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Appeared on: Monday, February 18, 2002
Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-R

1. Introduction
Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-R/RW - Page 1

- Introduction:

has been a true "pioneer" in both the CD and DVD formats. Pioneer was the first manufacturer that ever presented a CD-R writer and nowadays Pioneer dominates the DVD recording with the successful DVR-S201 models. The need for low priced DVD recorders has been something that many users were after, and finally their dream came true with the arrival of the DVR-A03. The drive's price (under 800$) makes it look tempting to potential DVD authors.

Pioneer's DVR-A03 was announced back in January of 2001 and its specifications made many people quite happy. For the first time a drive could write and re-write both CD/DVD formats! In Europe, the DVR-A03 was presented in Germany, on the 22nd of March 2001, only for G4 Mac Computers and in some Packard Bell/Compaq PCs. Many people bought MAC computers at that time only to test the Pioneer DVR-A03 drive.

Even nowadays the demand for the DVR-A03 is very high and in some countries you have to wait sometime before you will be able to buy it. Despite the fact that the drive's price is affordable, the DVD-R/W media prices are still high. Many users keep asking "Is this the drive we have all been waiting for?", "How does it perform?", "What is a DVD-R really?". Let's find out :-)

- The Hardware:

The drive supports almost all CD and DVD available formats (except HS-RW format):

Writing Speeds
Reading Speeds
DVD-R: 2X-CLV (2.770 MB/s), 1X-CLV (1.385 MB/s)
DVD-RW (both v1.0/1.1): 1X-CLV (1.385 MB/s)
CD-R: 8X-CLV (1.20 MB/s), 4X-CLV (0.60 MB/s)
CD-RW: 4X-CLV (0.60MB/s)
DVD-ROM (Single): 4-CAV (5.540 MB/s)
DVD-ROM (Dual): 2X-CLV (2.770 MB/s)
DVD-R, DVD-RW: 2X-CLV (2.770 MB/s)
CD-ROM : Max. 24X-CAV (3.60MB/s)
CD-R,CD-RW: Max. 16X-CAV (2.40MB/s)
CD-Audio: Max. 10X-CAV (1.50MB/s)
Video-CD: 4X-CLV (0.60MB/s)

In short, the drive supports 8x writing (CD), 4x re-writing (CD), 24x reading (CD), 1x/2x writing (DVD), 1x re-writing (DVD), and 4x reading (DVD). The drive's buffer is 2MB and doesn't include any anti-buffer underrun protection for both CD/DVD format. Note that in DVD-R format only DAO and packet writing recording modes are supported. Also there are no subchannel data, overburning and RAW writing...

- The Usage:

The DVR-A03 can be used in many ways as Pioneer suggests:

- Add video to make dynamic image mixed presentations and demonstrations
- Record the growth and development of your children from year to year
- Make archives of your personal video collection
- Backup large data volumes
- Digital photography

The most interesting aspect would be to author your own DVD collections and backup large volumes of important data. The 4.7GB of data can hold enough data to free your HD space :-)

- The Media:

The Pioneer DVR-A03 can write DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R and CD-RW media. There are 2 types of DVD-R media:

a) DVD-R for Authoring
b) DVD-R for General Use

The "DVD-R for Authoring" media can be recorded only with the Pioneer DVR-S201/S101 (3.95 GB only) and the "DVD-R for General media" can be recorded only with the Pioneer DVR-A03/DVR-103 (OEM) drives.

DVD-R Authoring drives use a 635 nm laser and specially designed DVD-R Authoring media. Unlike DVD-R General, the drive will write any content to DVD-R Authoring media. DVD-R General drives, which use a 650 nm laser and DVD-R General media, will only write content to DVD-R General media that has no copy restrictions and content that allows one copy. While both authoring and general media can be read by nearly all DVD drives - DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM and DVD-Video; - technical differences make it impossible to write to DVD-R authoring media using a general DVD-R system.

To make a large speech small, the Pioneer DVR-A03 will write only DVD-R media for General use (4.7GB) and not the DVD-R for Authoring (3.9/4.7GB). The drive can, of course, read written DVD-R for Authoring media.

Pioneer DVD-R for General UsePrices of the media in retail market are around $15, making them quite expensive for the normal user. Prices are soon expected to drop, since more and more manufacturers will start producing DVD-R media and drives will become more popular. Currently the following manufacturers ships DVD-R/W media:

Model Number
Fuji Photo Film
Hitachi Maxell
Mitsubishi Chemical
Pioneer Video

There is also DVD-R printable media in case you need them. CD-R printers like Signature III can print them without any problems. There is a catch here that you should be aware of: "Both the DVD-R/RW cannot hold 4.7GB in reality!!!"

