DVD Recorders

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DVD recorders have gotten cheap. Is it the right time for you to buy?

A few cautionary notes:

They’re Going To Get Faster Fairly Soon

Right now, the affordable DVD recorders allow you to record DVD+R or DVD-R disks at 4X speed. That means you could record 4.7Gb of data using either format in about fifteen minutes.

The next generation of recorders coming out now allow you to record DVD+R at 8X speed (DVD-R remains at 4X). That means the time for a DVD+R recording would drop to around eight and a half minutes.

No, 8X is not twice as fast as 4X, just like a CD recorder 48X is not twice as fast as a 24X. An 8X recorder is called an 8X recorder because it will get up to 8X while recording, but it starts at a lower speed.

Pioneer announced the other day that its next recorder should be able to record both DVD+R and DVD-R media at 8X speed (the 8X DVD-R standard hasn’t been quite set yet).

As 2004 progresses, 12X DVD+R recorders ought to become available. Phillips recently demonstrated a proof-of-concept 16X DVD+R recording.

By the way, a CD recorder 1X and a DVD recorder 1X are not at all the same thing. For CDs, 1X equals 150Kb/sec, while for a DVD, it equal 1.35Mb/sec. Thus, a DVD “X” is worth about 9 CD “Xs”. That means an 8X DVD recorder would record DVDs at a speed equivalent to a 72X CD-ROM, so it’s not like you can expect a 52X DVD recorder real soon.

Going from 4X to 8X will be the last jump that will save users an appreciable amount of time per recording. An 8X recorder could save you about six minutes over a 4X recorder, while a 12X recorder might save you more like two.

It seems that if you want to get relatively fast recording times from a recorder fairly soon, one ought to wait for 8X recorders.

Still An Adventure…

Still An Adventure

DVD recording is still more than a bit of an adventure. If you are looking for a more-or-less brainless experience, you’re not going to get one, and the commercial software than promises you one doesn’t quite do it (at least according to the user comments I’ve seen).

Folks are still finding that their DVD recordings sometimes won’t play back on various DVD players. It happens often enough for it to be a matter of real concern for owners of DVD recorders; when a relatively cheap batch of disks are mentioned in a forum, people ask, “Will they work on my setup?”

Some of this is due to hardware. For example, in this review, some of the DVD players used simply would not play most (but not all) of the DVD+R disks it was given.

If you read a bit more about the problem, you find out about interesting new phenomenon like “book type” and you find out that burners often call your DVD+R a +RW; the DVD player won’t play +RWs, and the drive manufacturer has no plans to fix it.

Firmware upgrades occur quite often, mostly to get things to work.

Some of it is no doubt due to the disks out there. Most of the disks being sold (and especially the cheap ones), are being manufactured by the same Taiwanese CD manufacturers who became so notorious during the CD era. For instance, many pioneers have reported that disks made by one of these companies record fine, but won’t play back six months later

More often, pioneers have reported varying levels of quality within a bundle, for instance, the top ones do fine at 4X, but the bottom ones only do 2X.

Even who is making what can be very confusing, as this one forum thread illustrates.

Before you buy a recorder and media, you ought to spend more than a little time at this website, looking at the various guides, user reviews (don’t look at just the numbers, read them) and forums.

The point of all this is not to say it can’t be done. The point to all this is to say that you’re going to need to be pretty motivated and do a lot of reading before being able to do this right.

Either that, or your sister is getting married, and you want a lot of neat coasters (at around $1 a pop) for the reception.

Back To The Drawing Board, Twice

Unlike CD-ROMS, which have stayed pretty much the same insofar as capacity, DVDs are going to change.

Initially, DVDs were recorded on a single layer (that’s called DVD-5). Now, they’re often recorded on two layers (that’s DVD-9). Current DVD recorders can read two layers, but only record one layer, so if you want to “backup” a dual-layer DVD, you have to either:

  • Record on two DVDs.
  • Rip out the parts you don’t want and hope you can fit in on one DVD.
  • Rip out the parts you don’t want, and compress the video files to the point where it will all fit on one DVD.

    All of these entail problems.

    Are there plans to make dual-layer recorders? Yes, there are. Expect to see the first ones about a year from now.

    Just around the time when they’ll start to be obsoleted.

    You see, the DVD standard itself is going to change to.

    Sooner or later, DVDs will have to jump to a much higher capacity due to a new standard: HD-DVD. This is simply DVD recorded to HDTV standards. Current DVDs simply can’t hold an entire movie in HD-DVD format; they can only handle about 25 minutes’ worth of video.

