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Watch Blu-ray And Burn DVDs: Three Low-Cost Solutions

Return Of The “Combo” Drive

Optical drives that write to fewer formats than they read are nothing new. The early days of recordable DVDs greeted technophiles with DVD burners priced at over $200 and blank media at several dollars per disc. This was just about the time that CD-R media fell to 50¢ per disc, making it the format of choice, in spite of its relatively tiny capacity. 

The technology that made DVD burners so much more expensive than CD burners was in the write head, hence DVD readers with CD-burning capabilities became the norm for mid-priced, single-drive systems. Two-drive combinations of a separate CD burner and DVD reader were also popular, but the “on-the-fly” copy option that this combination enabled resulted in buffer under-runs more often than not. While many of us have owned systems with two optical drives, most of us got in the habit of using only one of the two drives, and have since figured out that we really only need a single drive, so long as it has all of our required functions.

Blu-ray formats now face a similar cost situation, and several ~$100 combination Blu-ray-reader and DVD-writer drives have existed for over a year. Once again, we face a situation where having separate drives might make sense to some people because the fastest DVD writers have slightly higher burn speeds than available combo drives. But the practical matter of saving a few seconds on a burn is only really valuable for someone who uses the feature continuously. Rather than devote resources to improving DVD-writing speed, combo-drive manufacturers have focused recent improvements on Blu-ray reads, which, at the now-standard 8x speed, are fast enough to buffer several seconds of video for each second of play time. The added read speed is gratis thanks to competition between manufacturers, so we finally have a selection of combo drives with good enough performance to convince us to take the plunge.

You’ll probably notice that a few brands are missing, and for good reason. One long-time favorite enthusiast vendor is shifting entirely towards notebook-sized drives. Another is in the middle of a model update and couldn’t get us its newer part, and a third is dropping its combo drives early to focus on improved-value Blu-ray burners. That leaves us with two value brands and one premium brand vying for our best-value dollars.

  • Crashman
    demonhorde665why bother with a blu ray reader /dvd burner combo ??? they now have blue ray burners if i really need a dvd burner i'll jsut get a blue ray burner/reader , and a seperate dvd burner/reader
    Because you'll generally pay around twice as much to get a Blu-ray burner as you would to get a combo drive? Because you can't afford the Blu-ray blanks anyway so that spending twice as much would give you no benefits? It's right there in the article intro, really.

    If you can afford Blu-ray media and don't mind paying around twice as much for the drives, this article isn't for you. Tom's hoping for Blu-ray media prices to fall a little more before doing a Blu-ray burner article this winter.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    demonhorde665why bother with a blu ray reader /dvd burner combo ??? they now have blue ray burners if i really need a dvd burner i'll jsut get a blue ray burner/reader , and a seperate dvd burner/reader
    I personally run a Blu-ray reader/DVD writer on my workstation. No need to spend the money for a Blu-ray writer when I don't plan to burn Blu-rays at $3+ bucks a disc (especially with 4TB of network storage) and don't care to spend the extra money on the drive itself.
    Reply
  • TheDane
    What about noise levels during playback of movies using these drives (what's the point in having the "ultimate performance" BD/DVD deviceif it is unbearable loud while watching movies)?

    Some drives are VERY noisy but others (like LG's super-multiblue BD/HD/DVD/CD combo-drive) are very quiet during playback - a MUST for HTPC setups.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    TheDaneWhat about noise levels during playback of movies using these drives (what's the point in having the "ultimate performance" BD/DVD deviceif it is unbearable loud while watching movies)?Some drives are VERY noisy but others (like LG's super-multiblue BD/HD/DVD/CD combo-drive) are very quiet during playback - a MUST for HTPC setups.
    All three are similarly quiet during playback and all similarly noisy during full-speed reads and writes.
    Reply
  • dimitrik
    This article seemed mildly interesting but any comparison of disk burners that only looks at speed and not quality, i.e. recording errors, is not worth the time to read, let alone write. Really guys! You're supposed to be the hardware experts and you don't know this? Burners are judged on recording quality - you need to click the little "Disk Info" tab on NeroDiskSpeed and run the advanced tests. This is just meaningless. Thanks for wasting my time.
    Reply
  • wuzy
    What's most amazing I found is slim BD combo drives pulled out of OEM laptops sold on fleaBay are dirt cheap (~$50) compared to a desktop 5.25" ones bought brand new. You can pick either 50pin IDE or slim SATA.
    Got a HL CA10N (slot loading) here which I use in my HTPC.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    wuzyWhat's most amazing I found is slim BD combo drives pulled out of OEM laptops sold on fleaBay are dirt cheap (~$50) compared to a desktop 5.25" ones bought brand new. You can pick either 50pin IDE or slim SATA.Got a HL CA10N (slot loading) here which I use in my HTPC.
    Yes, you can find Notebook drives used easier than you can find Desktop drives, because notebook manufacturers were the first to adopt Blu-ray on a broad scale. On the other hand, comparing new prices makes the notebook drives, which tend to be slower and more expensive, appear a bad value.
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    CrashmanAll three are similarly quiet during playback and all similarly noisy during full-speed reads and writes.I would have to say the slower disc spin rate would have to make the LG quieter. I know that with most DVD drives hitting fast forward will cause the drive to spin up to a much louder speed, The LG one does not do this. They also list that the drive has a feature that makes the drive max out at different(slower) speeds depending on what is on the media. CD/DVD/BD are supposed to run slower thereby quieter. Do you have a DATA BD disc to try?
    Reply
  • avatar_raq
    It's a shame that the LG drive looked better on paper while it's the worst of the three in real life! Cheating the costumers, aren't we?!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    nukemasterI would have to say the slower disc spin rate would have to make the LG quieter. I know that with most DVD drives hitting fast forward will cause the drive to spin up to a much louder speed, The LG one does not do this. They also list that the drive has a feature that makes the drive max out at different(slower) speeds depending on what is on the media. CD/DVD/BD are supposed to run slower thereby quieter. Do you have a DATA BD disc to try?
    No. I knew people would ask so I listened to the drives in play, rip, and write modes. I don't have a sound-proof room and firmly believe that giving numbers taken from a sound meter at anything other than 1 meter while in a soundproof room provides misleading results.
    Reply