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Appeared on: Monday, February 18, 2002
Panasonic LF-D311 DVD-R


1. Introduction

Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 1

Introduction

Panasonic announced in the 24th of April 2001 a new combo drive that supports both "DVD-RAM" and "DVD-R" recording technologies. In addition to reading and writing to both DVD-RAM (rewritable) and DVD-R (write-once) discs, the multifunction drive provides all of the functionality of the DVD Forum specifications for DVD-RAM and DVD-R General, including maximum compatibility with DVD video players, recorders and DVD-ROM drives. Panasonic's new DVD-RAM/R solution is scheduled to begin shipping to OEM customers and channel partners in the second quarter of 2001 and will have a price under 500$.

- Used Technologies

Panasonic achieved the media interchangeability by developing an integrated lens/dual-laser opto-mechanical assembly. The optical pick-up is composed of high-power red lasers and optic detectors in the same unit. This allows compatibility with optical discs of varying substrate thickness such as DVDs (0.6mm) and various types of CDs (1.2mm). The drive uses one len and the 780nm laser to read all compact discs and the 650nm laser to read and write DVD-RAM and DVD-R general discs. Unlike to the DVD-R for professional authoring, which uses a laser with a wavelength of 635nm, the Panasonic DVD-R for general applications uses a 650nm light source, making it physically compatible with DVD-RAM technology which also uses a 650nm laser diode.

Is there such market for DVD-RAM/R drives?

Panasonic feels that there is such a market. DVD-RAM is already established mostly among professionals which are occupied with video editing and the addition of DVD-R format will allow users to be benefited from the total compatibility of the format:

"...The drive is compatible with every leading video authoring packages that will enable consumers and businesses to download video and stills from digital cameras and camcorders to their desktops, edit them, and enhance them with audio. A business that will be adding products to a training film or a home user that wants to compile a full season of their child's sports events will store their video on DVD-RAM. By saving the videos to DVD-RAM media, users can continue to add and delete videos or edit existing videos.  A business can add and remove products from a marketing video, update a kiosk video, or improve instructions on a training video.  Home users can add to videos and photo albums on discs designated for special memories, vacations or individual family members.  

For small-scale distribution, relatively small quantities (2-50 copies) of  DVD-R general copies can be quickly, easily and economically produced in real time and played back by most of the DVD-ROM drives and video players in use today. No matter how many copies are produced, each will be as clean and crisp as the original ? even if a copy of a copy.  If the video requires broad distribution, a master can be cut and sent to a service bureau for DVD-ROM production.

Many of the same capabilities that make the DVD-RAM/R drive so appealing for AV applications provide key benefits to other applications such as computer-aided engineering and graphic design, pre-press, and document imaging, as well as Web server storage and site downloading. Panasonic's new DVD-RAM/R drive is designed to move easily from AV to the computer, to TV and the Web. It is what mainstream users have wanted in DVD all along..."

- Product specifications

With the ability to write to and read from general-purpose 4.7GB DVD-R discs and 4.7GB/9.4GB DVD-RAM discs, the multifunction drive provides the familiarity of CD-R/RW. Other features are the ability to play back DVD video, DVD-ROM and DVD-R discs, and the 24x CD reading performance. Using the 4.7GB DVD-R General media, the Panasonic DVD-RAM/R drive provides a transfer rate up to 11.08 Mbps, which is equivalent to about 9 times the transfer rate of a CD-ROM's 1X speed. The 22.16 Mbps transfer rate for 4.7GB DVD-RAM is translated to a 18x CD data rate. Seek times are 75ms for DVD-RAM and 65ms DVD-R, DVD-ROM and CD media.

