-RW. The maximum allowed recording speeds for CD media are 40x for CD-R and 24x for CD-RW.

The DRU-540A recorder uses the Power-Burn feature to prevent buffer underrun errors. This feature includes Sanyo's well known Burn-Proof technology. The specifications for the drive are presented below.

PART NUMBER DRU-540A
DRIVE TYPE Internal Combination DVD-R/-RW, DVD+RW/+R,
CD-R/RW Drive
MEDIA & MODES SUPPORTED DVD: DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+R DL (read only)/+RW
DVD-ROM, DVD-Video
CD: CD-DA, CD-ROM (XA), CD Extra, Video CD,
Photo CD**, CD Text, multi-session
READ/WRITE SPEED Write (DVD-R) 1X, 2X, 4X, 8X (Z-CLV)*** max.
Write (DVD-RW) 1X, 2X, 4X*** max.
Write (DVD+R) 2.4X, 4X, 8X (P-CAV)***, 12X (P-CAV)**** max.
Write (DVD+RW) 2.4X, 4X max.
Write (CD-R) 4X, 8X, 16X, 24X ~ 32X (P-CAV) 40X (CAV)*** max.
Write (CD-RW) 4X, 8X, 12X, 16X, 24X (P-CAV)*** max.
Read (DVD-ROM) 12X max.
Read (CD-ROM) 40X max.
SUSTAINED DATA TRANSFER RATE 16.2 MB/s max. (12X DVD-ROM)
AVERAGE ACCESS TIME 160 ms (DVD 12X)
130 ms (CD 40X)
INTERFACE EIDE (ATAPI)
BURST TRANSFER RATE 33 MB/s Ultra DMA Mode 2
BUFFER MEMORY 2MB
POWER CONSUMPTION +5V 2.0A max., +12V 2.0A max.
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 5.75 X 1.63 X 6.75 inches
WEIGHT 2lbs.
PACKAGE CONTENTS Internal DRU-540A Dual RW drive
Ahead NeroVision® Express DVD video editing
& authoring software
Ahead Nero® Burning ROM CD/DVD
mastering software
Ahead InCD® drive letter recording software
Ahead Nero Showtime™ soft DVD player software
Ahead Nero® BackitUp backup software
ATAPI cable and mounting hardware
User’s Manual
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Pentium® III 800 MHz or faster (or equivalent)
CPU minimum
Pentium IV 1.6GHz or faster (or equivalent)
CPU is recommended for real time video
authoring/editing
128 MB of RAM
(256 MB or more for Windows XP Systems)
10GB of hard disk space
Windows® 2000 or Windows® XP Home or
Professional Operating Systems
WARRANTY One Year Limited
 

* DVD+RW and DVD-RW discs recorded on this drive will playback in most consumer DVD players and computer DVD-ROM drives.
** Not supported with the bundled software, additional software required.
*** Appropriated speed rated recordable/ rewritable discs required.
**** Supports 12X recording on specifi ed 8X DVD+R discs, please see User’s Manual for list of specified 8X DVD+R media brands.

The drive uses the RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times.
Below are the drive's main specs as given by NeroInfoTool and DVDInfoPro:

- The drive / Retail Package

We received the SONY DRU-540A retail package of the drive. The retail package includes the internal SONY DRU-540A burner and recording, DVD authoring and DVD playback software (Nero, InCD, PowerProducer Gold and PowerDVD player). You will also find an owner's manual and manual for Nero recording software, as well as an audio cable, mounting screws and atapi cable.



 

The front panel is not particularly impressive, since Sony uses the same typical panel available on most burners. You can see the "DVD R/RW", "Compact Disc Rewritable Ultra Speed " and "RW DVD+Rewritabler" logos. There is no DVD+R DL format logo, since the drive does not support DL burning.

On the rear panel you will find the analogue and digital audio outputs, the IDE selection jumpers, the IDE connector and the power input.

