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

Monday, February 18, 2002
Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-R

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,,, 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

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