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This story was printed from CdrInfo.com,
located at http://www.cdrinfo.com.
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Appeared on: Monday, June 25, 2007
Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202


1. Introduction

Pioneer turns out to be a pioneer once again in the optical storage market with the release of the new BDC-202 (OEM) or BDC-S02 (retail) drive. Being among the first manufacturers to have released a Blu-Ray burner, the Japanese company decided to incorporate the Blu-Ray playback capabilities of the high-end Blu-Ray drives, onto a SATA DVD burner. The BDC-202 is the first DVD Burner that offers BD-ROM/R/RE reading support, providing users with a cost-effective option when it comes to experiencing Blu-ray entertainment on their home PC.

The IDE drive supports Blu-Ray reading at 5x, as well as BD-ROM DL at 2x. The writing speed remains at 12x for DVD+R/-R, 4x for DVD-R DL/+R DL and 5x for DVD-RAMs.

- Drive Features & Specification

Media
Read Speed
Write Speed
BD-ROM / R / RE (Single Layer)
5x

-

BD-ROM DL /R DL / RE DL (Dual Layer)
2x
-
DVD-ROM (Single Layer)
12x
-
DVD-ROM DL (Dual Layer)
8x
-
DVD-R/+R
12x
12x
DVD-RW/+RW
8x
6x
DVD-R DL (Dual Layer) / +R DL (Double Layer)
8x
4x
DVD-RAM
5x
5x
DVD Video with CSS (Single Layer / Dual Layer)
5x
-
CD-ROM and CD-R
32x
24x
CD-RW
24x
24x
Video CD
9.3x
-
CD-DA, CD-Text, Mixed-CD,CD-Extra (play audio)
9.3x
-
CD-DA, CD-Text, Mixed-CD, CD-Extra (Data extraction)
24x
-

- Additional Specs Include:

  • Buffer Memory Size: 4MB (Buffer Under Run Protection for DVD and CD)
  • Atapi interface: Serial ATA Revision 1.0
  • Data Transfer Mode: Gen1i, 1,5Gbits/sec
  • Audio Interface: Stereo audio output
  • Dimensions: W=148 x D=185 x H=42.3mm (including front bezel)
  • Net Weight: 0.98 k

For testing in our labs, we received a Pre-production sample of the Pioneer BDC-202. This does not in any way mean that our drive lacks any features compared to the final, production model - it just indicates that there might be room for performance improvements before the product reaches the store shelves.

The retail version of the drive, will be available in both black and beige. Our sample (photo below) was manufactured in April of 2007. On the drive's front panel, we can see the BD-ROM DVD/CD Writer logo, as well as the "Blu-Ray disc", "DVD+RW" and "DVD Multi Recorder" official logos.

Let's take a look at the internal components of the drive. Note that opening the drive case voids the warranty and should be avoided.

The "heart" of the drive is the RENESAS R8J32500FPV chip.

 

- Nero Info Tool


2. CD - DVD Reading

For our CD transfer rate tests, we used the Nero CD-Speed utility and a set of data and audio CD-R/RW/ROM. The drive can read CD media at a maximum speed of 32X.

For each CDSpeed graph, you can click on the image to see the complete screenshot, including full measurements.

-CD-ROM

- US RW

The following CD Speed graph shows the reading performance with US-RW media. Reading reached a maximum of 24x, as per the specifications.

- AudioCD

In the CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test, the drive's average speed was 26.67X with a quality score of 100.

A typical DAE task with an 80min non-protected Audio CD produced 23.5X average ripping speed.

- 90/99 mins Audio disc

99min Audio


99min Audio 

 

DVD Format

Now let's take a look at how the drive performs with DVD media. This time, a set of SL and DL DVD media was used. The drive is capable of reading at 12X maximum speed for single layer DVD ROM and at 8X for dual layer DVD ROM media.

DVD-ROM SL media -

 

PTP DVD-ROM -

The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially with the drive starting reading from the inner part of the disc, which is the beginning of each layer, progressing towards its outer range.

OTP DVD-ROM -

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 and progresses towards the inner part of the disc.

- DVD-R

 

 

- DVD-RW

 

- DVD+R

 

 

- DVD+RW

- DVD+R DL

-DVD-R DL

 

-DVD RAM (2-5x media)

A few problems towards the end with the speed drops but no errors.