Specifications of LF-D311
Capacity:
4.7/9.4GB DVD-RAM (rewritable)
2.6/5.2GB DVD-RAM (rewritable)
4.7GB DVD-R General Use (write-once)
Data Transfer Rate (IF Interface):
Ultra DMA Mode 2: max. 33.3MB/s
PIO Mode 4: max. 16.6MB/s
Write Data Transfer Rate:
4.7GB DVD-RAM 1385KB with verifying
2.6GB DVD-RAM 690KB with verifying
4.7GB DVD-R 1385KB without verifying
Read Transfer Rate:
DVD-RAM (4.7GB) : 2770KBps (2x)
DVD-RAM (2.6GB) : 1385KBps (1x)
DVD-ROM: 8310KBps (6x)
CD-ROM/CD-R: 3600KBps (24x)
CD-RW: 1800KBps (12x)
Average Seek Time:
DVD-RAM 75ms
DVD-ROM/R, CD-ROM: 65ms
Write Compatibility:
4.7GB DVD-RAM
2.6GB DVD-RAM
4.7GB DVD-R (General)
Read Compatibility:
CD-DA, CD-ROM/XA, Photo CD, Video CD,
CD-Extra CD-R, CD-RW at max. 24x
DVD-ROM, DVD-R at max. 6x
DVD-RAM (4.7GB at 2x , 2.6GB at 1x)
Buffer Capacity:
1MB
Power Supply:
12V/5V, 5%
Dimensions (W H D):
146 41.3 196 mm
5.75" 1.63" 7.72"
Weight:
1.1 kg (2.4 lbs.)

Initially, the drive will be supplied with an ATAPI interface for OEMs and third-party subsystem suppliers. Several third-party firms already offer Panasonic Combination drives with SCSI2, USB and IEEE-1394/FireWire connectivity. Panasonic and other firms have already developed Windows Me, Windows 9X, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Macintosh OS 8.4 and above, Linux and UNIX support. Other drivers are under development.


2. DVD-RAM Technology

Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 2

DVD-RAM Technology

Panasonic was the first ever company that shipped DVD-RAM drives back in 1998. The format was approved by the DVD Forum. DVD-RAM media provides a 4.7GB per side storage capacity and uses phase change technology for recording. Using DVD Forum standard lossless video editing technology, individual 2kB data blocks can be replaced with a high degree of accuracy. Random access allows DVD-RAM users to instantly jump to any location on the disc, repeat sections, and pause for as long as necessary. Instant access to specific sections of the disc and the ability to write and erase individual sectors speeds up the video development because users can quickly jump back from one scene to another during editing. Since there's no waiting for rewinds, random access also speeds the file recovery from backup discs.

With the DVD-RAM format, data marks are placed along a continuous track. The spiral track is designed to be placed in both the grooves and the spaces between the grooves (called land) which provide the opportunity for greater storage density. The DVD+RW proposal calls for data marks to be placed only along the continuous spiral track which, as storage density requirements increase, will limit storage capacity.

DVD-RAM technology also incorporates comprehensive Defect Sector Management (DSM) technology, similar to the technology used by hard drives, to ensure that data is not written to a defective sector. Because DVD-RAM uses redundant addressing and redundant timing information, data recovery is also more reliable. If an address sector is unreadable, the sector can be located using the last good address and time between address sectors. Likewise, damaged user data can be recovered using the DVD ECC (Error Correction Code).

- The media

The Panasonic drive can write DVD-R (for General Use) and DVD-RAM media. It supports 4.7GB DVD-R (General Use) and 2.6GB/5.2GB/4.7GB/ 9.4GB DVD-RAM discs. In case of DVD-RAM media the 5.2GB and 9.4GB are dual sided (2.6/4.7GB per side) media. The attached DVD-RAM media come in a caddy, which ensures the maximum protection of your data. There is also DVD-RAM without cartridge in a lower cost. The price of the media isL LM-HA94 ($26), LM-HC47 ($8) and LM-HB47 ($14).

The special design of Panasonic's LF-D311 can handle both DVD-RAM media with or without caddy. The DVD-RAM media have the following advantages over other DVD re-writable formats, as Panasonic states:

- High data security
- Rewritable 100,000 times!
- Drag & Drop – just like a hard disk
- Fast, random access
- 30 year media life
- Cartridge option to protect valuable data
- No additional software needed

As it happens with DVD-R media, in the DVD-RAM media you can write up to 4.38GB of data. In the DVD world, 1 Gigabyte is 1,000,000,000 (109) bytes, whereas in the computer world, 1 Gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 (230) bytes. Therefore a 4.7-GB computer hard disk contains more data than a 4.7-GB DVD.

- The package

The package supplied was the retail Europe version. This included: The drive itself, 1 piece of Panasonic's 4.7GB DVD-RAM media, 1 piece of Panasonic's 4.7GB DVD-R media, Panasonic DVD-RAM drivers, IDE cable and mounting screws. The attached software is: Prassi PrimoDVD v2.0x, Sonic DVD It!, Cyberlink Power DVD and Cyberlink Power VCR II. The drive has 1 year warranty and costs around $450. You should expect price to drop down in the near future due to competition...