Pioneer DVD-R for General Use Printable TOPPioneer provides this answer: "...DVD capacities are expressed in billion byte quantities. For example a single layer DVD holds 4.7 billion bytes (G bytes), not 4.7 gigabytes (GB). It only holds 4.37 gigabytes. A gigabyte is normally accepted in the computer world to mean 1024 x 1024 x 1024 bytes, or about 1.07 billion bytes. However in the real world normally "giga" represents multiples of 1000. DVD-R and DVD-RW media will hold precisely 4.7 billion bytes. This 7% difference between 4.7 and 4.37 has created a lot of confusion, because people will complain that they can't get a 4.65 gigabyte disc image to fit onto a 4.7 billion byte disc. This is very true, albeit confusing due to the lack of standards in specifying capacities of digital storage devices. DVD-R/RW writing software may report the available disc space of a newly erased DVD-RW as 4.489GB but it is in fact 4.37GB. So you need to keep your total project file size to less than 4.37GB..."

Here is what Windows Explorer says about Pioneer's DVD-R media:

In case you are dreaming more capacity than 4.7GB, Pioneer says: "...There are no plans for Dual layer DVD-R media. Also dual sided discs would require a caddie, making handling and ROM drive compatibility difficult. Currently there are no plans to make dual sided media, however Changer uses are under consideration...". To tell you the truth, we did see dual side DVD-R media from Mitsui at the Cebit 2001 show ;-)

Pioneer DVD-RW media v1.1As we said earlier the drive can also write DVD-RW format (for General v1.0/v1.1 discs). The initial version 1.0 DVD-RW media (released only in Japan in late 1999) included a pre-obscured or embossed area of each disc to ensure that decryption keys used to protect motion picture content cannot be recorded. This embossed area is unreadable by nearly all video players and ROM drives. The next version of DVD-RW, version 1.1, included a readable embossed area so that playback compatibility can be maximized while still protecting against unauthorized recording. Both DVD-R/W media have a visible circle near the inner of the disc, which represents the written CSS protection theme for maximizing media compatibility with newer DVD players. DVD-RW media can support more than 1,000 rewrite cycles without signal degradation. Packet writing also applies in DVD-RW format.

2. Installation

Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW- Page 2

- Compatibilty

This is a very important part. Pioneer's marketing brochures state: "...DVD-R/RW offers DVD-Video playback compatibility with the majority of DVD-ROM equipped PCs and DVD-Video set top players. DVD-R/RW disc is 100% logically and physically compatible with the DVD-Video standard..." but real life shows slight different facts. There are several lists (DVDMadeEasy, YesVideo.com, HomeMovie.com, and Apple), that indicate player compatibility with DVD-R discs. Take a look and see if your DVD player supports DVD-R media. After checking those lists we saw that many DVD players support DVD-R media, but also there are many others that don't :(.

Almost all newer DVD players should support both DVD-R/W media, and you should have a closer look at the players specs, but you should be more concerned about older ones. We did try to play a DVD-R disc with the Shinco DVD8320 DVD player but the results were negative. Pioneer says that: "...It should be possible to achieve playback on many DVD players and DVD-ROM drives, barring some exceptions. Formats released by the DVD Forum are specifications for the MEDIA only. Although a recorded DVD-R disc falls within the same specifications as DVD-ROM (DVD-VIDEO), because the formats are media-related ONLY, support will be entirely up to the hardware maker. According to a study conducted by media makers, DVD-R media is capable of playback on many players with some exceptions.Examples where playback may not be possible: Since the DVD-R Book was released AFTER the DVD-VIDEO Book, 1st generation DVD-VIDEO players may have problems reading DVD-R media. Also, some SLIM DVD-ROM drives and portable DVD players have been known to have problems reading DVD-R media. It is recommended that when the size of data is such that it will fit on a 3.95GB DVD-R then 3.95 blank media should be used. This will ensure the widest compatibility with various brands and models of DVD Players and DVD-ROM drives..."

As it seems the 3.95GB of media offers better compatibility than the newer 4.7GB: "...The first issue is that 3.95GB media has been around for some time now and many manufacturers have already designed and released their products over 12 months ago to play this media. Secondly 4.7GB media has a finer track pitch, added to the fact that recordable media has a lower reflectivity than normally replicated discs, some players have a problem resolving the tracks and there for reading the data. It is fully expected that as the various manufacturers design and release their newer models of DVD Players and ROM drives that they will ensure their design is able to read 4.7GB DVD-R media version 2.0. This is a similar situation that occurred when CD-R was first released onto the market..."