Opening the device's case will void the warranty, so we advise against it. Instead, use the photos in this review for a closer look under the hood. Clicking on the image below will open a high resolution image in a new window.

- Installation

The device was connected in our test PC and was identified as "Sony DVD RW 540A" under Windows XP.All tests were done with firmware revision v1.0b.

The following pages include the test results for the Sony DRU-540A drive in comparison with three other dual DVD burners, the Plextor PX-712A, the LiteOn SOHW-1213S and the LG GSA-4120B.


2. Transfer Rate Reading Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

Transfer Rate Reading Tests

- CD Format

The Sony DRU-540A supports up to 40X reading speed for CD media. Our tests confirmed this. Below are the transfer rate graphs:




The CD reading performance of the DRU-540A is not the fastest in the comparison but this is due to the fact that the other drives in the comparison support 48X speed with CD media.

- DVD Format




The first layer of an OTP dual layer DVD-ROM is read exactly the same way as the first layer of the PTP disc we tested previously. The difference here is the reading strategy of the second layer of the disc. The beginning of the second layer is located in the outer part of the disc, so the drive starts reading from the outer tracks toward the inner part of the disc. The average reading speed was at 6.37.



The SONY drive performed well with a ripping speed of 7974Kb/s.

- Appendix

Nero CD-DVD Speed Graphs


3. CD Error Correction Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we check the drive's behavior when it comes to reading scratched / defective discs. The test discs we used are the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R
Errors total
Num: 1288108
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 62011
Avg: -72.3 dB(A)
Max: -6.9 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 4711
Avg: 1.3 Samples
Max: 605 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 104
Avg: 19.9 Samples
Max: 588 Samples
Total Test Result
60.7 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

The DRU-540A performed poorly with the ABEX TCD-721R. The total error count of 1288108 is about average, but the level at -6.9 dB(A) is very high and may lead to audible errors. Consequently, the number of skipped samples is also very high. The low total test result score of 60.7 out of 100 is justified.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total
Num: 1293530
Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
Num: 61996
Avg: -72.4 dB(A)
Max: -7.6 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples
Num: 4703
Avg: 1.3 Samples
Max: 599 Samples
Skips Samples
Num: 93
Avg: 7.2 Samples
Max: 30 Samples
Total Test Result
63.0 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

The performance with this test disc was quite the same with the previous case, which was not expected since this disc is much easier to read. The total test result of 63.0 out of 100 at best average, since we have seen since there are many drives that achieve scores close to 100. Overall, the performance for this series can be considered below par.

The CD-Check Test Disc is a very useful tool for evaluating the Sound Reproduction / Error correction capabilities of a CD player. The disc offers a signal combination with disc error patterns to rate the drive's abilities to read music and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a sequence of progressively more difficult tests. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

The tracks are being reproduced through a software multimedia player (i.e. Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone is smooth, continuous without interruptions, skipping or looping. The higher the Check Level passed, the more reliable the sound reproduction of the tested drive.

Error Level
1
2
3
4
5
SONY DRU-540A
5/5
5/5
5/5
5/5
0/5

The drive passed the first four Check Levels of the test. The performance is very good offering better than average error correction capabilities. The fifth level, which includes an error size of 1.500mm, produced many audible clicks with the drive.

CD error correction is not one of the Sony drive's strong points. Performance could be better...


4. DVD Error Correction Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

DVD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we examine the DVD reading capabilities of the drive with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media come from ALMEDIO.

Single Layer media

ABEX TDR-821

This is a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with a 4.7GB capacity, and its surface has an artificial scratch of dimensions varying from 0.4 to 3.0 mm. The following transfer rate graph comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

The following transfer rate picture comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

The drive read the DVD media up to 10X. The scratched area did not affect the reading process and no errors were produced.

ABEX TDR-825

This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM of 4.7GB capacity. The data structure of the disc is exactly the same as that of the TDR-821, with the difference that there are no scratches on it but instead defective areas of dimensions ranging from 0.5 to 1.1 mm.

There are also fingerprints sized between 65 and 75 micrometers.

