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Appeared on: Monday, February 18, 2002
Philips DVDRW208 DVD+RW

1. Introduction

Philips DVD+RW 208 - Page 1

- Introduction
The end of 2001 is the time frame for the first batch of DVD+RW recorders. After having already testing Ricoh MP5120A, a second manufacturer, Philips, ships a similar DVD+RW proposal for the user who wishes both CD-R and DVD+RW recording capabilities. Both drives have similar features and you might expected that raw performance would be the same. Does Philips proposal has anything newer than Ricoh's MP5120A or all first DVD+RW recorders share the same level of performance? Lets find out...

- DVD+RW: Physical format

We have already covered the DVD+RW format in our Ricoh MP5120A review, but we will sum it up for new visitors. DVD+RW in short offers:

- Single-sided (4.7 GB) and double-sided (9.4GB) discs option
- Uses a bare disc - no cartridge required
- 650 nm laser (numerical aperture 0.65)
- Constant linear data density
- CLV and CAV recording
- Write speeds from 1x to 2.4x DVD-Video data rates
- Defect management handled by the drive
- Quick formatting
- Recording: (Sequential and random recording, 32 kB ECC blocks, Lossless linking) -

- The drive

The Philips DVD+RW208 supports 12x (CD) and 2.4x DVD+RW writing, 10x re-writing, 32x (CD) and 8x (DVD-ROM/+RW) reading. The drive also supports "SeamLess Link" in order to avoid buffer underruns for CD format and 'Thermo Balanced Writing' technology for optimum writing quality. Its writing speeds are: 2x, 4x, 8x, 12x (CLV) writing and 2x, 4x and 10x (CLV) re-writing.

The writing speed for DVD+RW format is 2.4X CLV (X factor is now 1385Kb/s) which is equivalent to the 20x CD-RW drives. The drive doesn't support CAV writing technology. Among with the attached 2MB of buffer, the drive includes buffer underrun protection for DVD+RW format with the name 'Loss less linking'. The drive doesn't support writing to DVD-R, DVD-RW and of course to DVD-RAM media.

- The package

The supplied package included only the bare drive among with a DVD+RW media and the necessary 'CDR Software'.

The European retail box will include: The drive itself, a quick start instruction guide, 1 piece of Philips 74min CD-R media, 1 piece of Philips DVD+RW media, audio cables and mounting screws. The attached software programs would be: Nero, InCD v3.12, Sonic MyDVD v3.0 Build 29143R and PowerDVD v3.0 Build 1102. The Entry prices for Philips DVD+RW are expected to be around $790-870 around Europe. Philips offers a 2 year warranty for all new models including the DVDRW208.

The front of the drive is something that we first meet in a drive. It contains the "DVD+RW", "Philips", "High-Speed RW" logos and of course the drive codename "DVD+RW200 Series". You will notice the 2 led, one for each format that lights up using a special "intense blue" LED, as also found in the Yamaha CRW3200E series. When the drive is reading in either of both formats the main led is in the blue state:

Drive is reading from DVD

Drive is reading from CD

Drive is writing to CD

Drive is writing to DVD+RW

When the drive records in either CD/DVD formats the main led lights up "red" giving the necessary information about the drive status. Lastly, you will find the eject button (again back lighted) and the headphone input jack/volume selector:

On the back of the drive there are the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for setting the drive as Master/Slave/Cable Select, the SPDIF output connector and 3 jumpers which are not used (factory reserved):

- Installation

The Philips DVD+RW208 was installed as SLAVE in the secondary IDE BUS. Philips suggested this connection mode for maximum compatibility. Even if the drive worked fine, we noticed that PC needs extra time to detect the drive during the boot process. Sometimes also the drive was not properly recognized and we had to shut down and re-power up the PC.

The drive worked in UDMA-2 mode and after boot up, it identified itself as the "Philips DVDRW1208". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was an October 2001 model with an initial firmware revision of v1.30. The drive is RPC2, which means that you can change its DVD region only 4 times. The DVD Region Info software gives the needed RPC2 confirmation (check right picture). We have no information if any region free firmware will be available, from third parties in the near future :-)

- Test Machine

WinMe/XP OSs
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
Ricoh MP5120 firmware v1.30
Pioneer DVR-A03 firmware v1.65
Panasonic LF-D311 firmware A113
Philips DVDRW208 firmware v1.30

2. Data Tests

Philips DVD+RW 208 - Page 2

Data Tests

- Test Method

* SCSI Mechanic v3.0x: This was used to compare the drive's I/O performance against other various recorders (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

Philips DVDRW208 is a very good performer with pressed CDs. The drive gives higher 'Average Sequential I/O' score than Ricoh MP5120A and its 'Average Random I/O' reading speed is 834kb/s. Both the Ricoh MP5120A and the Philips DVDRW208 seem to have similar performance.