    How soon will this happen? Hard to say. There are already three incompatible competing standards being waved around at the moment (one of which isn’t recordable at all). You can read a bit about the fighting going on about the two recordable standards here (if you’d like a far more technical discussion, go here and scroll down a bit.

    Backward compatibility is at least somewhat questionable (especially for self-recorded disks). For instance, one of the competing standards (Blu-Ray) provides no backward compatibility with recordable DVDs (they would play back prerecorded ones).

    Blu-ray recorders exist today (though at astronomical prices). You might see a semi-affordable one as early as a year from now. Mainstream pricing probably would be two to three years from now. We just don’t know who will win, and what will be compatible with what yet.

    The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name…

    The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name

    Of course, people will talk about everything about their DVD recorders except what they’re really using them for.

    Throughout the computer era, the equivalent of Mom has always been saying, “Backup your data,” and at least at the home level, Mom has been mostly ignored.

    When it comes to those little plastic disks, though, with data coming from other people, it is amazing how suddenly interested people are in backing up those up. Or how many people are making home movies, and apparently recording every second of their lives (at least based on the number of disks they say they buy).

    Please. I’m sure some people actually use DVD recorders for this purpose, but on the whole, the top use is backing up the neighborhood video store inventory.

    Please, if you write me, spare me the “Of course, I’m just backing up my DVD (or CD) collection,” even if you really are. I find reading that disclaimer very irritating when I know full well many if not most of those writing such are lying to me from the getgo. Let’s have a “Don’t tell, don’t ask” policy. Don’t tell me what you’re doing, and I won’t ask (not that I have in the past).

    In any event, full DVD copying (as opposed to the heavily compressed “fit-a-movie-on-a-CD”, which is already endemic) is unlikely to spread to mainstream cyberspace any time soon simply because the files are too big for even mainstream broadband. Even at a grossly optimistic 250KB/sec download speed, a 4GB movie would take about 4 1/2 hours to download, and in the P2P world, one would probably be delighted if it took less than fifteen hours.

    There will be two major forms of movie copying. The first will be compressed video of very recent (or unreleased) movies. The second will be “copy the neighbor’s or video store’s DVD.”

    To do the first, you have to get yourself a copy of the movie. This is usually done by getting a prerelease DVD (or CD) sent to reviewers, or by lax security. From Here’s an example (though this deals with music from the band Korn, not movies):

    But, of course, the question of how many fans will buy instead of burn “Mirror” bears consideration.

    Korn’s last four albums debuted in the top-3 of The Billboard 200. “Life Is Peachy” arrived at No. 3 and has sold 1.8 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Follow the Leader” and “Issues” debuted at No. 1 and scanned 3.6 million and 3.2 million, respectively. “Untouchables” debuted at No. 2 and has moved 1.4 million units. Debut album “Korn” has sold 2.1 million.

    Vocalist Jonathan Davis and Fieldy believe the sales for “Untouchables” were hurt when the album was leaked to the Internet four months prior to its release.

    The band had freely passed material around while recording and made copies for friends. This time, “nobody got a copy, no one,” Fieldy says. “As soon as we were done listening to the CD, we destroyed it. We didn’t go online with it. I think that’s how [the leak] happened the last time.” Recording at Davis’ home studio also provided a more secure environment.

    It will be interesting to see how well this works for Korn. Similiar moves are being made by the movie industry.

    Second, odds are that by sometime next year, this sort of theft will be a felony. Bipartison legislation is being introduced today.

    “The Artists Rights and Theft Prevention Act,” (emphasis for those of you who don’t consider this stealing) which would make it a felony (more than one year in prison) to “share” any pre-release entertainment online.

    The actual text of the act isn’t available yet, but we’ll go over it and talk about it in the next P2P review.

    Should this pass (and the article indicates that even consumer groups don’t have a problem with it), we’re talking about jail time. It will be a lot easier to round up a large proportion of those offering such pre-release material than what the RIAA is currently doing.

    If you have an ounce of brains in your head, don’t do this when or if this bill comes close to passage. It will be a lot easier to round up a large proportion of those offering such pre-release material than what the RIAA is currently doing (whether law enforcement agencies will actually go looking hot and heavy is another matter; if they get lots of money with which to do so, they probably will, if not, any efforts will be token, which is fine except if you’re the token).

    If you have at least a few ounces in your head, we’ll keep a close eye on this bill, not only because of its potential impact, but because it will likely be the first opportunity for the average Congressperson to weigh in on this general issue.

