Panasonic has been making DVD-Ram drives for quite some time now, and for much of that time it was the only form of rewritable DVD available. You could of course buy a DVD-R drive, but these tended to cost several thousands of pounds, making them less attractive to most buyers.
Now however, the writable DVD market has more or less exploded with Pioneer releasing a drive based on DVD-RW technology and Philips and Hewlett Packard both about to release devices based on DVD+RW. So, now that the competition has got hotter, how well does Panasonic's DVD Burner stand up?
This is the third generation of DVD-Ram drives from Panasonic and, unlike the first two models, this one sports an ATAPI interface rather than a SCSI one. There are a couple of reasons for this change. The first being that EIDE is much faster and more reliable than it used to be and has taken a lot of the workstation market away from SCSI.
The second reason is one of economics. With an ATAPI interface anyone can buy a DVD burner and install it into their PC without having to pay out extra for a SCSI controller card.
DVDRam discs come in several flavours. Single sided discs sport 4.7Gb while a double-sided disc has a total of 9.4Gb, although you will have to turn it over. Single-sided discs can be used either in a caddy or bare, while double-sided discs are restricted to a caddy to stop it getting scratched. You can, of course, also read the older 2.6Gb discs if you have any knocking about.
But it's not the DVD-Ram compatibility that makes this new drive special, it's the fact that it will also burn DVD-R media. As recently as three years ago a DVD-R drive would have cost you around £13,000, so it's amazing that you can now burn DVD-Rs on a device costing only £550. DVD-R is much like CD-R, in that it's a write once medium, but it's also compatible with almost any DVD device you're likely to come across.
This makes it ideal for distribution, whether it's that wedding video that you've transferred from DV tape or a massive data archive that you need to ship to your Far East office. DVD-R gives you the ability to produce a disc with masses of data that can be read on almost any PC, Mac or even DVD-Video player.
However, Pioneer's DVD-RW drive can also burn DVD-R media and the DVD-RW discs that it uses are also compatible with most recent DVD-Rom or DVD-Video players, but the DVD Burner is still a strong proposition. For one thing, writing to DVD-RW is painfully slow, while DVD-Ram enjoys a transfer rate of over 22Mbps.
Copying 3.9Gb of data to the Pioneer DVD-RW drive took two hours and 23 minutes compared with 58 minutes on the DVD Burner. DVD-Ram is also random access, so it can split a large file into multiple areas on a disc, whereas DVD-RW is sequential and needs a contiguous block of space big enough to accommodate the file being copied. Also, DVD-Ram discs are rated at 100,000 rewrites, while DVD-RW can only manage 1000.
On the down side, the Panasonic is only a single speed DVD-R writer while the Pioneer is double speed. As a result, when we copied the same 3.9Gb of data to DVD-R the DVD Burner took 55 minutes, while the Pioneer drive took 25 minutes 43 seconds. That said, since burning a DVD-R is much like burning a CD-R, you're likely to set it running and leave it.
The software bundle is first rate with copies of Cyberlink's Power DVD and Power VCR II which makes use of DVD-Ram's time-shifting ability. You also get Sonic's DVD It! and the excellent Primo DVD from Prassi.
Panasonic 0845 600 3535