- DVD Video Ripping

Ripping of a single layer DVD movie:

Average 5.206 kb/s
Maximum 7.244 kb/s

- Blu-Ray

BD-ROM SL (25GB)

BD-R SL (25GB)

BD-R DL (50GB)

BD-RE SL (25GB)

 

- Summary of reading tests

A very good performance from the Pioneer drive, attaining the reading speeds outlined in the specifications with all CD, DVD and Blu-Ray media.


3. CD Error Correction

In the following tests, we check the drive's behavior and error correction capabilities when reading scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R

 

Errors total
Num : 1854560
Errors (Loudness)
Num : 102618
Avg : -75.8 dB(A)
Max : -19.2 dB(A)
Error Muting
Num : 5556
Avg : 1.2 Samples
Max : 582 Samples
Skips
Num : 0
Avg : 0.0 Samples
Max : 0 Samples
Total Test Result
75.3 points (of 100.0 maximum)

An average score for the Pioneer drive. Although there were no skipped samples, the maximum Errors Loudness level is a little high, at -19.2 dB(A), and there were quite a few readings at that level so it is possible that some of these could eventually make their way to your speakers in the form of audible clicks.

- ABEX TCD-726R

Errors total
Num : 6830
Errors (Loudness)
Num : 3271
Avg : -87.5 dB(A)
Max : -53.4 dB(A)
Error Muting
Num : 34
Avg : 1.0 Samples
Max : 1 Samples
Skips
Num : 0
Avg : 0.0 Samples
Max : 0 Samples
Total Test Result
83.9 points (of 100.0 maximum)

Again, average performance. The drive should be better here. Some errors were reported but no skipped samples.

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

The CD-Check Test Disc is another 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 reproduced through a software multimedia player (e.g. 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
Pioneer BDC 202
5/5
5/5
5/5
0/5
0/5

The drive managed to correctly play the first three tracks. Problems occurred with the fourth and fifth tracks. Average behavior here. Overall, the drive exhibited mediocre performance with our defective test discs.


4. DVD Error Correction

In the following tests, we examine the DVD reading capabilities of the drive (error correction) with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests, we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media comes 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 picture comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

Flawless reading, without any problems and without dropping speed.

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.

 

 

- Dual Layer media

ABEX TDR-841

This is an 8.5GB dual layer, single sided DVD-ROM disc with artificial scratches of dimensions ranging from 0.4 to 3.0mm, on both layers.

 

Here too, the drive continues its good reading performance.

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.

 

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.

This test disc often causes problems during the layer switch with many drives, but the Pioneer drive passed with flying colours.

.

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 data surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It also has 65 - 75 micrometer fingerprints.

 

The defects on both the ABEX TDV-545 & ABEX TDV-541 were easily overcome by the drive, giving a very smooth reading graph. In general, excellent error correction with DVD media.


5. MEMOREX CDR

For this test (and for all ensuing tests with CD-R media), the CD-R disc was burned to its maximum capacity and at its maximum speed. Then, the same disc is read with the CDSpeed software, and the disc was scanned for digital errors (BLER, C1 and C2) with our system provided by Clover Systems. To simplify the presentation, we present the BLER, E31 and E32 error rates for each disc, which unveil the most serious errors on each disc.

-Disc Info

Memorex 48x CD-R (burned at 24x)

Manufacturer
Memorex
Capacity

79:57:73

702 MB

- Writing strategy

Average Writing Speed: 20.71x
Writing time: 04:52min

- Reading speed

- Writing Quality - Clover Systems

 

No problems with the specific disc, with overall few digital errors (correctable).

- About Clover Systems

The Clover Systems CDX Compact Disc Analyzer is a tool to quantitatively measure the quality of a CD. It will analyze CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-I, CD-R, Photo-CD, Enhanced CD and CD-RW discs at 4X, 8X, 24X, 32X or 40X speed. It effectively measures disc quality by examining the quantity and severity of CIRC errors generated during playback. It also provides the capability to measure signal parameters related to pit geometry, such as asymmetry and reflectivity. Together, all these bits of information provide a thorough analysis of disc quality. The Clover Systems Analyzers can also perform various format-checking tests on data discs, and do bit-for-bit data comparison on all types of CDs. All tests are carried out at the speed of 4X.

CIRC error correction uses two principles to detect and correct errors. The first is redundancy (extra information is added, which gives an extra chance to read the disc), and the second is interleaving (data is distributed over a relatively large physical area). The CIRC error correction used in CD players uses two stages of error correction, the well known C1 and C2, with de-interleaving of the data between the stages.

