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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > DVD Recorders Double Layer

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Pioneer DVR-108

1. Retail Package - Installation

Pioneer DVR-108 DL Recorder - Page 1

has been leading the DVD recording race, especially when we consider that almost all of the previous models supported the fastest DVD-R writing speeds. The A07 was the only recorder that supported 8X±R recording speeds and the A08 continues the tradition by supporting 16±R writing speeds along with 4X DL writing, making it, the fastest DVD recorder announced yet.

Having already tested the ASUS DRW-1604P and waiting for a new batch of 16X recorders to popup, we compared both drives in our usual suite of benchmarks, checking the reading and recording performance with all formats and speeds. Let's start :-)

- Official press release

According to the posted press release on 13/7/2004: "...Pioneer launches its new multiple format DVD writer. The DVR-A08XL is the industry's first DVD writer to support 16x write speeds on both DVD-R/+R along with the option to write at 4x speed on Double Layer media. This extends Pioneer's track record of establishing key performance benchmarks when introducing new DVD writers.

With the facility to write 4.7GB of data to write-once media in seven minutes, or store up to 8.5GB on Double Layer media, the DVR-A08XL enhances a wide range of DVD applications including the authoring, editing and storing of video files, developing digital music catalogues, building image libraries and backing up data.

"Writing speed and data capacity are the key performance factors for DVD writers and understandably manufacturers have focused on these issues in the build up to the launch of next generation writers. Indeed, with its 16x write-speed complemented by the flexibility to store up to 8.5GB - equivalent to four hours of Standard Play (SP) video quality - the DVR-A08XL leads the pack. At the same time, customers are also concerned about the overall technical capabilities and the design of DVD drives and with a range of color options and advanced technology improving the form and functionality of the product, we are confident that the DVR-A08XL will become the premier DVD writer for professionals and consumers alike," observes Chris Tampsett, Senior Manager, Pioneer Europe NV, Multimedia Division.

Enhanced technology and features

The DVR-A08XL is available in beige and black colors to complement the contemporary design of new PCs and offers a wide range of technologies to produce a fast yet quiet DVD writer. Improved writing speeds can generate higher noise levels due to the increased velocity of disc rotation and consumer research indicates that the background ambient noise of DVD drives is becoming more noticeable. The DVR-A08XL incorporates Pioneer's QuietDrive technology that was first introduced in the DVR-A07XL. QuietDrive features a honeycomb design in the unit's top outer casing that reduces vibration from the drive mechanism. Together with noise dampening firmware and a lack of integral fan, ambient noise from the DVR-A08XL is significantly reduced.

The DVR-A08XL also features a range of innovations, "Precision Recording Technology", that improve DVD writing performance. Precision Recording Technology includes:

  • Smart Laser Driver - the drive circuitry has been moved to the laser pick up to prevent signal distortion between the main board and the drive pick up.
  • Liquid Crystal Tilt/Thickness Compensator - the mechanism helps to ensure precise writing onto the surface of discs that have become warped or are of uneven thickness. Such media can also cause vibration in the drive mechanism that impairs recording quality.
  • Ultra Dynamic Resonance Absorber (Low Vibration Mechanism) - this acts to reduce the instability and vibration which is caused by imbalanced or damaged media, to achieve and maintain the integrity of the recording and playback performance.

The drive will be available in September for under €200 through Pioneer resellers and retailers. An OEM version of the drive - the DVR-108 - will also be available through PC manufacturers. (The DVR-108 does not include the honeycomb chassis or the front bezel design of the DVR-A08XL, as it is an internal drive intended for OEM manufacturers to install in their PC's.)..."