Of course the Pioneer DVR-A03 cannot write 3.95GB media but that is a totally different issue ;-)...

- The package:
We got the retail European version of the drive. This included: The drive itself, a short multilingual manual (7 languages), 5 pieces of Pioneer 74min CD-R blank, 2 pieces of Pioneer 4.7GB DVD-R "for General use" media, one piece of Pioneer's 4.7GB DVD-RW v1.1, mounting crews, jumper, an ejection stick and a STAEDLER LUMOCOLOR pen. The software supplied with the drive was Instant CD/DVD v6.02, Sony MyDVD v2.33 and PowerDVD 3.0. The package is available worldwide at the price of $620-650.

The front of the drive contains the "Pioneer", "DVD-R/W", and "CD-R/W" logos. There are also two leds, the eject button and the headphone input jack/volume selector. The exact colors for the "Read/Write" led are: during reading it is "Green", during writing it is "Orange", and when an error occurs it blinks "Orange". For the "Disc" led, when tray is opened or closed it blinks "Green", when a read only disc is loaded it lights "Green", when a recordable disc is loaded it lights "Orange", and when an unsupported disc is loaded it blinks "Orange":

On the back of the drive there are the usual connectors (IDE interface, power), the jumpers for setting the drive as a Master/Slave, the SPDIF output connector, the analog/digital output connectors and a 2.7cm built-in fan for keeping the drive at a low temperature. Don't forget that the DVD-R writing produces higher temperatures than CD-R recording:

- Installation:
Nero Properties CD
The Pioneer DVR-A03 was installed as a Master in the secondary IDE BUS. Note that Pioneer suggests using ONLY 40pin and not an 80pin IDE cable for drive installation. The reason is unknown to us, but we followed Pioneer's instructions just to be on the safe side. The drive worked in PIO MODE4 mode and after rebooting, it identified itself as the "Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-103". We unchecked the Auto Insert notification, checked DMA and rebooted.

The drive was a June 2001 model with firmware revision v1.55 installed. We used Nero Burning ROM (, Ahead InCD (2.26), CloneCD (, Padus DJ (3.50.799), InstantCD/DVD v6.02, Gear DVD Pro v2.03RC3, Prassi PrimoDVD v2.0.749 and Sonic MyDVD v2.33 for the CD/DVD recording/authoring tests.

- Test Machine:
WinMe OS
Soyo 7VCA
Celeron II 566 over clocked to 850 MHz
128MB SDRAM PC 133
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975
Pioneer DVR-A03 firmware v1.55

3. CD Data Tests

Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW- 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.

For comparison reasons we post the results of the Teac CD-RW280PU/PleXWriter PX-S88TU that also support 24x reading.

- SCSI Mechanic v3.0x results

The Pioneer DVR-A03 performed quite good, compared to other 24x (CAV) drives. The drive produced 2729Kb/s as the "Average Sequential I/O", 566Kb/s in the "Average Random I/O" mark and 5945 Kb/s at the "Same Sector I/O" tests.

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

Using Nero CD Speed 0.84, we confirmed the SCSI Mechanic results. The Pioneer drive has 18.64X average reading speed, which is slightly higher than other 24x readers.

In the "Seek Times" test, the Pioneer didn't perform good enough, since it has much higher times than other comparable drives. The drive needs 376secs for a full stroke making it a bad choice as your main reader.

- 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 Pioneer, which was very low (109secs):

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

With CDR media, the Pioneer drive has a lower average reading speed (12.71X), since it starts from 7.49X and finishes at 16.78X.

- DVD Speed v0.52: (Click to see the DVD Speed graph for DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW)

The Pioneer DVR-A03 has only 4X DVD reading speed and of course it cannot compete against the rest of the 16X DVD capable drives.

The seek times of the Pioneer DVR-A03 are increased, compared to a pure DVD-ROM drive. But remember that Pioneer's mission is not only reading but also writing. The big seek times will definitely cause some slowdowns when you try to access a DVD-ROM/R/RW disc.

When ripping DVD movies, the Pioneer DVR-A03 has an average of 2654Kb/s. The performance is very good and according to the specifications, since the drive can only read up to 2X with dual layer DVDs.

Let us now check the drive performance when reading DVD-R and DVD-RW media. According to the specifications, the drive has 2X CLV (DVD-R) and 1X CLV (DVD-RW) reading speeds. Our test results confirmed those claims.

