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From Tim Fisher,

Of the competing drive types, DVD+RW copies data and formats discs fastest, but DVD-RW is more compatible.

Interest in DVD writers is soaring--and no wonder: The average price of a drive has dropped by more than half in the past 18 months, and prices are destined to go even lower. Rewritable DVD has a ways to go before it approaches the popularity of CD-RW (competing, incompatible formats remain a serious issue), but its ability to put 4.7GB--nearly seven times as much data--on a CD-size disc is sure to cut into CD-RW's turf.

Key Features

Write-once DVD: The two write-once flavors for you to consider are DVD-R and the slightly faster DVD+R. Because both of these formats use media that has a highly reflective backing, they offer the greatest compatibility with set-top DVD players (and with DVD-ROM drives). Accordingly, write-once media is usually the best choice for burning video DVDs you want to view on your living-room player or share with family and friends.

If you're buying media in small quantities, the prices for DVD-R and DVD+R media are about the same: $6 apiece. DVD-R is available in bulk, however, which can cut the price per disc in half.

Rewritable DVD: Rewritable formats include DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM. Though the third format is the least compatible of the three (discs can be read only in DVD-RAM drives and some DVD-ROM drives), it's good for data backup, since it's available in both 4.7GB bare discs and high-capacity, 9.4GB cartridges (protected discs that are usable only in other DVD-RAM drives).

The real battle is between DVD-RW and DVD+RW. Both formats burn data and video DVDs that can be read by many (but not all) DVD-ROM drives and set-top DVD players. And both use media that costs about $10 apiece.

Based on their specs, DVD+RW drives are more than twice as fast as DVD-RW drives. DVD+RW drives also take far less time to format rewritable media: A DVD-RW drive requires more than an hour, depending on the software you use. By contrast, a DVD+RW drive formats discs on the fly, so you can start writing to the disc in just a few minutes. You can get software that allows speedier DVD-RW formatting, but neither the Pioneer nor the Benq model listed here includes it.

Interface: Internal DVD burners are less expensive than external models, by as much as $100. External drives typically use either the FireWire or USB 2.0 interface; HP is one of the first to offer an external drive, the Dvd200e, with both FireWire and USB 2.0 connectors.

Software: All drives include video DVD authoring applications, such as Sonic's MyDVD 3.0, to create menus and encode analog video to MPEG-2. All have software for making data DVDs as well. Some vendors, such as HP and Sony, include backup or video editing apps.


Before choosing a format, check the Web site of your DVD player's (or DVD-ROM drive's) manufacturer for media compatibility. DVD+RW's faster format and write speeds give it an edge over DVD-RW. Also consider the strength of the software: For example, HP's Dvd200i includes lots of helpful, easy-to-use apps.


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