Same behavior with this test disc. No errors were reported and the drive kept showing excellent DVD error correction capabilities.

Dual Layer Media

ABEX TDR-841


The drive read both layers without any major problems, however the reading strategy changed from CAV to CLV when it met with problems while reading over the defective region.

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the first includes defective areas and fingerprints. The dimensions of the defective areas range from 0.5 to 1.1 mm and the fingerprints are sized from 65 to 75 micrometers.


Excellent performance...

ABEX TDV-541

The TDV-541 is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc, with a capacity of 8.5GB.The disc is based upon the TDV-540 series which is designed for inspection and adjustment of DVD-VIDEO players. The disc checks the layer switch operation from layer 0 to layer 1 and also includes test pictures and test signals for DVD sound files.

The current TDV-541 also checks the error correcting capabilities of the drive and includes scratches from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

The drive automatically reduced its reading speed to read the scratched area on the media. However, no errors were reported and the reading process was completed successfully.

ABEX TDV-545

The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc with a capacity of 8.5GB.

The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the disc's surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It also has 65 - 75 micrometer thickness, fingerprints.

The DVD error correction of the Sony drive is in general, very good.


5. Protected Disc Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

Protected Disc Tests

- Reading Tests

To create the image of the various protected titles to the hard disk, we used Alcohol 120% software and the appropriate settings, according to the protection type of the inserted discs. Below you can see the duration of each process as well as the transfer rate in each case.

Game Title
Protection Scheme
Duration
Reading speed
PSX "NBA Jam Extreme"
Lybcrypt
04:49 min
312.68 sectors/sec
Serious Sam The Second Encounter v1.07
SafeDisc v.2.60.052
68:06 min
82.09 sectors/sec
VRally II
SecuROM v.2
05:18 min
1081.03 sectors/sec




The Sony drive had the slowest ripping speed with all tested games. Especially with the SafeDisc protection scheme, the time needed was totaly unacceptable.

- Writing Tests

The Sony DRU-540A supports the DAO-RAW writing mode. For checking the drive's EFM correction status, we used 3 different game titles with different SafeDisc 2 versions having the latest software patches installed. After making the images of the various titles onto the hard disk, we burned them (maximum speed) with Alcohol 120% v1.9.2.1705. Two different discs were created for each title; one with the "Bypass EFM error" enabled and one more with the function disabled.

The table below shows the results of the attempted backups and whether they worked (game installed / played normally), or not.

Drive

Fifa 2004
SD v3.1

Sims Superstar SD v2.9
Sims Unleashed SD v2.8
Serious Sam-Second Encounter
SD v2.51.051
Max Payne
SD v2.51.020
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
EFM OFF
EFM ON
Toshiba
SD-M1502
No
Yes
Creative CD5233E

Optorite DD1203

The drive maneged to create working backups only up to version 2.8. Newer versions are a problem for the DRU-540A.


6. DAE Test
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

DAE Test

- Pressed and CDR AudioCD

The Sony DRU-540A supports up to 40X CAV DAE speed. When using a pressed AudioCD and its CD-R copy, with EAC we logged the following results:

The Optorite drive performed well if we keep in mind it supports 40X speed against 48X for the other drives.

- Advanced DAE Quality

The SONY DRU-540A received a score of 100 (perfect) in the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test. CDSpeed showed that the average reading speed was 28.5X, and the drive supports reading of SubChannel data, Leadin / Leadout data and CD Text.


- Reading 90/ 99mins AudioCDs


7. Protected AudioCDs
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

Protected AudioCDs

For this test procedure we used three audio discs with different audio copy protections. The ripping process on all protected Audio discs was carried out with Exact Audio Copy v0.9beta5. The sample protected Audio discs were:

The Cactus Data Shield 200, contains artificial errors that are not easily bypassed by the reader, while the Key2Audio contains a second session, causing problems for readers when trying to read the Table Of Contents (TOC).