The error type E11 means one bad symbol was corrected in the C1 stage. E21means two bad symbols were corrected in the C1 stage. E31 means that there were three or more bad symbols at the C1 stage. This block is uncorrectable at the C1 stage, and is passed to the C2 stage. Respectively, E12 means one bad symbol was corrected in the C2 stage and E22 means two bad symbols were corrected in the C2 stage. E32 means that there were three or more bad symbols in one block at the C2 stage, and therefore this error is not correctable.

BLER (Block Error Rate) is defined as the number of data blocks per second that contain detectable errors, at the input of the C1 decoder. Since this is the most general measurement of the quality of a disc, you will find BLER graphs for all media tested below. If you click on the images you can see a more detailed table, indicating error levels. The Red Book specification (IEC 908) calls for a maximum BLER of 220 per second averaged over ten seconds. Discs with higher BLER are likely to produce uncorrectable errors. Al low BLER shows that the system as a whole is performing well, and the pit geometry is good. However, BLER only tells us how many errors were generated per second, and it does not tell us anything about the severity of those errors.


6. Verbatim CDR

-Disc Info

Verbatim 48x CD-R (burned at 24x)

Manufacturer
Verbatim
Capacity

79:57:73

702 MB

- Writing strategy

Average Writing Speed: 20.62x
Writing time: 04:44min

- Reading

 

- Writing Quality - Clover Systems

A good burn from the Pioneer drive with Verbatim CD-R at 24x. The most serious errors reported were the E31, but they were corrected.


7. Taiyo Yuden CD-R

-Disc Info

TAIYO YUDEN 48x CD-R (burned at 24x)

Manufacturer
YUDEN
Capacity

79:57:72

702 MB

- Writing strategy

Average Writing Speed: 20.66x
Writing time: 04:47min

- Reading

- Writing Quality - Clover Systems

Even better results from the Pioneer BDC-202, this time with Taiyo Yuden CD-R.


8. Verbatim CDRW

-Disc Info

Verbatim 24x CD-RW

Manufacturer
Mitsubishi Kagaku
Capacity

97:34:25

656 MB

- Writing strategy

Average Writing Speed: 21.95x
Writing time: 03:55min

- Reading speed

- Writing Quality - Clover Systems

Very good writing with Verbatim CD-RW media.


9. DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x
The DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x is one of the cornerstones in DVD quality control equipment, and is truly unique in the industry. It allows checking of replicated DVDs with single and dual layer structure (DVD-5, DVD-9, DVD-10, DVD-14, DVD-18) and written DVD recordable, at 1X and 2X speed. It is based on the Pulstec Reference Pickup and Drive, developed in close co-operation with Pulstec and according to the standards of the DVD Forum.

In short, the device's features include:

An explanation of the various parameters the DaTARIUS DVD Analyzer R 2x offers is available here. At the same page, you can read more details about the error signals and a brief analysis the possible meaning of its parameter in the overall quality of each burn.

In the following pages, we present the writing quality measurements of various DVD recordable and rewritable media, burned with the Pioneer BDC-202 BD-ROM reader / DVD/CD burner.


10. CMC MAG AE1

We start our DVD writing quality measurements with DVD-R media. A variety of different MIDs were selected and burned at the maximum allowed speed. In each of the following pages, you will find detailed information about each disc, the burning and reading procedure as well as the related signal measurements that construct the overall quality picture for each disc.

You can always navigate across to the different MIDs in this review, using the page navigation drop down menu.

- Media Info

- Writing - 8x (7.65x average) in 08:11min

 

- Reading - 12X (09.33X average)

 

DaTARIUS Scans -

Not a good start for the Pioneer drive, since the measurements show POFs (uncorrectable errors) and many PISum8 Errors. The problem area seems to be around or just before the 30mm mark and during the jump up in speed from 6x to 8x (Z-CLV). This change in the laser power most probably caused the spike in the digital error graph, however the disc was still readable.


11. CMC MAG AM3

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 12x (9.46x average) in 07:06min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.34x average)

 

DaTARIUS Scans -

A generally good burn here, although there were a few PIE and PISum8 errors (correctable errors). PISum8 reached the limits at the very end of the burning process.


12. DAXON016S

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 12x (9.46x average) in 07:07min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.44X average)

 

DaTARIUS Scans -

A very good burn with this DVD-R disc from Daxon.


13. FUJIFILM03

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 8x (7.64x average) in 08:09min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.34X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

This time, the 6x-8x Z-CLV strategy did not impact on the quality of the disc.


14. OPTODISCR008

- Media Info

- Writing - 8x (7.63x average) in 08:12min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.33X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

Excellent writing at 8x.