The front of the drive is what we can call "generic". The drive doesn't have the Panasonic's logo on the front of it, while it has the "DVD-RAM/R" and "4.7GB" logos, which indicate the DVD writing capabilities. You will also find only one led, the eject button and not the usual headphone input jack/volume selector:

On the back of the drive we will find the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for assigning the drive as a Master/Slave, the SPDIF output connector and the analog/digital output connectors:

- Installation

The Panasonic LF-D311 was installed as Master in the secondary IDE BUS. The drive worked in UDMA33 mode and after booting, identified itself as the "MATSHITA DVD-RAM LF-D310". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was a September 2001 model with firmware revision vA113 installed. We mainly used Nero v5.5.5.6/7 for the recording tests. Note that the drive supports Buffer Underrun Protection, when writing DVD-R media(!) as Nero and our tests showed...

The drive is RPC2, which means that you can change its DVD region only 4 times. The CDVDInfo v1.35 software gives the needed RPC2 confirmation.

- Test Machine

WinMe/XP OS's
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
WD 18GB UDMA 66
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
ATI AIW 128
Pioneer DVR-A03 firmware v1.65
Panasonic LF-D311 firmware vA113
Ricoh MP5120A firmware v1.30


3. CD Data Tests

Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 3

CD Data Tests

- Test Method

* SCSI Mechanic v3.0x: This was used to compare the drive's I/O performance against other various CDR-W drives (see charts). We used a pressed CD containing PlexTools v1.08 for all tests.

* Nero CD Speed v0.84b was also used to check the drive's performance with pressed CDs. For that test, we also used the PlexTools v1.08 pressed CD.

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x results

The Panasonic LF-D311 has good performance for a 24x CD-ROM reader. It managed to outperform Pioneer DVR-A03 but stays behind Ricoh MP5120A, which however is a 32x reader. The Average Random I/O score is not as good as the specs say.

- Nero CD Speed v0.84 results: (Click to see the CD Speed Graph)

Using Nero CD Speed 0.84, we can see that Panasonic LF-D311 average reading speed is 20.27X. The drive starts reading at 12.14X and ends at 26.59X.

We thought that Ricoh's MP5120A "seek times" results were impressive. Panasonic manages to further reduce the seek times around 91ms in the random access test.

- PSX Pressed Media

For this test we used the PSX game 'NBA Jam Extreme' and we ripped the image to HD with CloneCD. We measured the reading times for the Panasonic LF-D311, which was very low compared to other drives (84secs):

- CDR Media: (Click to see the CD Speed graph)

With CDR media, the Panasonic LF-D311 has an even higher reading speed of 20.7X compared to the pressed CD results.

- DVD Speed v0.52: (Graphs for DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW , DVD-RAM)

The Panasonic LF-D311 has 6X (max) DVD reading speed which enough for our daily needs.

The DVD seek times of the Panasonic LF-D311 with DVD Speed were very low, which leads us to the conclusion that there is some kind of bug here. The DVD Speed gives zero (0) seek times for random use and 63ms for full stroke.

When ripping DVD movies, the Panasonic LF-D311 give an 6764Kb/s average transfer rate, which is the highest among the three tested drives.

The Panasonic LF-D311 cannot recognize the DVD+RW media. The results with DVD-R/RW media are very good. Lastly, the drive reads the DVD-RAM media with a 2698Kb/s transfer rate (CLV).

- Movie Tests

We tested the Panasonic LF-D311 with many DVDs and our overall impression was very good. When we played the DVD movies, the average CPU Usage was 45% using PowerDVD v3.0 Build 0421. We noticed no problems during DVD playback.


4. RW reading tests
Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 4

RW reading tests

- Nero CD Speed v0.84 Test: (Click to see the CD Speed graph)

For the RW tests, we used Ricoh's 4-10x HS-RW media. The Panasonic's average reading speed with HS-RW media is 9.74X, which is lower than Ricoh's MP5120A:

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure

We used CloneCD (v3.1.1.0) and 5 original CDs - Euro 2000 (SafeDisc 1), No One Lives For Ever (SafeDisc 2), Rally Masters (LaserLock 1), Desperados (LaserLock 2) and V-Rally 2 Expert (SecuROM 2) - in order to test the reading performance of the drive. We also tested its reading performance with backups of the original CDs, since the reading speed varies between the original and the backup media. The following pictures show the drive's reading capabilities:

- SafeDisc 1/2 Results

The Panasonic LF-D311 performed very well with SafeDisc protected CDs. The drive needs 6mins to complete the task but is slower than Ricoh MP5120A.

