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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > DVD Recorders 1-4x

Monday, February 18, 2002
Panasonic LF-D311 DVD-R

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
Quantum Fireball EX 6.4 GB UDMA 33
DAWI 2975 - PCI (ULTRA) SCSI Host Adapter
Pioneer DVR-A03 firmware v1.65
Panasonic LF-D311 firmware vA113
Ricoh MP5120A firmware v1.30

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