    For the “copy somebody else’s DVD”, it will be a powerful argument for some form of DRM in the near few years, likely tied into the development of HD-DVD (new protection standards are being devised for that), backed up by governmental criminal penalties.

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    Discussion
    1. Originally posted by UnseenMenace

      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      4) Does the information contained in this article change your thoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why

      1) no
      2) n/a
      3) Yes, I am. In fact I'm stoked about the prices that are supposedly going to be offered on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). One of the office stores is reported to be selling a Lite on dual format 4x for $90 after rebate, and Best Buy is supposedly going to have a deal where it's $80 after rebate (this one may involve a gift card though).
      4) Not particularly. I'm more likely to buy towards the end of a product cycle than the beginning. So if I were to wait for 8x burners to get to a price point, I'd be waiting a really long time. The compatibility of discs is an issue, but the main thing for me is to get my data backed up. I'm willing to take the risk that I'll have trouble with that.
      The main thing is that I've been intrigued by these for a long time, and saving a few minutes on a burn is gravy to me. I just want to be able to put the data on DVD.
      Perhaps I'm in a different segment of the market from many of you in here? I'm cheap. I'm all about the value. I'm not going to spend $200-$250 for a DVD drive to save me a few minutes on a burn. I'd rather put that money toward a new processor, monitor, video card, etc.
      What do you guys think?
      Originally posted by cursor
      Perhaps I'm in a different segment of the market from many of you in here? I'm cheap. I'm all about the value. I'm not going to spend $200-$250 for a DVD drive to save me a few minutes on a burn. I'd rather put that money toward a new processor, monitor, video card, etc.
      What do you guys think?
      I agree; I think that's a very good thought process. A DVD drive is far from the most important part of a system, and burn time doesn't mean much unless you edit and save video every day to DVD. I too would rather save the money and spend it elsewhere. In fact, I currently have no DVD burner at all and have no plans to change that any time soon.
      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      Yes. DVD-R, 2x
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      Yes.
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      n/a, I already own one.
      4) Does the information contained in this article change your thoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why
      No.
      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      Yes, Optorite 0302. +/- 4X.
      I also just bought a Pioneer A06. +/- 4X. The best one by concensus of the DVDR newsgroup. That's for a new machine I'm building.
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      Latest firmware made a big difference and it is much better now. It was pretty picky. I use it mostly for bootleg video. Not pirate stuff (copies of legit releases). This is for stuff shot at concerts or off TV. Non-commercial releases. Plus lots of data backups. I bought a new house DVD player just to make sure it was compatible with stuff I burn. So far, pretty good.
      Pioneer? Haven't gotten the new PC far enough along to try it yet.
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      No, not a third one.
      4) Does the information contained in this article change your thoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why
      It really depends on use. One very important fact is that 1X CD is not 1X DVD. I didn't know that until about two months ago. I probably would have bought one faster. But now at $100 and dropping fast, it hardly pays to get a CD burner.
      I just purchased a NEC ND1300-A and it does write in DVD-R and DVD+R. This is my first DVD recorder and I am very impressed with its ability and speed. But I did have problems with installing this unit when I first got it. When I first installed it windows had problems booting and and it took a couple of times. Then I ran into problem with the software that I was using. But it was all solved when I updated the firmware and now I'm happily burning movies with DVD X Copy with no problem what cheap media that I use. I know the prices are going to drop, but it hit me by surprise when it hit around the $100 mark. I got my NEC for $106. And well worth every penny.
      I'm getting one in the near future but it has to do +/- in all DVD formats and have the buffer overrun protection. I don't care if it's the fastest burner just as long as it can do ALL formats. $200 is not an unreasonable price.
      I just bought the plextor PX708A,supports both.
      Love it!
      Nope
      Not really,The burner i just got burns @8x,Now from what ive read 16x may be the max that media will handle.We all know that a 16x will burn faster than an 8x, but, I dont think it will be that much of a difference.I can burn a DVD in less than 7mins.I was looking for the features more than the speed.
      whelp I recon i will be hitting up the relatives to chip in with my new winnings to get me a dvd burner...I assumed 4x burns would be the same as a 4x CD burner...boy glad i saw this article...I currently have a 24X cd burner so speed isn't the main goal here, but features...truely I am glad somebody explained this in simple terms KUDOS!
      Just bought a Plextor PX-708a-BL - $220 retail at Newegg and there's a $50 rebate form to download at Plextor's website. Burns very well at 4x and 8X. Retail comes with Pinnacle Studio 8, Roxio CD/DVD creator, and Power DVD as well as the normal hardware.
      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Alas, I do not. However, if I did have one, it would certainly be dual format (+/- R/RW).
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Well you can't really expect anything from nothing, but if there is anything that I couldn't say I was happy about, it would be nothing. (or n/a)
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      I would like to get either the sony or the pioneer, but it will more likely be optorite/liteon-type solution.
      4) Does the information contained in this article change yourthoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why
      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Not really, I knew much of it (at least generally if not as detailed). I had already planned to get a dual format drive (which should eliminate most or all format compatability problems). Media may still be having issues as well, but I find that to be true every time I buy a new CD-R/W. I have to find media that will burn at the rated speed for that drive. Granted, this could be in part to the fact that I'm more likely to have a liteon drive than an expensive drive. My main use would be for backup (I may also use for music/video dvds, but not at production level). Fifteen minutes (particularly since my first DVD+/-R/W will be in my dual proc system) doesn't seem to bad. It sure beats backing up ~.75TB on CD-Rs (okay, I don't back up that much, but that's just because the drives aren't full yet, but you get the picture).
      What I do wonder about, though, is what new technologies (if any) will come out with the newer drives. I remember when I got my first cd-r before buffer under-run protection came out. I was not happy at all with my coaster maker. Essentially the drives are similar and go through a similar burning process, right? Are there new drive technologies (besides higher speed and dual layer burning) that anyone knows about, or have they hit the end of the line with what they can do?
      That wouldmake a difference in my buying soon (I don't really need one yet, the big drives are in a redundant RAID until I actually generate enough content to need the space, and the other systems really only have OS/programs , but it would be nice to have).
      If future DVD+/-R/W drives will have something (other than dual layer, which I don't really care about ATM, I will, just not now) that really improves them, I might wait.
      Good article. I did pick up some specifics where I only had generalizations, and some great links.
      Side note: I have to disagree with Ed about CD 1x and DVD 1x being,
      not at all the same thing.