With SafeDisc v2.0 protected CDs, the Panasonic DVD Burner performed lower than with SD1 CDs but close to Ricoh MP5120A.

- LaserLock 1/2 Results

In the LaserLock 1/2 protected CDs tests, the Panasonic LF-D311 performs quite low, especially with the original CD...

- SecuROM Results

The Panasonic LF-D311 can read only 16bytes from Data/Audio tracks (and not 96bytes) of Subchannel Data. The drive's performance is very satisfactory.


5. DAE Tests

Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 5

DAE Tests

- Test Method

We used CD DAE 99 v0.21 beta and EAC v0.9 prebeta 11 software in order to check the DAE performance of the drive with various AudioCDs (both pressed and CDR). The posted DAE results are the average of both applications, but the CPU usage was only taken from CD DAE 99, since EAC occupies the system a lot more. As a last note, we used the "BURST" reading mode of EAC. We made a full CD Rip starting from the first to the last track of the CD. The Average DAE reported speed along with the CPU Usage is displayed in the test graphs.

- DAE features

We used EAC v0.9 prebeta 11 to examine the drive's features. As the program reported, the drive doesn't "Caching" data, supports "Accurate Stream" and "C2" error info.

- Pressed AudioCD results - (Click to see the Nero CD Speed graph)

The Panasonic LF-D311 supports up to 24x, when ripping AudioCDs (both pressed/cdr). Its real performance was close to 19.3X, faster than Pioneer DVR-A03 but also slower than Ricoh MP5120A. No error occured during the ripping process:

- CDR AudioCD results - (Click to see the Nero CD Speed graph)

The Panasonic LF-D311 performed well with CDR Audio discs. The drive has 19.4X average reading speed, while the Ricoh MP5120A is faster with 23.7X:

- EAC Secure Extract Ripping mode

After many requests from numerous visitors we have added the EAC's secure extract ripping mode results, which ensures maximum produced WAV quality. Note that for each drive we used the build-in detection function:

Tested Drives
Average DAE Speed (X)
Pressed
CDR
Pioneer DVR-A03
1.6
1.6
Ricoh MP5120A
12.3
11.6
Panasonic LF-D311
13.9
10.8

- Advanced DAE Quality

The Panasonic LF-D311 gets a 100 score (best) in the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test. The drive's average reading speed was 19.27x and no errors were produced. As the following picture shows, the drive cannot read CD-Text but can read SubChannel Data:

- Bad CDR Media results

Despite the fact that CD Speed 99 Advanced DAE test stretches drive's mechanism to the max, we decided to do real life tests with a scratched disc. The disc was dirty, and with some light scratches, enough in order cause problems to most of the tested drives. We used CD DAE 99 software to rip the whole disc (756539616 sectors) and the results were very interesting:

Average Speed (X)
Errors
Errors Of Total Disc (%)
Pioneer DVR-A03
7.0
68804154
9.09
Ricoh MP5120A
8.7
31033674
4.10
Panasonic LF-D311
*
*
*

With the Panasonic LF-D311, CD DAE crashed all the times, when trying to rip our bad CDR media...

- Ripping 90 and 99mins AudioCDs

The Panasonic LF-D311 cannot recognize 90 and 99 min CDs.


6. The Attached Software

Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 6

The Attached Software

The Panasonic LF-D311 comes with a "drivers" CD for installing the drive at Win9X/2k operating systems. Among with the windows drivers, several other utilities will be included for performing several tasks. Note that you MUST install the driver pack or else the DVD-RAM part cannot be used.

- Driver software

A program that allows the DVD-RAM drive to be used in a Windows 98/Me/2k environment, and to allow reading from and writing to UDF format discs. That includes the "DVD-RAM/R device driver" ,a device driver that enables Windows to properly communicate with the DVD-RAM/R, among with the "UDF file system driver" ,a device driver that enables Windows to read from and write to a UDF formatted DVD-RAM disc.

After installing the driver pack, Windows will recognize the LF-D311 as a removable drive and with simple drag&drop moves you will be able to start backup your important data. The Windows XP users should download the newest driver pack over here.