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

Using Nero CD Speed 0.84, the Philips DVDRW208 is just 0.03X slower than Ricoh MP1502A. The drive starts reading at 14.84X and ends at 32.51X.

Both Philips DVDRW208 and Ricoh MP5120A have similar "seek times" results. The drive needs around 100ms for random disc access.

- 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 Philips DVDRW208, which is low (89secs). Only the Panasonic LF-D311 is faster:

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

With CDR media, again the Philips DVDRW208 performs a little lower than Ricoh MP5120A. The difference in the reading performance is higher now with 0.29X.

- DVD Speed v0.52: (DVD Speed graphs for DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW , DVD+RW)

The Philips DVDRW208 performed better with pressed DVD media than Ricoh MP5120A. The 8X DVD reading speed is enough for your daily tasks.

The seek times of the Philips DVDRW208 are higher than what the Ricoh MP5120A can give.

When ripping DVD movies, the Philips DVDRW208 has an average ripping performance of 7986Kb/s, higher than the competition.

Let us now check the drive performance when reading DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW media. As our tests results showed, the drive can read DVD-R and DVD+RW very fast but has problems in recognizing the DVD-RW media, as also happened with Ricoh MP5120A.

- Movie Tests

We tested the Philips DVDRW208 with many DVDs and our overall impression was very good. When playing DVD movies, the average CPU Usage was 48% using PowerDVD v3.0 Build 0421. We noticed no problems during DVD playback.

3. RW reading tests
Philips DVD+RW208 - Page 3

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 Philips's average reading speed with HS-RW media is 24.92X, lower than Ricoh 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 reading/writing capabilities of the drive:

- SafeDisc 1/2 Results

The Philips DVDRW208 really smashes the competition when reading SafeDisc 1/2 protected CDs. It needs only 3mins to end the task, which is much faster than other DVD recorders, including Ricoh MP5120A.

With SafeDisc v2.0 protected CDs, the Philips DVDRW208 performs lower than with SD1 CDs, but the final reading time is very good.

- LaserLock 1/2 Results

In the LaserLock 1/2 protected CDs test, the Philips DVDRW208 has lower reading performance than Ricoh MP5120A, with the original CD. When we used the backup disc, the drive reads it very fast.

- SecuROM Results

The Philips DVDRW208A can read SubChannel Data from Data/Audio tracks.

4. DAE Tests

Philips DVD+RW208 - Page 4

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:
As the EAC v0.9 prebeta 11 reported, the Ricoh MP5120A does support "Caching" of data, "Accurate Stream" and "C2 error info".

- Pressed AudioCD results: (Click to see CDSpeed Graph)

The Philips DVDRW208 supports up to 32X DAE speed at both pressed/CDR media. Its average performance is around 23.4X, making it faster than competition:

- CDR AudioCD Results: (Click to see CD Speed graph)

The Philips DVDRW208 performed better with CDR media than with pressed CDs:

- 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)
Philips DVDRW208
(sync errors)
Pioneer DVR-A03
Ricoh MP5120A
Panasonic LF-D311

- Advanced DAE Quality

The Philips DVDRW208 had problems with Nero's CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test. It produced 262076 Data errors and got a score of 91.6X which is away from the top (100). The reading speed was also low and despite that Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test says it can read CD-Text, it doesn't:

- Bad CDR Media results

Despite the fact that Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test stretches a 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 to 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 Of Total Disc (%)
Philips DVDRW208
Pioneer DVR-A03
Ricoh MP5120A
Panasonic LF-D311

As the tests proved, the Philips DVDRW208 performed worse than Ricoh MP5120A since it produced higher amount of reading errors. Only the Pioneer's DVR-A03 reading performance is lower.

- Ripping 90 and 99min CDs

Click To Enlarge!

The drive doesn't support reading of 90/99mins CDs, since it stops reading at 84mins.