      While he is quite right about them representing vastly different data transfer rates (and the numbers are right). However, they do represent the same concept. They represent the data transfer rate needed to play the content that the media was made for in real-time. The data rate that we call 1x was determined by the industry standards for the original content type, the #x classification came when we computer users decided to use the media format and wanted to make it faster. CDs were made for music (which is essentially just an audio track @44.1kHz/16bits and a fairly small data record), and DVDs for movies (which must contain an audio track, a data record, and a video track {for which I do not know the specs: resolution, etc...). It's really that they are not at all equal.
      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      yes, a Liteon 401 4x +RW and a PLextor 708 8x +/-RW
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      the liteon is junk, the plextor rocks
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      already have 2
      4) Does the information contained in this article change yourthoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why
      not really
      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      No. But I have about 4000 DVD+R's. :D
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      Don't have one.
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      Since I have 4000 DVD+R's I should get one.
      4) Does the information contained in this article change your thoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why
      Not really. I bought the DVD+R's before I read the article.
      Originally posted by druidelder
      Side note: I have to disagree with Ed about CD 1x and DVD 1x being "not at all the same thing."
      While he is quite right about them representing vastly different data transfer rates (and the numbers are right). However, they do represent the same concept. They represent the data transfer rate needed to play the content that the media was made for in real-time. The data rate that we call 1x was determined by the industry standards for the original content type, the #x classification came when we computer users decided to use the media format and wanted to make it faster. CDs were made for music (which is essentially just an audio track @44.1kHz/16bits and a fairly small data record), and DVDs for movies (which must contain an audio track, a data record, and a video track {for which I do not know the specs: resolution, etc...). It's really that they are not at all equal.