4. RW reading tests
Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 4

RW reading tests

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

For the RW tests, we used Traxdata 4x RW media. The Pioneer drive isn't the faster drive we tested with RW media but it will do the job:

CloneCD Reading Tests

- Procedure:
We used CloneCD (v3.0.8.2) 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 Pioneer DVR-A03. 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 for both drives:

- SafeDisc 1/2 Results:

The Pioneer DVR-A03 is not what we would call a good choice for reading SD1/2 protected CDs. The drive needs over one hour to finish the task, so it is advisable to have another drive for this task.

With SafeDisc v2.0 protected CDs, the Pioneer DVR-A03 performs slight better but not even close to satisfactory.

LaserLock 1/2 Results:

In the LaserLock 1/2 protected CDs tests, the Pioneer DVR-A03 performed very badly once again, and you should really think of buying another drive for that purpose.

SecuROM Results

The Pioneer DVR-A03 can only read 16bytes of SubChannel data from Data/Audio tracks. This means that you can backup SecuROM 2 CDs but not LibCrypt PSX protected titles.

5. DAE Tests

Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - 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 Pioneer DVR-A03 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 Pioneer DVR-A03 does "Caching" data, supports "Accurate Stream" and doesn't support "C2 error info".

- Pressed AudioCD results: (Click to see CDSpeed Graph)
The Pioneer supports up to 10X DAE speed. Its average performance was around 7X, which makes the drive a bit slow for the current standards:

- CDR AudioCD Results: (Click to see CD Speed graph)
The Pioneer drive has the same performance with CDR media as 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)
Pioneer DVR-A03

- Advanced DAE Quality

All drives performed excellently in the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE quality test. The Pioneer DVR-A03 produced 0 data/sync errors and got a perfect score (100). As the Nero CD Speed Advanced DAE test showed, the drive can read "CD-Text" and "SubChannel Data":

- 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 (%)
Pioneer DVR-A03

As the tests proved, the Pioneer doesn't perform well with scratched CDs. The drive managed to produce many reading errors and 9.09% of the read data were corrupt.

- Ripping 90 and 99min CDs


The Pioneer DVR-A03 can read 90min CDs without any problems, but stops reading at around 96mins as the Nero CD Speed showed.

6. CDR Tests
Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 6

CDR Tests

The Pioneer DVR-A03 supports 4x and 8x (CLV) writing. The drive does not utilise any anti-buffer underrun technology and the included 2MB of buffer seems enough to cover your needs, if you leave the PC alone while writing. We did our tests with Nero v5.5.4.9/, CloneCD v3.0.8.2 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 Pioneer DVR-A03 needs 596secs to finish the task, which seems a very good result, compared to other 8x CLV writers. The CPU usage stays on normal levels (8.5%).

- 80min CDs:
Following the same procedure as in the previous test, we created a DataCD with data lower than 80min (79:49:50). The Pioneer DVR-A03 supports overburning and seems much faster than other 8x CLV writers:

- 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 and the results are very interesting:

8x writing speed (AudioCD)
Average Burning Time (secs)
Pioneer DVR-A03

The Pioneer DVR-A03 produced 6.4 average C1 errors, when using low quality media from "Creation". When using high quality media (such as Taiyo Yuden 80min 24x), it produced very low C1 error rates (0.3 average). The following graph comes from the Creation 74min 12x media:

Click To Enlarge!

- Overburning Tests:
Our attempts to overburn with the Pioneer DVR-A03 weren't successful. The drive kept locking up at the end of the project with 99mins media.

- CD-Text Results:
We created several AudioCDs with CD-Text enabled. The Pioneer DVR-A03 can write/read CD-Text without any problems.

- CloneCD Tests:
CloneCD v3.0.8.2 reports that the Pioneer DVR-A03 drive supports only SAO-RAW writing mode. According to our tests, Pioneer DVR-A03 cannot work with CloneCD in all available writing modes since it rejects the CUE sheet file as the CloneCD software reports:

We also tested the Pioneer with other RAW capable software and we had similar results. In other words the Pioneer DVR-A03 doesn't support neither RAW-SAO or RAW-DAO writing mode.

- 8cm mini CDs:
The Pioneer DVR-A03 does support 8cm CDs without any problems.

- Buffer Underrun tests:
The Pioneer DVR-A03 doesn't support anti-buffer underrun protection. This means that you will be able to do some work with your PC, but nothing too hard or else you will get a buffer underrun.

7. DVD-R Tests - Page 1
Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 7

DVD-R Tests - Page 1

The Pioneer DVR-A03 supports both 1X and 2X (CLV) writing speeds with DVD-R format. As you may know the X factor in the DVD format is not 150Kb/s but 1385Kb/s that means a full DVD-R (4.38GB) will take around 60mins to be written at 1X and half time at 2X writing speed (30minutes). The DVD format is also much simpler than the CD, since you have only Mode1 tracks and DAO writing mode.