The tested tasks are:

The Sony drive recognized up to the 12th Audio track of CDS200 disc,

and with the "Retrieve Native TOC" option removed, the 13th Data track was also recognized.

The test results are shown in the following table:

Key2Audio
CDS200
LG GSA-4160B
Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison successful for all tracks
Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison not the same for all tracks

The Optorite DD1203 will rip both Key2Audio/CDS200 protected audio discs. Both discs were recognized and their contents were ripped at the maximum speed. However, the drive may not rip 100% accurately, since EAC reported timing problems.

This is a "special" CDS200 build, as it doesn't contain any artificial errors during the ripping process. Most problems occur when trying to write the ripped wav files, since the produced CD-R disc contains C2 and CU errors! This "problem" is rumored to be connected with specific chipset weaknesses.

We could not rip the disc contents with EAC, because the drive would stop working during the process, and the whole system would freeze. We tried many times with different settings, but the results was the same. Nevertheless, the disc would playback properly with Windows Media Player.


8. CD Recording Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CD Recording Tests

The Sony DRU-540A supports 40X CD-R and 24X US-RW recording speeds.

The drive supports 4X, 8X, 16X, 24X, 32X, and 40X writing speeds. Below are the recording speeds as detected by Nero Burning Rom.


According to Nero CDSpeed, the drive reached the maximum 40X speed. The test started at 18.34X and finished at 41.32X having an average speed of 31.30X. Click on the image to see the complete graph.

We created an 80min data compilation with Nero Burning Rom and recorded it on a 700MB disc. The writing performance varies according to the inserted media. Below is a chart demonstrating all recording times with various media.

The best recording time was achieved with Traxdata and SKC media at 2:47 mins

- Other features

CD text reading/writing
Yes
Overburning with 80min CD
81:52
Overburning with 90min CD
91:40
Overburning with 99min CD
81:55

- CD-RW Format

The DRU-540A supports a maximum 24X P-CAV rewriting speed with Ultra Speed Rewritable Media (US-RW). Below you can see the Nero CD-DVD Speed writing simulation test with blank 24X US-RW media from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

We also used Nero Burning Rom in order to burn a data disc with 24X US-RW media from MC. The data compilation we burned had a size of 651 MB and the duration of the recording process was 3:48 minutes

- CD-RW Mount Rainier

The drive doesn't support the Mount Rainier feature.


9. Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

On this page, we present the 3T Pit & Land Jitter graphs when using various media burned at 40X CAV writing speed.

- 3T Pit results

Below are the average 3T Pit Jitter values for the various media:

- 3T Land results

As it can been seen from the graphs above, the Jitter levels are high to extremely high with most media. Traxdata and Creation had the best results.

In the following page we check the C1 and C2 error rates of the same discs, to come up with more specific conclusions.


10. Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

We measured the C1 / C2 error rate on the recorded discs we burned at the various supported writing speeds. The software we used was PleXTools Professional v2.18, and in particular the built-in Q-Check utility. The reader was the Plextor PX-712A (firmware v1.05).

BenQ 80min 52X @ 40X

Creation 80min 48X @ 40X

SKC 80min 48X @ 40X

Traxdata 80min 52X @ 40X

Taiyo Yuden 80min 48X @ 40X

- Summary

The CD recording quality is very good with the specific media we tested. There were no C2 errors, while the number of C1 errors stayed at low levels


11. DVD Recording Tests
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

DVD Recording Tests

The Sony DRU-540A supports both the DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW writing formats. The maximum supported speed for DVD+R is 12X ( P-CAV) & 4X CLV for DVD+RW media. DVD-R writing offers 8X ( Z-CLV) maximum writing speed and 4X CLV rewriting speed. Nero Burning Rom reported speeds are shown below.

Nero CD-DVD Speed's "create disc" function with Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD+R media, shows us the 12X Z-CLV recording technology being used by the Sony DRU-540A recorder. The second screenshot reveals the writing strategy for 8X DVD+R while the third for DVD-R.



