Three Generations Compared: Is Your DVD Burner Outdated?


A brand new 24x DVD burner doesn’t cost more than $40 and will probably be closer to $30. We decided to compare different DVD burner generations from NEC/Sony to find out whether or not it makes sense to replace an existing drive. In theory, there are significant advantages, such as much decreased recording times, new disc labeling technologies, slightly decreased power consumption, and SATA (rather than PATA) interfaces. However, the differences in real life require consideration.

It’s certainly possible to record single layer discs at 24x. Unfortunately, true 24x media is difficult to get; hence, we had to use 16x, hand-selected, high-quality recordable media from Verbatim (Taiyo Yuden) to run our tests at that speed. It worked well, but I wouldn’t put my life on its long-term durability.

The write speed issue was even more significant in the case of double-layer discs, where the recording time is much longer than with single-layer discs. Although the latest Sony Optiarc drive is capable of writing DL discs at 12x, we weren’t able to get the appropriate discs and had to stay at 8x recording speed. But since even the old 16x drive can record double-layer discs at 8x, there’s little real life value in the 12x recording specs of the latest DVD burner generation.

Finally, there are the labeling technologies called Labelflash or LightScribe. Both require compatible media, which you can turn over to have your DVD recording software burn images into the label side. This makes sense for important or valuable discs. But the technologies aren’t compatible, which means that you have to settle on one of them and purchase compatible media. Note that these discs typically aren’t available for top recording speeds.

The only case in which a new DVD drive makes a real difference is single-layer DVD recording. If you have to write DVDs multiple times a day, then it makes sense to spend $30 on a new drive. We’d also recommend recycling existing DVD burners when you plan to upgrade your PC. A $30 to $40 cost isn’t much when buried in the price of a new system, and the new drive will ensure maximum performance, lower power consumption, and come with the convenient SATA interface.