LG drive writes to all DVD formats

As most DVD drive manufacturers align themselves behind different rewritable standards, LG is taking a stand - by sitting on the fence

As the debate continues over which DVD rewritable format is best, LG has launched what it claims to be the first drive to support all three formats: DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM.

LG, which believes that recordable DVD will overtake CD-RW by volume by 2005 and will dominate the market by 2006, says that the Super Multi Write Plus Drive will reduce confusion or risk when a customer is deciding which format is better.

Most DVD drive manufacturers are currently aligned behind either DVD-RW or DVD+RW. Panasonic and parent company Matsushita Electrical have been relatively isolated in championing the DVD-RAM format, which is generally seen as the best format for data storage because of the way data can be written in the same random access method that is used to write data to hard disks.

DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs by contrast are written sequentially, but they are more popular among consumers because few DVD players can read the DVD-RAM format.

Paul O'Donovan, a principal analyst with Gartner Group, believes DVD-RAM is the weakest of the three DVD rewriteable solutions. "The fact that you have to go through separate stages if you want to distribute your movie -- edit it on DVD-RAM and then burn it to DVD-R -- makes it unattractive to consumers. People don't want to do that sort of thing."

The key to the struggle between the formats, said O'Donovan, will be the PC market. "If you're not a PC user, then the different DVD recording formats are just too complicated -- people will hold off," he said. "In the PC world, people who are used to burning CDs now want to move to DVDs and they won't buy a stand-alone DVD recorder because increasingly they will have it built into their PCs." And Dell and HP (both DVD+RW backers) are the two biggest PC makers. "I think that ultimately DVD+RW will be the format of choice," said O'Donovan.

The Super Multi Write Plus Drive writes to DVD-RAM (x3), DVD-RW (x2), DVD-R (x4), DVD+RW (x2.4), DVD+R (x4), CD-RW (x16) and CD-R (x24) media. The new drive is compatible with DVD players and DVD-ROM drives that support the three formats, and enables storage of up to 9.4 GB (double-sided) of information on a single disk, said LG. The drive uses an E-IDE/ATAPI interface, meaning that it will work with standard hard drive cables, and has a 2MB buffer memory to help keep up transfer speeds.

Earlier this year, Panasonic launched the first sub-£200 DVD-RAM drive as part of a major push for DVD-RAM acceptance in Europe. The DVD Burner II supports the DVD-RW and DVD-RAM rewritable formats, and the DVD-R recordable format, but not DVD+RW.