15. Prodisc F02

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 8x (7.64x average) in 08:09min

 

 

- Reading - 12X (9.34X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

Another good burn from the Pioneer BDC-202, this tme at 12X :-)


16. RITEK F1

- Media Info

- Writing - 12x (9.45x average) in 07:07min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.37X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

As we can see above from the first DaTARIUS graph, there is a high amount of of PIsum8 errors at the speed change to 12x. Readability was not influenced though.


17. TTH02

- Media Info

- Writing

- Reading

 

The drive did not manage to burn the specific disc. A new firmware could possibly add a better writing strategy for the TTH02 MID. We should remind you here, that our sample drive is a PRE-production sample, which means that we expect further improvements in the drive's behavior by the time it reaches the market.


18. MCC 03RG20

- Media Info

- Writing - 12x (9.44x average) in 07:06min

- Reading - 12X (9.44X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

We expected better quality from the drive with the Verbatim disc. We had no uncorrectable errors, although PISum8 was increased.


19. CMC MAG E01

- Media Info

- Writing - 8x (7.63x average) in 08:17min

- Reading - 12X (9.45X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

 

 

Uncorrectable errors with the specific MID. POFs were reported, while some areas of the disc could not be measured by the DaTARIUS drive, revealing possible bad sectors. The CD-DVD Speed reading test looks good though.

We should note here that POFs occur when the decoder is unable to correct all the data within an ECC block after attempting one pass of PI Row correction and PO column correction. The wording "one pass" is important because a commercial decoder is usually designed to make several passes or attempts during error correction. There is a possibility that bad bytes may be corrected in one of the subsequent passes. The decoders of DVD testers such the DaTARIUS system, use one pass during error correction. As a result, in some cases where POFs are reported by the tester, these can be corrected by commercial players and drives during reading due to multiple passes.


20. DAXON AZ3

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 12x (9.44x average) in 07:18min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.40X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

As in the case of the previous disc, the analyser could not perform measurements over the complete data area. Again, the suspicious unreadable areas were read by the drive itself, as you can see from the CDSpeed reading graph.


21. OPTODISC OR8

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 8x (7.61x average) in 08:23min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.36X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -


22. PRODISC R04

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 12x (9.44x average) in 07:17min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.44X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

 

 

 

We have seen this behavior again with a previously measured DVD. PISum8 and PIF spikes appear at the point were the Pioneer drive changes to the next speed zone, which in this case is from 8x to 12x. The readability of the disc was not affected, although Pioneer should look at this issue.


23. RICOHJPN R01

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 4x (3.97x average) in 14:56min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.35X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -


24. RICOHJPN R03 (004)

- Media Info

- Writing - 12x (9.44x average) in 07:17min

- Reading - 12X (9.45X average)

rticles/Sources/P/Pioneer BD-ROM BDC-202/images/DVD+R/RICOHJPN%20R03%20004%20(04h)/disc%20read_edited_2.png" width="168" height="186" align="middle">

DaTARIUS Scans -

Another case where the zone change produces high PISum8 errors, but again the disc is readable and the writing in general on the rest of the disc is stable.


25. MCC 004

- Media Info

- Writing - 12x (9.43x average) in 07:18min

 

 

- Reading - 12X (9.44X average)

 

 

DaTARIUS Scans -


26. YUDEN000 T03

- Media Info

- Writing - 12x (9.43x average) in 07:18min

- Reading - 12X (9.42X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

The POF spike at around the 48mm radius on the disc looks like an isolated case and should most probably be attributed to a local defect on the disc's surface.RADIAL1 and RADIAL2 signals were also increased at the same area, meaning that the analyser's PUH had to move left or right in order to follow the pits on the disc.

The CDSpeed reading graph recorded a brief drop in the reading speed at the same point, but quickly recovers and continues reading at the expected speed.


27. MKM 03RD30

- Media Info

- Writing - 4x (3.95x average) in 27:44min

 

- Reading - 8x (6.30X average)

 

DaTARIUS Scans -

Layer 0

Layer 1

Measurements on Layer 0 of the disc reported POFs at isolated points over the entire data area (i.e. it wasn't limited to just the beginning or the end of the disc surface).