5. CDR Tests
Philips DVD+RW208 - Page 5

CDR Tests

The Philips DVDRW208 supports up to 12x (CLV) writing. The drive includes 'SeamLess Link' as the main Buffer Underrun Technology. The 'Thermo Balanced Writing' technology also promises to improve writing quality. We did our tests with Nero v5.5.5.7, CloneCD v3.1.1.0 and Padus DJ v3.50.799 software. For the CDR tests we used: Creation 74min (12x), Taiyo Yuden 74 & 80min (24x), Mitsui 74min (24 & 16x) and Verbatim/TDK 74min HS-RW media.

- CD-R Tests

We created a "DataCD" job with data slightly higher than 74mins (74:03:65). We burned the same job with all three drives, using the same media:

The Philips DVDRW208 needs one second less than Ricoh MP5120A (405secs) to finish the task.

- 80min CDs

Following the same procedure as in the previous test, we created a DataCD with data higher than 80min (80:01:47). The Philips DVDRW208 needs 435 and Ricoh MP5120A 439secs to end the task:

- Writing Quality Tests:

We used Creation 74min CD-R 12x certified media (real manufacturer Plasmon), and wrote a full 74min CD. All CDs were burned with Nero, and they were Audio CDs with 74:51:27 length size. The produced CDs were measured from DigitalDrives:

12x writing speed
Average Burning Time (secs)
Ricoh MP5120A
Philips DVDRW208

The Philips DVDRW208 produced 2.9 average C1 errors, when using low quality media from "Creation". Those were excellent results, if you compare it with Ricoh's MP5120A. When using higher quality media (such as Taiyo Yuden 80min 24x), the produced C1 error rates are even lower. The following graph comes from the Creation 74min 12x media:

Click To Enlarge!

- Overburning Tests

The Philips DVDRW208 supports up to 99minute CDs (overburning) as our tests with Nero showed:

- CD-Text Results

We created several AudioCDs with CD-Text enabled. The Philips DVDRW208 can write but cannot read CD-Text from Audio CDs..

- CloneCD Tests

CloneCD v3.1.1.0 reports that the drive supports the DAO-RAW writing feature and "JustLink". From our tests results DAO-RAW writing works without any problem for SafeDisc 1, LaserLock 1/2 and SecuROM 2 protections.

- SD2 Support

For the SD2 test we used the "No One Lives For Ever", "Max Payne" and "Emperor Battle for Dune" CD titles. We used the Philips DVDRW208 both as reader/writer. The produced backup did play when using the same drive but not at any other drive we tested. Therefore it can produce partial SD2 working backups.

- 8cm mini CDs

The Philips DVDRW208 supports ONLY reading of 8cm CDs.

6. RW Writing Tests

Philips DVD+RW 208 - Page 6

RW Writing Tests

We used Nero for writing CDs in maximum RW writing speed for all the tested drives in 10x HS-RW media. Both drives fully support the HS-RW writing standard:

The Philips DVDRW208 is faster than Ricoh MP5120A by only 3 secs. The erase time is almost the same for both drives.

- Packet Writing Tests

We used Ahead InCD v3.14. We used Verbatim's Ricoh HS RW media and we formatted it. The formatting of the media takes around 10min. After formatting, we tested all four drives for their packet writing performance.

The formatted disc had 530mbs of free space. We copied a 403 MB file (403.147 kbs) from a Hard Disk (on the same PC as the writers) to the formatted RW media-using explorer (we dragged and dropped) we completed the test twice to eliminate possible time measurement faults and user errors:

The Philips DVDRW208 performed very well under packet writing mode. The Ricoh drive is slightly faster while writing, but slower at the reading part compared to Philips.

- Packet Writing Under DVD+RW

Packet writing under DVD+RW format is quite easy. Currently InCD supports only Win9x/2k and not WinXP. The software formats the DVD+RW media under UDF v1.50 format in less than 2minutes. The process is very easy and after the disc is formatted you can fit up to 4.37GB of data:

7. DVD Tests

Philips DVD+RW 208 - Page 7

DVD Tests

- Writing Performance

We used Nero and wrote the same amount of data for all Pioneer DVR-A03/Ricoh DVD+RW MP5120A/Panasonic LF-D311 and Philips DVDRW208 drives. In the Nero's writing tab, only the 2.4x writing speed is displayed. The results are listed in the following table among with the average CPU Usage:

DVD Recording Tests
Writing Speed
Average Writing Time (min)
Average CPU Usage (%)
Ricoh MP5120A (DVD+RW)
Pioneer DVR-A03 (DVD-R)
Pioneer DVR-A03 (DVD-RW)
Panasonic LF-D311 (DVD-R)
Philips DVDRW208

As the tests result showed, the Philips DVDRW208A is the faster DVD recorder for now since it managed to outperform even Ricoh MP5120A by 16secs. The 2.4X writing speed is true and for writing a nearly full 4.7GB disc, you will need about 22mins. The Pioneer DVR-A03 needs 28mins at 2X and 56mins at 1X writing speeds.

