Pioneer – DVD-R S201 review

early adopters' DVD-R drive
Photo of Pioneer – DVD-R S201
£3,525

Pioneer is looking to make a bigger name for itself with this, the first 4.7GB DVD-R drive in the market place. Previous capacities have never been quite large enough to master full-length films, but this new drive brings DVD-Video mastering within the scope of a small business – ideal for wedding videos, promotional films and pre-mastering DVD-ROMs.

The model we reviewed is an external SCSI drive with the large 50-way Centronics interface. This is ideally suited to the environment that these drives are most likely to find themselves being used in, namely publishing houses, graphics design studios and commercial video editing suites running either Mac or PC high-end systems.

Installation onto our SCSI system with an Adaptec AHA-2940 card was relatively simple. If you’re using Windows 98, all the drivers are built in and the drive will appear as another CD on your filing system. Pioneer supplies basic software to burn data to the DVD but if you were seriously into writing DVD then you would have to purchase software specific to your requirements. Apparently Pioneer will soon be providing Gear’s DVD Pro suite with the drive.

The drive is rated as a two-speed writer and our tests confirmed this, averaging at 1.9X. It’s well-built and even has an internal dust filter with replaceable filter inserts. DVD writing is not quick and our first test write took over three hours, although this included initial drive test and validation of data. Once you’ve got the hang of it and are confident of your media, this will come down to just over an hour per disc.

The media is expensive, and at approximately £50 a time you’ll not want to make many mistakes. ‘Expensive’ is the main attribute of this drive and places it out of reach of the average user, though some early adopters with a bit of cash to spare may well be tempted. For the rest of us however, patience is the key, as both Panasonic and Hitachi have announced 4.7GB DVD-RAM drives that should be with us early in 2000, and discs produced on these drives should be readable in DVD-ROM drives. This should open up some competition and see prices plummet to more realistic levels.

Company: Pioneer

Contact: 01753 789789


Verdict
The drive was faultless in use and we have no doubt that many people involved in producing DVDs will be queuing up to buy one The cost of the test cycle of pre-mastering to tape and having a master DVD blown for checking would be saved and a business could recover the initial outlay in very little time. For the average user, though, we'd recommend waiting for a few months, as the prices will plummet and DVD writing should reach more affordable levels.