- Burns both DVDs and CDs;
- reasonable price for a new technology.
- No cables included with the drive;
- slow at reading large directory of small files;
- software doesn’t let you make images of audio CDs.
After so much battling over DVD-recordable standards, the trickle of shipping products has been almost anti-climactic. Take Sony's DRU110A DVD+RW drive. Its combination of DVD read/write and CD-RW capabilities lifts it a step above competing DVD-RAM/R drives. But the DRU110A's capabilities are almost identical to those of the Hewlett-Packard's DVD-Writer DVD100i, so a choice between the two comes down to the finer details, such as software and service.
The factors that most people weigh when choosing a product -- such as price, specifications and performance -- don't really apply in this case. Both the Sony and the HP products deliver 2.4X DVD+RW, 8X DVD-ROM and 12X/10X/32X CD-RW speeds. The DRU110A retails at £389.99 (ex. VAT), £160 less than the HP DVD-Writer DVD100i’s debut price of £549 (ex. VAT).
These two DVD+RW drives were a close match in our benchmark tests. The Sony DRU110A lagged a little behind the HP DVD-Writer DVD100i, but not so much that it would be noticeable to the average user. When writing movie files, the DRU110A logged 2.1MB per second, a touch slower than the DVD100i’s 2.2MB per second. The Sony drive took 4.1 minutes to write a 500MB directory to DVD, while HP’s unit hit 4.5 minutes, although on a smaller (383MB compressed) file the DVD100i was faster. The DRU110A only really struggled in our read tests, where it took 12.3 minutes to move a 500MB directory from DVD to hard drive -- substantially slower than the DVD100i's 3.3 minutes.
Installing the Sony drive into your system is no different than adding an ordinary CD drive. Slide it into a free 5.25in. bay, add it as a master or a slave to either of your IDE cables, and plug in a power cable. Although the drive ships with four screws, it doesn't come with cables for either its CD or digital-audio ports, so you might have to correct this deficiency. The drive is compatible with Windows 98 SE, ME and 2000 Professional -- according to Sony, it's also compatible with Windows XP, although the box doesn't say so. On our test system, Windows ME recognised the drive instantly.
The application disc that ships with the drive features WinDVD for DVD playback, MyDVD for recording, and B's Clip and Recorder Gold for burning audio and data CDs. Though users familiar with Roxio’s more widely distributed Easy CD Creator might be uncomfortable with the interfaces found on Clip and Recorder Gold, most of the same functionality is there, along with adequate online documentation. One major exception: there's no way to make an image of an entire audio CD as you can with Easy CD Creator, which might frustrate audiophiles. On the other hand, Sonic's MyDVD is very simple to use and includes some useful features. When making a DVD, it will offer a number of preformatted menu systems for DVD navigation on a standard player. Also, it makes discs that retain project information, so you can reedit the DVD without having the original files from your hard drive.
Sony's service and support policies are typical for the industry, and the company's Web site includes online manuals, software updates and online registration for the one-year warranty. However, Sony's labyrinthine support section is difficult to navigate.
Sony products are often priced on the high side, so it’s nice to see that the DRU110A, as an early offering of a relatively new technology, is offered at a reasonable cost.