- Erase Time Performance

Average Erase Time (mins)
Ricoh MP5120A DVD+RW
Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-RW
Philips DVDRW208

The Philips DVDRW208 has very low erase times - less than one minute for quick erase and 11mins for full erase.

- Packet Writing Performance

We used the same file/methodology as we are using for our CD packet-writing test. The Philips DVDRW208 drive needs the same time to write the file as the Ricoh DVD+RW MP5120A:

Packet Writing/Reading Tests
Average Writing Speed
Average Reading Speed
Ricoh MP5120A DVD+RW (2.4x)
Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-RW (1x)
Philips DVDRW208 DVD+RW (2.4x)

- Compatibility Tests

The compatibility tests done with the same discs used for the DVD-ROM drives (Matsushita's DVD-R, Pioneer's DVD-RW and Ricoh's DVD+RW media). All discs were written with Nero and contained the same DVD movie.

Ricoh MP5120
Philips DVDRW208A

As we had seen with the Ricoh MP5120A, the Philips DVDRW208 also supports DVD-R/DVD+RW media without any problems but not DVD-RW media. In fact the drive cannot recognize it at all, while the Ricoh MP5120A could recognize it but playback of written DVD movie failed.

8. Conclusion

Philips DVD+RW 208 - Page 8


Positive (+)

Negative (-)

- Super CD/DVD+RW writer Combo
- Supports DVD playback
- Supports "SeamLess Link" anti-coaster technology
- Supports 'Therml Balanced Writing'
- Low C1 errors with low quality CDs
- Faster DVD recorder around
- Good DAE ripping performance
- Good reading/writing packet writing performance
- Good access times
- Very good CloneCD reading performance
- Very good DVD playback/reading performance
- Supports HS-RW standard (10x re-write)
- Supports DAO-RAW
- Supports reading of SubChannel data
- Supports CD-Text (writing)
- Supports Overburning (writing up to 99mins)
- Supports Ultra-DMA 33
- 2 years of warranty (applies only for Europe)

- Very Dad DAE quality with dusted/scratched CDR media
- Creates partial working SD2 backups
- Cannot read CD-Text
- Recognize process takes more seconds during booting than usual
- Supports reading only up to 84mins
- Doesn't support reading of DVD-RW discs
- High price ($800+)

Philips ,after Ricoh, is the second company that ships DVD+RW recorder under the codename "DVDRW208". The drive supports 12x writing (CD), 10x re-writing (CD), 32x reading (CD), 8x DVD reading and 2.4x writing (DVD+RW). It has the exact same features as with Ricoh's MP5120A however the performance of both drives is not equal in all cases The Philips DVD+RW208 is better in some areas but worse in others, compared with Ricoh's DVD+RW proposal.

The Philips DVDRW208 was the faster writer in both CD/DVD+RW formats, even by few seconds. Also the drive due to 'Thermo Balanced Writing' produced CDs with lower C1 errors than Ricoh MP5120A. The main disadvantages are the very bad DAE with scratched CDR media, the limited reading capabilities (up to 84mintes) and the lack of reading 'CD-Text' from Audio CDs. There are also some other points that will disappoint user (no SafeDisc 2 support, and the long time during boot up to recognize the drive).

As a final conclusion we can say that Philips should try correcting those errors to reach the level of performance, which Ricoh MP5120A has showed. The choice can be easy if the price of the drive is compatible. As Philips told us, you should expect the drive at a price of $800-870, which is higher enough from Pioneer's DVR-A03.

The competition from the DVD Forum seems quite hard and another super combo DVD-R/RW/RAM/CD-R/RW recorder announced. By the time it arrives the market, the DVD+RW forum might have support DVD+R which would make users and us very confused about which DVD recording format would rule... Stay tuned cause the future seems interesting enough :-)

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