- Preparation

Arm yourself with a great deal of patience. DVD-R recording will take a lot of time to complete, especially with the DVD-RW projects. Pioneer also suggests that "...Before writing to a new DVD-RW disc you must have performed a Full Erase on the disc to prepare it. This is only required once with a new disc and it takes about 1 hour to complete. Following this each time you need to write again you need only perform a Quick Erase and that only takes a few minutes to complete. You must perform a Full Erase prior to writing in order for a disc to play as a DVD Video in a set top DVD Player. The Erase procedure is not required for DVD-R discs and doing so will make the disc un-usable for any further writing...".

- DVD-R Projects

There are 4 types of DVD projects you can do with your DVR-A03 recorder:
a) Backup data from HD
b) Make Audio DVDs
c) Make DVD to DVD backups and
d) Make DVD movies

- DVD-R Software

Currently there are 4 major CD-R software titles that support DVD-R recording: Nero (and, InstantCD/DVD v6.02, Gear DVD Pro v2.03 RC1 and Prassi PrimoDVD v2.0.749. For our tests we used all four of them, and we wrote down our impressions about each one. We were certain that there would be a few problems and buggy situations, and we were right. But pretty soon all major software companies will catch up with the increasing demand for DVD-R recording.

Nero v5.5.4.9/

In the v5.5.4.0 version, Ahead adopted DVD-R recording. After we completed our tests, Ahead provided a newer version (, that corrected some of our problems with the version but also produced a few fresh ones that corrected with the latest v5.5.5.1.

Nero identifies the Pioneer DVD-R recorder and adds a drop down menu for selecting the desired CD or DVD authoring option. After you select "DVD" the following options are available (check right picture):

- DVD-ROM (ISO): This is the most common selection for all users who wish to backup data (up to 4.38GB) from their HD. Nothing seems different in the Nero tabs, expect the lack of choosing Mode1/2 format, since DVD is much simpler (only supports Mode1). In the writing tab you will have the option to simulate a burn, and all burns are made in DAO mode.
- DVD-Copy: Nero supports the copying of DVD-ROM discs. Note that the DVD movies are not yet supported. You simply have to choose the source drive and just press write!
- DVD-ROM (boot): Same as the first option but now you can make a bootable DVD.
- DVD-ROM (UDF): Creates a UDF compliant DVD disc for use in systems that support UDF.
- DVD-ROM (UDF/ISO): Creates a hybrid DVD that supports both UDF/ISO formats. This is the only selection for making DVD movies that can work in standalone DVD players.

Nero doens't support the DVD Audio format. After we select a DVD project, the size capacity indicator at the bottom gets boosted up to 4500MB (maximum size):

Nero recognizes DVD-RW media successfully and reports that the available capacity is 4.489MB:

We selected up to 4.38GB of data:

and the burning part is the same as with the CD format. You can also simulate the process before the actual burn. Note that actual recording delays starting since Nero needs some time to prepare the written folder structure:

Recording starts and after 57mins our project is finished:

DVD Copy with Nero is an easy task. Just select the reader/writer and press "Write":

InstantCD/DVD 6.02

InstantCD/DVD offers many DVD authoring options, in the form of a really easy to use wizard:

After you select the desired project, InstantCD/DVD wizard continues:

You can also select the Disk Volume label, and if you want the UDF filesystem to be written on the disc. InstantCD/DVD supports 1.02, 1.50, 2.00 and 2.01 versions.

The UDF file system is a file system adopted by the DVD Forum. There are many versions of UDF, however 1.02 is the version required for a DVD to comply with the DVD standard. Other versions exist (1.5, 2.0), but are aimed at different markets, such as packet writing, but are not compatible with the DVD set-top boxes or the Windows 98 environment:

After you select the desired data, and press write disc the writing properties tab comes up:

Lets have a look at our disc. It is an empty DVD-RW disc:

Lets also check and see the drive's properties:

After pressing "write", InstantCD/DVD starts preparing the filesystem (takes some time to finish):

And writing finally begins!

At 1X writing speed, a full DVD-R/W will need around 63-64mins to finish and with 2X writing speed (DVD-R only), you will need half that time, only 35mins. In some of our tests we faced writing errors, which VOB said were caused by buffer underrun(!). Maybe our heavy loaded system, with almost every known CD-R software installed, caused those problems:

Update: VOB has stated that when you change from ASAPI to ASPI layer working mode, the above problem is solved.

