HP – dvd300i review

fast DVD writer
Photo of HP – dvd300i
£212 + VAT

DVD writing technology is becoming faster and cheaper and offers far more features than CD writing. The most obvious advantage is the huge 4.7GB of capacity offered by a single DVD for £4. Then you have the joy of editing home movies into chapters on a DVD that can be navigated with a menu.

The new HP dvd300i drive uses the ‘+’ or ‘plus’ media format (rather than ‘-’ or ‘minus’ format) and runs at speeds that make it interesting for the modern PC user. The DVD part of the drive runs at 4x DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+RW, 8x DVD-ROM, while the CD part compares very favourably with a dedicated CD-RW drive at 40x CD-R, 10x CD-RW and 40x CD-ROM.

The dvd300i resembles an internal ATAPI CD-RW drive and is simple to fit inside your PC, requiring only four screws and an IDE cable (supplied) to have it up and running. You’ll need to be running Windows 98/ Me/ 2000 or XP to use the supplied software, but that is true of all of DVD drives and our experience is that Windows XP is the operating system of choice.

You also need to be aware that the system requirements are relatively steep at Windows 98SE/ Me/ 2000/ XP, a spare 5.25-inch drive bay, a Pentium III 600MHz processor and 128MB RAM, but again that is true of most DVD writers.

On the down side, HP supplies a software package that fails to thrill us, containing ArcSoft ShowBiz DVD, Veritas RecordNow DLA, HP Memories Disc Creator and Cyberlink PowerDVD. Although the software is adequate for most tasks, we find that the Nero software supplied with most competing DVD writers is better, but let’s be clear that is a personal preference of this reviewer who skips merrily from one DVD writer to another and is happier with the familiarity of seeing the same interface time and time again.

HP was faced with a clear choice of either the ‘+’ or ‘-’ DVD format (although Sony has covered itself by producing a drive that supports both formats, as fitted to the Sony Vaio PCG-GRX616SP), and it plumped for the ‘+’ format. Unfortunately DVD media compatibility is still an issue, much as CD media was a problem a couple of years ago. It’s debatable which format is preferable, so if you intend to replay your DVDs in a domestic DVD player, check its compatibility first.

Company: HP

Contact: 0870 5474 747

This new HP drive is fast and uses one of the two DVD formats that give reasonable compatibility with home DVD players, although the discs it creates are by no means guaranteed to work with a particular player. It is also quite a decent CD-RW drive so you could use it to replace an older, slower drive. While we're not huge fans of the software package this is a good product that offers very fair value for money.