- Format software (DVDForm)

A DVD-RAM disc can be formatted using either UDF (Universal Disk Format) or FAT format. Use the format appropriate to your needs. Format 2.8 GB (8 cm) / 5.2 GB / 9.4 GB double-sided DVD-RAM discs one side at a time. The attached 4.7GB DVD-RAM media wasn't formatted. As soon DVDForm was loaded we had to format the disc in order be able to use it. There are 4 available format options:

- UDF (Universal Disk Format): UDF is newly specified for the DVD family of products to enable a high level of data compatibility between DVD-ROM, DVD-R and DVD-RAM. This new format is optimized for big capacity files, such as Video and Audio capture and playback, to keep constant, high transfer rates. When the UDF is used for formatting, files may be displayed more slowly in Explorer.

Select “Universal Disk Format (UDF 2.0)” when you are going to use the DVD-RAM disc to write audio-visual data. Select this format only if the disc is to be played in a DVD Recorder that uses the DVD Forum's video recording standard or with the recording software designed for personal computers that is based on the above standard, or if an 8-cm DVD-RAM is to be used in a DVD video camera.

- FAT Format: FAT is the Windows OS embedded file system and used for hard disk drives. Compared with UDF, it is good for small random file access.

We selected UDF v1.50 and a warning message appeared, prompting us to insert a volume label:

After 18secs (!) our disc was formatted and has the following properties:

- Region setting software (DVDRgn)

Allow you to set the region number for DVDs. Only 4 changes are possible:

- RAMDiscTool (Before using non-cartridge discs)

It enables you to take full advantage of the characteristics of non-cartridge DVD-RAM discs. You can perform various tasks such as:

* Drive Setting for Non-cartridge DVD-RAM Disc: The drive can be set to “Enable to write” or “Disable to write” for non-cartridge DVD-RAM discs. The drive has been factory-setted to “Enable to write”, so it is unnecessary to change this setting. It is usually unnecessary to change this setting.

* Dust Check for DVD-RAM Disc: There are 3 levels of disc dustiness; level 3 is the dustiest. The results should only be used as a guide and should not be considered a guarantee of the disc's ability to read or write.

* Write-Protect Setting for DVD-RAM Disc: With non-cartridge DVD-RAM discs, you are unable to use the write-protect tab on the cartridge to protect your data. This software allows you to protect data on non-cartridge DVD-RAM discs. Once a DVD-RAM disc is set to the write-protected mode, it is valid until this setting is canceled by this software. This software can only be used with 4.7GB DVD-RAM/R drive. The Write-protect Setting is not applied to 2.6 GB DVD-RAM discs.

- ODDiag (Drive/Disc Diagnostic Utility)

A utility that provides functionality to check the DVD-RAM/R drive and disc and to make copies of DVD-RAM discs. You can also upgrade the firmware.


7. DVD Tests
Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 7

DVD Tests

- Writing Performance

We used Nero 5.5.5.7 and wrote the same amount of data for all Pioneer DVR-A03/Ricoh DVD+RW MP5120A and Panasonic LF-D311 drives. The results are listed in the following table among with the average CPU Usage:

DVD Recording Tests
Drives
Writing Speed
Average Writing Time (min)
Average CPU Usage (%)
Ricoh MP5120A (DVD+RW)
(2.4x)
23:02
19
Pioneer DVR-A03 (DVD-R)
(2x)
28:22
14
(1x)
56:24
7
Pioneer DVR-A03 (DVD-RW)
(1x)
56:25
6
Panasonic LF-D311 (DVD-R)
(1x)
56:24
7

Panasonic LF-D311 needs 56:24mins to write an almost full 4.7GB disc. The recording time is the same as with Pioneer's DVR-A03 in 1X writing speed. The Pioneer DVR-A03 has the advantage of writing at 2x writing speed, reducing the burning time at half. The Ricoh MP5120A is the faster DVD Burner with 2.4X re-writing speed.

- DVD-RAM Performance

We used the DVD Speed v0.52 build-in test for DVD-RAM media (reading/writing) and below are the test results:

DVD-RAM UDF v1.50 Formatted Reading Tests (x=1385Kb/s)
Drives
Average Writing Speed
Average Reading Speed
Panasonic LF-D311
0.88x
1.94x

The Panasonic drive doesn't write at exactly at 1X (1385Kb/s) in the DVD-RAM format. That result is also confirmed after making real life tests - drag & drop 4.21GB from HD to the DVD-RAM media. The drive needed 1:02:30 to complete the tests, which equals to 0.87X.