8. DVD-R Tests - Page 2
Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 8

DVD-R Tests - Page 2

Gear DVD Pro v2.03 RC3

Gear has been developing "DVD Pro for Windows" for quite some time now. The software offers authoring for both CD and DVD formats and especially: DVD-ROM(ISO/UDF), DVD-ROM(ISO) and DVD-VIDEO (ISO/UDF). Gear's software not only supports Pioneer's DVR-A03 but also dual size DVD projects (DVD9, DVD10) since it is also aimed at the Professional audience.

Let's see what Gear DVD Pro is able to produce:

After we select a project, you must save the name of your DVD project and select the desired DVD size (4.7GB):

We can then start inserting data in our empty DVD project or try to create a DVD movie backup. Select DVD-ROM (ISO/UDF), create 2 folders (AUDIO_TS, VIDEO_TS):

and put the contents of the VIDEO_TS folder (of original DVD) in the Gear DVD Pro VIDEO_TS folder. The AUDIO_TS folder is usually empty:

Gear DVD Pro v2.03 RC3 offers many DVD settings for our project and you shouldn't really change them:

Now just press "Write" and the process will start. We did notice that under WinME, Gear DVD Pro uses all the available computer recourses and it is improssible to do anything else. But even with this problem, we didn't have any coaster or bad burn in all our tests.

Let's try DVD to DVD copy. The software lets you select the reader/writer and even recognizes the disc size (474:03min) but fails to see the disc size (71Mb!):

During reading we had several reading error messages and of course writing was aborted.

Prassi PrimoDVD v2.0.749

Prassi Europe announced PrimoDVD on August of 2000 with the phrase "..PrimoDVD marks a new age in DVD Mastering..".Prassi Europe has been bought by VERITAS software company, but the development of Prassi's PrimoCD/DVD series was not cancelled and didn't fall back. PrimoDVD offers:

- Video_TS and Audio_TS formatting
- Triple Tree for DVD Bridge (ISO, Joliet and UDF structures).
- Master to 16 DVD recorders
- Record Multiple Different Jobs Simultaneously
- DLT Support
- Disc Verify

Our general impressions with Prassi PrimoDVD were very good. It was the only software ,with Nero, that managed to do DVD to DVD copy on-the-fly without any problems! Its whole operation was very smooth and the CPU Usage was one of the lowest we had ever seen. Of course it would be nice if Prassi improved the way you insert and manage data inside PrimoDVD. It has been a long request by our side but nothing has changed so far... Only time will tell.

When you first start PrimoDVD a wizard comes up, asking which project you want to select. "Disc Copy" seems very interesting:

In the second screen you have to select the reader and the recorder. PrimoDVD has different colour for CD-R/W, DVD-R/W so you cannot confuse them. Things are pretty easy now. Just press that red button. Notice the copyright note above the reader ;-)

A confirmation dialogue comes up asking if we will proceed with the recording. Here is a nice bug. "Estimated Time to complete: 477:00mins":

Recording has started and PrimoDVD informs us about the the progress:

After recording has finished we have our first DVD copy on-the-fly :-)

Lets now see what else PrimoDVD offers. With PrimoDVD you can achieve data and copy DVDs. Let's select the Data project. PrimoDVD continues to have the same engine as found in the PrimoCD series, which has its positives and of course negatives aspects (you cannot create a new folder inside PrimoDVD!). The capacity bar goes up to the proper size of 4.461.52MB and you can start adding data. The recording options are very simple and there is the option to select between UDF and UDF/Joiliet file system type:

Finally we burned our project. We nearly filled up the disc with 4.461.26Mb and at 1x writing speed, we will need 58minutes to have our disc ready:

9. DVD-R Tests - Page 3
Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 9

DVD-R Tests - Page 3

After checking all software titles, let's now see the rest of the possible DVD authoring projects:

a) Backup Data from your HD: This is the easiest project. If you have ever used CD-RW drive, you will be familiar with the process. Note that only DAO is allowed here. The maximum amount of data is around 4.38GB. However, we don't know if overburning is supported ;-)

b) Make Audio DVDs: Even InstantCD/DVD offers that option, you will have to use a real DVD Audio authoring package as Sonic's DVDAudio for making real AudioDVD discs. VOB's InstantCD/DVD just offers the possibility to write third party images ;-)

c) Make DVD Copies

This is definitely the first question that comes to mind when we first hear about DVD-R. "Can i make backups of my DVD discs?". The answer is yes and no.