      You say tomato, tomatoe.
      1X CD is supposed to represent a 16bit 44.1khz wave file played back in real time (74 or 80 minutes per disc). That's a standard.
      Problem is, the DVD mpeg bitrate doesn't necessarily have to be standard (from my understanding some retail DVD comes as VBR in order to squeeze them onto 4.7GB, though most just use the 7GB discs nowadays). To burn 4.7GB of data on my drive at 1X it takes about 5o minutes, but a standard DVD can play longer than that on 4.7GB.
      I'd say Ed is closer to being correct than incorrect here.
      I'm just semantically picky I guess. Good article though.
      Here are the standards for DVD (Book B):
      Video ITU-T H.262/ISO-IEC 13818-2 (MPEG-2 Video)
      ISO/IEC 11172-2 (MPEG-1 Video)
      Audio ISO/IEC 13818-3 (MPEG-2 Audio)
      ISO/IEC 11172-3 (MPEG-1 Audio) Dolby AC-3 standard
      System ITU-T H.222 / ISO/IEC 13818-1 (MPEG-2 Systems)
      Program/PES stream only (no Transport streams)
      Anything else is not technichally a DVD. So while you can do whatever you want with a DVD, 1x is defined by the above. As for getting more time from playback, I can do the same on a CD-R with mp3 files, but that doesn't conform to the standard. Again, just semantics.
      1) Do you currently own a DVD Recorder if so is it DVD-R, DVD+R or another format ?
      A: Yes, a lite-on dual format
      2) Are you happy with your current DVD Recorder ?
      A: Yes, I have been very pleased by it's performance
      3) Are you currently considering buying a DVD Recorder ?
      A: I will be considering a 16X when they become available and at a cost under $100 till then I will stick with 4X
      4) Does the information contained in this article change your thoughts on the buying a DVD Recorder... if so why
      A: No, I had made my decision prior to reading the article, and would have done just as I am doing now regardless.
      im going to counter point ED here, alot
      Lets face it, if you are ocforums.com you are not the average user. You tweak and know how to get the most out of your hardware. So why shouldnt software be the same. DVD-R is near perfect right now. THe best method is the ripping/re encoding, here is why.
      SVCD shows that you dont need an extremely high bitrate to achieve DVD quality. Most movies can fit on a 2/3 CDR's and look fine if encoded correctly.
      Multilanguage- Now lets be honest how many of you are going to watch your movie in spanish, french, itallian, as well as subtitles for all. These can go clearing up valuable space.
      Extras-Why not just re-encode them to lower than DVD quality. Do I really care that the theatrical trailers and out takes are more VHS quality than DVD, no not really. How often are you going to watch those anyways. These can be greatly dowgraded and still look near perfect.
      So what it comes down to is you have to know your software. No one here should buy a program that promises to copy dvd's. They work horribly and I would exepct you not to have much fun with them. But if you know how to use the freeware tools out there, to rip out all the other languages and subs, encode the EXTRAS at a lower bit rate, encode the main film at an acceptable VBR, then you easily have a "perfect" copy of a DVD. It simply takes experiance in knowing how to encode/what to rip.
      To post on overclockers.com to wait is rather silly. Post an article like that at say new pc owner magazines website or something. Overclockers.com should consider themselves on the bleeding edge of software and hardware. The users should be expected how to use the tools out there to create a "perfect" dvd. SO what if you have to re-encode, isnt that why we overclock our systems to begin with. You might not fold as many WU's at night while your DVD is re-encoding but who cares, not unless you are in the top 50.
      Granted there are always bad choices out there, like first generation drives. BUt at this point the technology has matured, and is flawless in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.
      Originally posted by DayUSeX
      To post on overclockers.com to wait is rather silly. Post an article like that at say new pc owner magazines website or something. Overclockers.com should consider themselves on the bleeding edge of software and hardware. The users should be expected how to use the tools out there to create a "perfect" dvd. SO what if you have to re-encode, isnt that why we overclock our systems to begin with. You might not fold as many WU's at night while your DVD is re-encoding but who cares, not unless you are in the top 50.

      While I agree 100% with this paragraph, I think to assume someone is savvy with hardware would also be software savvy is just plain wrong. I know a lot of members here that do awesome overclocking but can't rip a vbr mp3 with full id3. If you expect these same users to rip dvd data then re-encode properly, selecting the correct audio and chapter data, and then create and burn img files, you're gravely mistaken.
      Originally posted by Pinky

      While I agree 100% with this paragraph, I think to assume someone is savvy with hardware would also be software savvy is just plain wrong. I know a lot of members here that do awesome overclocking but can't rip a vbr mp3 with full id3. If you expect these same users to rip dvd data then re-encode properly, selecting the correct audio and chapter data, and then create and burn img files, you're gravely mistaken.

      i fully agree that there are members here who can overclock blindfolded if you told them what brand board/cpu it was blindfolded. But to not know how to use your software is just plain silly.
      Its like those people who buy "sports" cars with automatic transmissions. To only get half the equation is just plain wrong i feel. Ill take my slower machine if i know how to use the software, at least my DVD will come out correct =P.
      But still i agree it is a rarity these days to see people who "hack" their applications to get them to run faster, well unlesss you are nvidia that is =P.
      I miss the days of people making their own DLL's and hex editing software just to brag their system can handle X amount of pollys better then yours.