28. RITEK S04 001

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 4x (3.95x average) in 27:11min

 

 

- Reading - 8X (6.30X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

Layer 0

Layer 1


29. MKM 003 000

- Media Info

 

- Writing - 4x (3.95x average) in 27:09min

 

- Reading - 12X (9.34X average)

DaTARIUS Scans -

Layer 0

Layer 1


30. MKM 01RW6X01

- Media Info

- Writing - 6x (6.00x average) in 10:19min

- Reading - 8X (6.29X average)

 

- Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000

A perfect writing for Pioneer BDC-202 on DVD-RW reporting no POF(uncorrectable errors)

- About Almedio AEC-1000

The AEC-1000 consists of a DVD Drive and the "ALChecker" error measurement application which can check the written data quality. The application is capable of 1X CLV measurement as well as 4X CLV on DVD-Video/ROM and finalized DVD+R/-R media.

There are three measurement modes:
Fine Mode: checks a series of eight consecutive ECC blocks,
Rough Mode: checks eight consecutive ECC blocks every 100h ECC blocks
Quick Mode: checks three specified areas

The checking status is shown graphically in real time while you can save the error graph at the end of the test. The reported errors are the PI and the UncPO. In the case of PI, it counts the number of rows corrected by the PI error correction in each group of eight consecutive ECC blocks. In the case of UncPO, it counts the number of ECC blocks in which more than one byte is uncorrectable in eight consecutive ECC blocks. For our quality scans, we set for 1X CLV and Fine Mode which is the slowest and with the safest results. Also, we chose to measure all the media burned at the maximum available writing speed.


31. MKM A03
Verbatim MKM A03 DVD+RW

- Media Info

- Writing - 6x (5.99x average) in 10:27min

- Reading - 8X (6.30X average)

- Writing Quality - Almedio AEC-1000


32. Media List

In the following table, we have gathered the findings of the DVD quality measurement tests. Note that each disc was measured under the same conditions with the DaTARIUS equipment. On the left side of the table, you can find the discs that did not produce uncorrectable digital errors, while on the right side are the rest of the discs. For detailed measurement data, visit the corresponding pages.

Media type
Digital errors within limits
Digital errors exceed limits
DVD-R
DAXON 16S burned at 12x CMC MAG AE1 burned at 8x
FUJIFILM03 burned at 8x CMC MAG AM3 burned at 12x
OPTODISCR008 burned at 8x RITEKF1 burned at 12x
ProdiscF02 burned at 8x TTH02 Produced Error at Burning Process
  Verbatim MCC 03RG20 burned at 12x
DVD+R
Optodisc OR8 burned at 8x CMC MAG E01 burned at 8x
RICOHJPN R01 002 burned at 4x Daxon AZ3 burned at 12x
Verbatim MCC 004 burned at 12x PRODISC R04 004 burned at 12x
  RICOHJPN R03 004 burned at 12x
  YUDEN000 T03 burned at 12x
DVD-R DL   Verbatim MKM 03RD30 burned at 4x
DVD+R DL   Verbatim MKM 003 burned at 4x
  RITEK S04 001 burned at 4x
DVD+RW Verbatim MKM A03 burned at 6x  
DVD-RW Verbatim MKM 01RW6X01 burned at 6x  

- Booktype Settings

The drive does not support booktype feature...

- DVD Overburning

 

As we can see, the drive does not support overburning of DVD recordable media, according to CDSpeed.


33. Playback Tests

Without doubt, the strong feature of the Pioneer drive is its ability to play BD-ROM movies.

The drive's specifications indicate that SL BD-ROMs are read at 5x while DL at 2x. Before we proceed with the playback tests, we should mention the hardware/software requirements for reproducing HD content on your PC.

The following graph could be useful.

The Pioneer BDC-202 supports the AACS copy-protection technology, which is essential for playing BD-ROM movies. Certified Output Protection Protocol (COPP) or the "Protected Media Path" (PMP) is required in order to prevent "stealing" of video and audio content as they flow from the main memory of the PC to the video and audio cards. These are currently handled by Windows XP SP2 and Vista, which are the operating systems that currently support Blu-Ray playback. Your graphics card should also comply with the COPP and PMP environments.

In addition, the graphics card should support the HDCP technology, that encrypts HD video content that is streamed through an HDMI or an HDCP-DVI port to prevent illegal copying. But of course, HDCP is applied to the digital outputs of your graphics cards (DVI or HDMI), at least for now. This means that Blu-Ray video can also be streamed through an analogue (VGA) port to your monitor, at least until the VGA ports eclipse from graphics cards and CE devices in general, sometime in 2012 according to the industry's plans. But for all those who need to stream their video through a digital video output, a digital monitor or TV set (HDCP, HDMI) is required.