- DVD-RAM Compatibility Tests

As we expected, DVD-RAM has low compatibility with DVD-ROM drives. We tested a written DVD-RAM disc in several DVD-ROMs but none of them did recognize it. However, the list of compatible DVD-ROM drives becomes longer and almost all DVD-ROM models from Hitachi/Toshiba and Panasonic support DVD-RAM.

- Data Defect Management Tests

Since DVD-RAM is the only format that supports Defect management we decided to test it with real life tests. For that propose we caused a rather big and deep scratch in the surface of the disc with a screwdriver.

We used the "Diagnotistic Utility" to see what damage we caused in our disc. After almost 2 hours the progress bar was at 20% and we decided to stop the reading inspection. Then a popup window informed us about the media condition:

After pressing "Ok", and if you press at "Details" you will get a list with all defective sectors:

The Diagnostic software however keeps reporting that there are no problems:

Afterwards, we tried to erase all written data and write above the damaged disc to confirm that the drive can actually skip the bad sectors and use the rest empty space. The tests results weren't satisfactory. After a while, an error message appeared and writing stopped. Then we thought to format media but after 2hours the "DVDForm" software stopped and another error message appeared:

So what's going on? Can the drive or not hanlde damanged DVD-RAM discs? As it seems, the Data Defect Management will not save your important data in such big and deep scratches. Perhaps only surface scratches can be handled from the drive. After all Panasonic suggests using a caddy for having the best possible safety of your data.


8. Conclusion

Panasonic LF-D311 IDE DVD-RAM/R - Page 8

Conclusion

Positive (+)

Negative (-)

- Supports DVD-R format
- Supports DVD-RAM format
- DVD-RAM has proven reability
- DVD-RAM has build-in defect management
- Supports anti-coaster DVD-R technology
- Very good Data reading performance
- High PSX ripping speed
- Good DAE ripping performance
- Very good access times
- Very good DVD playback/reading performance
- Supports reading of SubChannel data
- Supports Ultra-DMA 33

- DVD-R writing only at 1x
- Doesn't support CD writing/re-writing
- Doesn't support CD-Text reading
- DVD-RAM has limited compatibility with DVD Players/DVD-ROMs
- Price is almost as with Pioneer's DVR-A03
- Newer drives that will support DVD-R/RW/RAM formats already announced

Panasonic's goal was to combine two approved formats of the DVD forum in one drive. That is why the LF-D311 is called "DVD Burner". The drive supports writing at both DVD-R and DVD-RAM formats among with reading compatibility of all CD/DVD formats, except from DVD+RW. The writing with both DVD-R/RAM is done at 1X which means you will need almost one hour to write a full 4.7GB disc.

The DVD-RAM format has many advantages over DVD-RW/+RW and of course disadvantages. The possibility of writing at 2Kb segments among with the build-in defect management makes the format ideal for AV/Backup use. Already there are DV cameras that support DVD-RAM format. The main disadvantage is the low recording speed (1X) and the limited compatibility with DVD players and DVD-ROMs.

Let's now compare the drive with both Pioneer DVR-A03 and Ricoh MP5120A. The Pioneer has the advantage of both 1x/2x DVD-R writing speeds among with the CD-R/RW writing feature. The Panasonic drive supports only 1x DVD-R writing and doesn't support CD-R/RW writing. The Pioneer supports DVD-RW, which has higher compatibility than DVD-RAM but doesn't support any kind of defect management. Both DVD-RW/DVD-RAM writing is done at 1X. Both drives come with an one year warranty.

The Ricoh MP5120A supports 2.4X DVD+RW writing speed, which is the faster DVD re-writing speed anyone can find nowadays. The Ricoh drive supports CD-R/RW writing but doesn't include any kind of defect management, despite the fact that DVD+RW supports it. The DVD+RW has proven higher compatibility than DVD-RAM format and the MP5120A includes 2 years of warranty.

The choice between the 3 DVD burners is very easy if you consider your needs. All drives have different features/capabilities that will cover almost all your needs. If your needs include important backup of data, the DVD-RAM is the only format to go, due to build-in defect management. If you need to write as fast as possible DVD-R discs, the Pioneer DVR-A03 is a better choice. If you just want to re-write as fast as possible, the Ricoh MP5120A will save you valuable time.

In the near future hybrid drives that support all DVD-Forum approved formats (DVD-R/RW/RAM) will appear. That announcement should make you think if the timing of buying a DVD-R/RAM Recorder now is the right one...



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