- Features

The Pioneer DVR-108 supports 16X DVD±R, 4X DVD±RW and 4X DVD+R DL writing according to the official specifications. As a CD recorder it supports 32X CD-R and 24X US-RW writing along with 40X CD-ROM reading. Below are the full specs for the drive:

Pioneer DVR-108
Transfer Rate Read
Transfer Rate Write
Access Time
motorized Tray load mechanism for horizonal and vertical use
Burst Transfer Rate
PIO Mode 4, Multi Word DMA Mode 2, Ultra DMA Mode 4 (Ultra DMA 66
Cashe Memory
Supported Media formats
DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Audio, CD Extra, CD Text, CD-IReady, CD-Bridge, Photo-CD, VideoCD, Hybrid CD
headphone jack and volume control at front plus digital-out and line-out at the back (MPC compatible)
Writing methods
DAO(disc at once), SAO(session at once), TAO(track at once) with zero gap, variable or fixed packet, multisession
148(W) × 42.3(H) × 198(D) mm

The drive does not support Mount Rainier, as is the case with most new DVD recorders, for either of the CD or DVD format. It uses the well known RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times. Till now, there is no known way to make the drive region free.

Below are the drive's main characteristics as given by NeroInfoTool. and DVDInfoPro:

- The drive

We received the bulk (OEM) version of Pioneer DVR-108 from Pioneer. We would like to thank Pioneer HQ for providing this engineering sample for our review. Below is a picture of the final retail package for the DVR-A08XLA:

The drive is also available with black bezel under a different code name (DVR-A08XLB):

Both retail packages (DVR-A08XL A and B), include MyDVD Deluxe v5.3, DLA (Drive Letter Access) v4.9, RecordNow! v7.2, Simple Backup v5.0 and CinePlayer software v2.0.1. If you are wondering what the differences between DVR108 & DVRA08XL are, Pioneer explains:

"...Apart from the cosmetic differences and Honeycomb Chassis for reduced drive resonance the retail version DVRA08XL also contains blank high speed media 8x DVD-R & 4x DVD-RW in the carton and additional software bundle as listed above. The DVRA08XL also includes Performance adjusting firmware, which allows for quiet playback of commercial DVD video..."

The front of the drive is rather simple, without the Pioneer logo but with the DVD-R, DVD+RW and USRW logos.

Below are the pictures of the retail drives, DVR-A08XLA:

and DVR-A08XLB:

On the rear you can find the analogue and digital audio outputs (SPDIF), the IDE selection pins, the IDE connector and the power input. There's even vent holes for a fan, however one isn't installed.

The top of the drive includes the identification sticker with code number, serial number, manufacture date and place of manufacture ("Made in China"), as well as various approvals among other things:

Removing the screws and opening the drive's cover voids the drive's warranty. For reference reasons, we post the following pictures. Click on the photos for an enlarged view.

Click To Enlarge!

The main chipset comes from NEC and its part number is NEC D63635GM in combination with the NEC C333500:

Model name
Bi-CMOS 0.35
120-pin TQFP (14x14mm)
Power consumption
0.66W (8x DVD playback)
0.74W 8x DVD recording)
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
DVD recording
CD playback
CD recording

Model name
CMOS 0.15
1.5V core, 3.3V I/O
216-pin LQFP (24x24mm)
Power consumption
0.35W (8x DVD playback)
0.95W (8x DVD recording, LVDS)
16Mbit SDRAM
DVD playback
16x CAV
DVD-RAM playback
DVD recording
CD playback
CD recording

Below is a close up photo of the drive's pickup/lens system:

- Installation

The device was connected to our test PC and was identified as "PIONEER DVD-RW DVR-108" under WinXP.

The drive arrived with v1.04 firmware revision,

which was updated to v1.06 and used to perform all the reading/writing tests. Its quite possible that soon, newer firmware versions will be released from Pioneer to improve the drive's reading/writing performance.

In this review, we will be comparing the drive with the BenQ DW1600A and ASUS DRW-1604P.

- Testing software

In order to perform our tests we used:

  1. Nero CD-DVD Speed v3.12
  2. CDVD Benchmark v1.21
  3. ExactAudioCopy v0.9 beta5
  4. Nero Info Tool v2.24
  5. KProbe v2.2.2 (Reader: LiteOn LDW-811S firmware vHS0Q, LiteOn SOHD-167T firmware 9S14 Reading speed 8X CAV)
  6. PlexTools v2.15 (Reader: Plextor PX-712A firmware v1.03, Reading speed 8X CLV for CD-R)
  7. DVDInfoPro v2.54
  8. Nero Burning Rom v6.3.1.17
  9. DVD Decrypter
  10. CopyToDVD 3.0.26

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