Staying with the graphics card, it should also have a GPU strong enough to handle the demanding decoding of the Blu-Ray video (MPEG2, H.264 or VC1). Pioneer suggests an Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX or later model, or an AMD Radeon x1950Pro or later model, with the latest graphics drivers installed.

Minimum hardware requirements also apply to the CPU and memory. An Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 or higher, as well as 1 GB or more RAM is required for flawless Blu-Ray playback.

Alternatively, for all those who do not plan to upgrade their CPU anytime soon, both AMD and Nvidia suggest using their latest graphical solutions that feature "Hardware offloading" technology. This means that the new GPUs as special software enhancements could allow playback of Blu-Ray movies on "legacy" PCs, without the need of having to introduce a new, costly and high-specification CPU, i.e. Intel Core 2 Duo.

These GPUs are the following:

Playback tests

For our playback test, we used Cyberlink's Power DVD Ultra software (COPP ready) and our movie was "Open Season" from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.. The specific MPEG 2 movie is stored on a single-layer BD-ROM (25GB), and features HD widescreen 1.85:1 video, multilingual language support and PCM 5.1 audio. In addition, the movie was region-free.

Once we inserted the disc in the Pioneer drive and fired up Cyberlink's Power DVD Ultra software, we were prompted to set a region for our drive, a simple procedure also which you come across when using a DVD drive for DVD playback for the first time:

But again the following window popped up showing us that our graphics card was not appropriate for BD playback.

Our computer was running with a RADEON 7500 series graphics card, which obviously did not meet the requirements. In order to see the exact specification which we needed in order to perform playback, we downloaded Cyberlink's BD/HD Advisor, a useful utility that gives users basic guidance on hardware requirements for Blu-Ray PC set up.

As you can see from the above snapshot, not only our graphics card, but the processor, system memory, graphics card driver and our display device which was analog and did not supported HDCP, did not meet the Blue Ray requirements. After pressing the info button (in the right-most column) we were directed to Cyberlink's web site where the minimum requirements are described (http://www.cyberlink.com/multi/support/answerbox_productfaq.jsp?FID=25)

So, under these circumstances we proceeded to make system changes....

As you can see above, we still had problems with the processor and system memory, but the graphics card was now accepted (GeFOrce 8800 GTS). So, we gave it a try to see if we could perform the playback. The movie played well, although the picture froze a couple of times. The reason was most probably due to low memory, to a lesser degree the relatively slow CPU.

After upgrading our processor to a Core 2 Duo E6400 and the memory to 1GB, the Blu-Ray movie playback was flawless. In addition, we paused and Fast Forwarded the movie several times, in order to detect possible playback problems. Everything worked just fine, as you can see from the information provided by Power DVD Ultra while playing the movie, in the snapshots below.


34. Conclusion

logo Blu-Ray technology has not become mainstream yet, basically due to the lack of content on the market and the high price of the related hardware. Pioneer seems to have made a significant step in making the Blu-Ray disc format more popular among PC users, with the new BDC-202.

When we received our Pre-production sample, our enthusiasm was constrained because of the possible problems we might face during testing, due to the early stage of its hardware/software. However, the results looked impressive.

Starting with the CD/DVD reading tests, the drive was fast enough for everyday needs with all CD/DVD formats. The average CD error correction capability of the drive is certainly compensated for by the positive behavior of the drive with defective DVD-ROM/Video discs. Audio extraction was also adequately fast and accurate.

DVD recording speeds were limited to 12x maximum for DVD recordables. This might seem slow to the majority of DVD burning enthusiasts. However, the writing quality of the burned DVD+R/-R media was high with the most of the media we tried. The drive also burned accurately with DVD-RW/+RW discs, while its performance with some DVD R DL media could be better.

Moving on to Blu-Ray support, we welcome the drive's ability to play back Blu-Ray movies as well as read BD-R /RE media, including dual-layer BD-Rs (50GB). With the appropriate PC configuration, the Pioneer BD-202 will transform your computer into a Blu-ray entertainment home PC.

With the majority of the Blu-Ray burners currently available for around $500, and the boom in the high-definition movie production, especially in the U.S., Pioneer seems to have wisely decided to focus on Blu-Ray playback support for the PC with the specific model. Priced at around $300, the BDC-202 (BDC-S02 retail) could still be considered as expensive for the masses, but it could definitely replace your current DVD burner in your high-end PC. The drive will be introduced in Europe and the U.S. markets around the end of June.

The generally high performance of the Pioneer drive, especially considering that we tested a Pre-production sample, leaves us with no option but to give it our Editor's Choice Award.

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