As members of the DVD+RW Alliance, Sony has been at the forefront of DVD recording innovation; first to market with Dual Format drives – the DRU-500A – and now the first Double Layer drive; the DRU-700A.
Double Layer DVD-ROMs have been around for a while but it’s only recently that the technology has been applied to DVD recordable media, as DVD+R DL. Although Double Layer doesn’t quite double the capacity of DVD+R media, you still get a hefty 8.5GB of storage on a disc, the equivalent of four hours of quality video.
The technology works by using two organic dye recording layers which are separated by a transparent spacer. The lower layer, the first recording layer, is backed by a thin, semi-reflective silver alloy which allows the laser beam to pass through to the upper layer, which has a higher power sensitivity than the first layer.
When recording, DVD+R DL discs use an opposite track path (OTP); data writing starts at opposites ends of the disc depending on which layer is being burnt. So the first layer is written from the hub outwards while the second layer is written from the rim inwards, which enables the drive to jump from one layer to the next.
Sony’s DRU-700A is not only a Double Layer drive but also carries on from the previous DRU-500A and DRU-530A (8x DVD+/- drive) by being a Dual Format drive as well; the new drive looks almost identical to the DRU-530A with its silver loading tray and white body.
Thoughtfully Sony has included a black face plate with the drive; just the job if your case is black. Sony has cut costs with the drive by removing the front headphone jack and volume control, which aren’t used that much these days anyway.
Performance-wise the drive has a 2MB buffer and burns at 2.4x DVD+R DL, 4x DVD+/-RW and 8x DVD+/-R. It reads DVD-ROMs at 12x for a single layer disc and 8x for a Double Layer disc. It’s no slouch in its CD performance either, offering 40x/24x/40x performance. The drive also has Power-Burn buffer under-run protection.
One feature it has that is really useful, especially if you have an older DVD player, is something called bitsetting. By setting the book type of DVD+R, +RW and +R DL media you can make the discs identify themselves as DVD-ROMs, which overcomes the problems some older drives have with recordable media.
While we couldn’t test the Double Layer performance of the drive due to a shortage of media – always a problem with new drives – it writes 4GB of data to 8X DVD-R media in an impressive ten minutes; not the fastest drive around but swift nevertheless.
Sony supplies the DRU-700A with a bundle of Ahead Software applications; Nero Burning ROM SE, Nero Express 6, NeroVison Express 2 (the latest version of Ahead’s video authoring software), Nero ShowTime (Ahead’s new software DVD player), Nero BackItUp, Nero MediaPlayer and Ahead’s packet writing software, InCD 4.
Apart from the difficulties in obtaining the media (Sony don’t supply any with the drive), the question really to be asked is; do you really need 8GB of removable storage? For large backups it’s ideal, but for the home user the jury is still out.
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