- Supported media list

Sony officially, doesn't list the supported media at any of 4X, 8X or 12X. The user has to insert a disc to check the maximum reported recording speed for the specific media, so it's basically a test and see process. Depending on the inserted disc, the drive may lower its recording speed.

- Burning Tests

We burned 4315MB of data on various DVD±R, DVD±RW media. We used the maximum allowed writing speed for each disc.





- DVD Overburning Tests

In order to test the drive's DVD overburning capabilities, we used two media types, one from CMC 8X DVD-R and one from 3A 8X DVD+R. As you can see, the drive refused to start the test with DVD-R media,

while with DVD+R, the test started but when it reached 4.38GB, stopped with an error message.

- DVD+MRW Tests

Mount Rainier isn't supported.


12. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 1
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans

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

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing dropoffs. 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






13. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 2
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans

8X DVD-R Writing Speed





- Summary

Average recording performance from the drive at 8X. In many cases the quality scans reported PI values above the 280 limit. There were no POF errors returned, meaning that all the discs could be read without fatal errors.


14. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 3
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans

12X DVD+R Writing Speed





- Summary

Since there are not any 12x DVD+R media, the test burns were made using 8x certified media. The quality was average again, with half of the cases producing discs with high PI error rates. Best performance came from Mitsubish Chemicals media.


15. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 4
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans

8X DVD+R Writing Speed





- Summary

Again the PI/PO error rates are on the high side for almost all media, in all the cases far above the 280 limit. Nevertheless, all discs were readable.


16. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans

DVD+RW and DVD-RW media format





- Summary

The recording quality with most 4X +RW/-RW media was average. Best performance came from Traxdata 4X DVD+RW.


17. BookType Setting
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

DVD+R DL

This drive does not support DVD+R DL burning

BookType Setting

We would like to see this option supported for DVD+R/RW discs.


18. Conclusion
Sony DRU-540A DVD Burner

Conclusion

After finishing the review, we have come to the conclusion that the drive's performance as a reader was good. The Optorite DD1203 had acceptable reading speed for a 40X drive and very good seek times in all modes. As for CD error correction, the drive performed poorly and is something we would like to see improved.

In the DVD tests, the drive showed good reading speed and low seek times. With scratched DVD media, the drive's ability to correct and read through the defective areas was very good, where in our tests, no errors were reported. There was only one case, that of the ABEX TDV-541 test disc, where the speed dropped in order to read the defective area.

Games protected with SafeDisc up to version v2.8 are not a problem for the Optorite drive. With newer versions, the drive could not make working backups. The ripping speed was not high, especially in the case of Safedisk protection scheme where the results were rather slow.

The DD1203 drive managed to play and rip both Key2Audio and CDS200 protection schemes. However the drive may not be ripping the discs 100% accurately since EAC reported timing problems. The 90min test disc was played successfully while the 99min disc reports errors in the last tracks. The drive also cannot backup the CDS200 protected Aiko Katsukino - The Love Letter title.

CD recording quality is good with half the media we tried, even after we flashed the drive with the latest firmware (120E). The rest of the media reported high jitter levels. This needs to be addressed and fixed!

As for the writing quality with the DVD media, it was acceptable. There were many cases with increased PI/PO levels. This is also something that we would like to see improved. However, no matter what the recording quality was, all the media we burned was playable on our standalone DVD players from Pioneer and Philips. There was only one case where the media did not playable.

- The Good

* 12X DVD+R recording
* Good DVD error correction
* Supports protected Audio discs (CDS200, Key2Audio)

- The Bad

* CD/DVD recording quality with several media (can be fixed with firmware upgrade)
* Cannot backup the CDS200 protected Aiko Katsukino - The Love Letter
* Doesn't support Booktype Bitsetting for DVD+R/+RW
* DVD±R needs improvement as drive produces high PI error rates and PI failures in many cases
* CD error correction is average
* Doesn't report C2 errors

- Like to be fixed

* DVD±R writing performance and quality


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