Content protection on DVD-RW media has two forms. The first prevents the digital duplication of DVD Video source material that has been encrypted with the Content Scrambling System (CSS). The other prevents unauthorized recording of protected source material while using the video recording (VR) application layer. This second approach is accomplished through the use of Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) on version 1.1 DVD-RW media. If a protected source title permits it, CPRM also provides a supplemental encryption mechanism to allow a single authorized copy to be made of “copy-once” content.


Most PS2 and PC titles are DVD5, which means that they can fit in a 4.7GB DVD-R disc. For the PS2 titles you must also have a PS2 modchip/DVD-R boot disc to play backups. Not many PC DVD titles have been published and as far as we know they must not contain any kind of protection (for now). Newer DVD titles will probably feature some kind of DVD protection that will prevent copies. But the way, did we mention that RAW writing does not exist for the DVD format?

2) DVD Movies

With DVD Movies things are much more complicated. Why? Because most DVD movies are DVD10, which means they have a capacity up to 9.4GB. You cannot fit 9.4GB in a 4.38GB disc. Even older, black and white movies are larger than 4.38GB, due to Hollywood's wish to prevent unauthorised backups. The CSS protection is not something you should worry about since all newer DVD rippers can safely remove it.

As it currently stands we can have the following situations:

a) The DVD disc size is smaller than 4.38GB. There are such titles around the market (Scary Movie I) but most of them are adult titles. The use of PrimoDVD DVD copy function is the easiest workaround. Of course you can backup them as we showed in the description of Gear DVD Pro software.

b) The main movie files are smaller than 4.38Gb but the whole DVD disc size is larger than 4.38Gb. In that case you don't have many options. If you drop the extras, the DVD will simply don't work. You need to edit the .IFO files with an editor. There is such a utility and it is called "IFOEdit". Its use seems quite simple, just change one number into the main "VIDEO_TS.IFO" file and your DVD-R backup will work perfectly in your stand alone DVD player:

c) The main movie is larger than 4.38GB. In that case you will have to re-encode the movie with a lower bitrate, so the final disc size will be lower than 4.38GB. Of course this will take many hours, and the final result will be questionable. Also you must re-create the whole DVD structure, which seems a bit difficult. Maybe in the future some utilities will be released that will make this task easier. Another possibility would be to split the DVD movie in 2 DVD-R discs. For now this doesn't seem like a good choice, since the cost of two DVD-R blanks is equal to the original DVD movie. Maybe when DVD-R blanks price is reduced, that would be our first solution. Again the re-creation of the whole DVD wouldn't be one click away.

What do we suggest? Use the DVD-R media to store your VCD or DiVX;-) movies. With a DVD-R disc, you can fit 6-8 Divx movies and VCD files. That sound nice, doesn't it?

d) Making DVD movies

Making DVD movies would interest many people. For that purpose you must have a movie stored in your HD. That movie could possibly come from your Digital VideoCamera (DV) or from a ripped DVD movie. There are many DVD authoring software titles on the market, but we will take a look over Sonic's MyDVD v2.3, that comes with the drive.

With MyDVD you can make your own DVDs with menus and buttons. Of course, the software is very simple and doesn't include any advanced features (advanced menu functions, music in menus, subtitles, etc.) but for that purpose Sonic offers higher priced solutions.

When you fire up MyDVD, the first thing you see is the "about" box. A friendly wizard will popup up and ask you a few important questions to prepare the project properties. First of all, you must choose the TV standard (PAL/NTSC), the Video format (Mpeg1/2) and the TV Screen Size (4:3/16:9). MyDVD can accept Mpeg 1/2 files that aren't properly encoded in order to create DVD or cDVD discs:

The main MyDVD project area comes next. From there you can create your own DVD menus, insert buttons and text, and create the proper links between menus & videos/pictures:

In the beginning you must select the background of our start menu. For our example we used a ready one. The process is very easy, just drag&drop as the arrow shows:

10. DVD-R Tests - Page 4

Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 10

DVD-R Tests - Page 4

Next you must place the buttons that will guide the user to press and see a video or an image. Once again, just drag&drop as the arrow shows. Here we have added a second menu with red background and 2 green balloons:

What about text? Easy to add. Select the desired font and drag&drop in your workarea. The text properties can be changed through the "Effect" drop down dialogue. Text shading effects are created automatically:

Next stage is to link the buttons with the desired Videos/pictures. We have 4 Mpeg2 files that can be linked to each button with a simple move (drag&drop). With the same principal we will link the second menu , with the red background, from our first menu:

Lets move on to our second menu. Again, we perform the necessary links with drag&drop moves:

Our project is finished. Let's move on to the build-in player to see if our menus are properly linked and working. Note that when the cursor is above a button, it automatically lights up:

Time to burn our project. Head over to "Build>>Disc". From here you can select the output size (either CD-R or DVD-R/W) and the volume name:

After that we must select our output recorder (Pioneer DVR-A03 in our case), select the number of copies and the writing mode (test, test and write, write). In our example MyDVD prompt us that the inserted Mpeg videos are not properly encoded for DVD authoring and therefore will not play in standalone DVD players:

MyDVD starts the conversion and after some time we have an OK message. Our first DVD (or cDVD) project is now completed:

MyDVD is really very easy for someone to use, even if he/she doesn't have any experience with similar Video editing software. Sonic has announced several new features for the upcoming MyDVD v3.0 and we hope that it will soon be bulked with the Pioneer drive. For more advanced projects, Sonic and other companies have developed more poweful utilities...

11. RW Writing Tests

Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 11

RW Writing Tests

We used Nero for writing CDs in maximum RW writing speed (4X) for the Pioneer DVR-A03. Note that the other two drives support 8x re-writing, so direct comparison cannot be done:

The Pioneer needs around 20mins to end the task, due to its low (4X) re-writing speed. The CPU Usage is low and the erase time is 53secs.

- CD Packet Writing Tests

We used Ahead InCD v2.26 for all Packet Writing tests. We used TDK HS-RW media and we formatted it. The formatted disc revealed 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) and we completed the test twice to eliminate possible time measurement faults and user errors:

The Pioneer DVR-A03 has only 2.4X writing and 2.8X reading speeds under packet writing formatted RW disc.

- DVD-RW Packet Writing Tests

InstantCD/DVD offers the possibility to use a DVD-R/RW media under packet writing format. The process is quite easy: Just follow the InstantWrite wizard's steps:

You have 2 options for formatting your DVD-RW media. The first is called "Random Access Data DVD" which will prepare the disc for the packet writing use we all know (add/delete files). There is also the option to format the disc as "Data DVD"; you can use "Data DVD" for DVD-R and DVD-RW media. Here you can add, change and delete files and directories. The memory is not freed physically again. This writing method is useful for large backups.

After we press next, we are asked by the wizard about whether we want quick/full erase, and formatting starts.

And we get a full report when formatting ends:

On the drives properties, InstantWrite tab has been added and there you can set the reading/writing speed and see if your media is finalized or not:

Unless we finalize our media we can use it on another systems that supports UDF format, as Win2k:

-Test Results

We used the same file/methodology we are using for our CD packet writing test. The drive needs 5:03mins to write the file and 4:50mins to read it. That can be translated in 0.96X writing and 1.00X reading (X factor = 1385Kb/s). The problem with DVD-RW packet writing is that the access times are very high and there is too much delay before you can access your written data.

12. Conclusion

Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE DVD-R/RW - Page 12


Positive (+):

Negative (-):

- Super CD/DVD-R/RW combo drive
- Supports 2x writing DVD-R
- Supports 1x reading/writing DVD-RW
- Supports 8x writing CD-R
- Performance is within the drive's specifications
- Supports reading of SubChannel Data (only 16bytes)
- Supports CD-Text (reading/writing)
- Low noise and CPU Usage while operating
- Drive includes fan to keep temperature down
- Low price compared to the past ($650)

- Only 4x rewriting
- Doesn't support overburning (?)
- Doesn't support DAO-RAW
- Poor DAE quality with scratched CDs

- Prices of DVD-R blanks are still very high!

The review of the Pioneer DVR-A03 must be the longest and hardest review that our team has ever performed. The drive not only supports CD, but also DVD-R and DVD-RW formats. So many tests had to be done and if you have made it reading so far you are probably really tired. Some time ago, DVD-R recording seemed liked a dream for most users, due to the high price of the drives, but now things have changed.

As it currently stands, the Pioneer DVR-A03 is the only recorder that supports both CD and DVD formats. The increased 2x writing DVD speed is a welcomed improvement over the previous Pioneer DVD-R recorders and the addition of DVD-RW format makes it unique. Dont forget the 8x writing and 4x re-writing speed of the drive. So is this the DVD-R recorder we have been dreaming off? Yes and no...

The main use of the DVR-A03 must be DVD-RW recording. The drive's specific weakness with CD format are not a pleasant surpise, but we have to focus upon its main use, "DVD-R recording". You must read cafefully what the drive can and cannot do. The battle of the DVD-R recording has just started and we hope that other manufacturers will follow Pioneer's example and ship similar DVD recorders at even lower price :-)

We feel that the DVR-A03 drive deserves our "Editors Choice Award" for its low price, compared with the recent past, and the advanced features that offers to its users.

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