12.4 Our Picks
ATAPI DVD-ROM drives have largely replaced ATAPI CD-ROM drives, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Current DVD-ROM drives substitute well for a CD-ROM drive. They're a bit more expensive than CD-ROM drives, but you can buy a good DVD-ROM drive for under $60. For a general-purpose system, we now recommend DVD-ROM rather than CD-ROM. Here are the DVD drives we recommend:
- ATAPI DVD-ROM drive
Hitachi, Panasonic, Pioneer, or Toshiba. All of these manufacturers produce first-rate DVD-ROM drives, although they vary in features, speed, and price. If all you need a DVD-ROM drive to do is read DVD-ROM and CD discs, nearly any model from a Japanese maker will suffice. If you need a drive that can read other formats, such as DVD-RAM or DVD-RW, or a drive that supports high-speed DMA modes, the details become more important. See our web site, listed below, for current detailed recommendations.
- SCSI DVD-ROM drive
Toshiba SD-M1401. DVD-ROM is primarily a consumer-oriented technology, so relatively few SCSI drives are available. Of those, the 12X SD-M1401 is the best we know of. SCSI is usually a step ahead of ATAPI in performance, but the SD-M1401 SCSI drive is slower than its ATAPI cousin. Although we're SCSI advocates, when it comes to DVD-ROM, we use ATAPI. Unless you're building an all-SCSI system, we recommend you do the same. (http://www.toshiba.com/taecdpd/products/features/SDM1401-Over.shtml)
- Combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive
Plextor 20/10/40-12A PlexCombo. In May 2002, Plextor shipped the PlexCombo drive, which combines a 12X DVD-ROM drive with a CD burner that writes at 20X, rewrites at 10X, and reads at 40X. In the past, we gave combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives only a lukewarm recommendation. Although convenient, they were much slower than individual components, appeared more likely to fail, and lacked such niceties as BURN-Proof. Although the 20X writes and 10X rewrites of the PlexCombo aren't quite up to the fastest standalone CD burner models, they are more than fast enough for most purposes. The PlexCombo is solidly constructed, and after limited testing appears to be as reliable as any other Plextor optical drive, which is to say extremely so. The PlexCombo is also the first combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive that supports BURN-Proof, which is a key factor in our recommendation. If you need both DVD-ROM and CD-RW functions and if 20X writes and 10X rewrites are fast enough for your needs, we recommend the Plextor PlexCombo without reservation. (http://www.plextor.com)
The DVD writer market has changed a great deal since mid-2001. Until then, DVD-RAM was the only choice, because consumer-grade DVD-R/RW and DVD+RW drives had not yet shipped in volume. But in mid-2001, Pioneer began shipping their DVR-A03 DVD-R/RW writer, and in late 2001, several manufacturers began shipping DVD+RW drives. Although hybrid drives that support more than one of these technologies are now available, we do not yet have sufficient experience with any of these to recommend any particular model. The attractiveness of hybrid drives, of course, is that they offer at least some "future-proofing." However, our experience with other hybrid products has been that, although they may do more than one thing, they often do nothing as well as a product dedicated to one technology. So for now at least, if you want a large, rewritable optical drive, we recommend picking one of the following three technologies. For details about the specific models we currently recommend, see our web site, listed below.
- DVD-RAM drive
Toshiba or Hitachi. Both of these companies produce top-notch ATAPI DVD-RAM drives. Price, performance, and features vary between models, but if you need a fast, high-capacity optical rewriter, you're likely to be happy with a current model from either company. For storing data (as opposed to video), we think DVD-RAM is the best choice, and we believe that Toshiba and Hitachi make the best DVD-RAM drives available.
- DVD-R/RW drive
Pioneer. Pioneer invented DVD-R, and their DVD-R/RW drives are first-rate. If you need a DVD writer/rewriter that uses discs rather than cartridges and produces discs that can be read by most DVD-ROM drives and DVD players, a Pioneer DVD-R/RW drive may be your best choice. Although for various technical reasons DVD-R/RW is inferior to DVD-RAM for storing data, a DVD-R/RW drive unquestionably offers more flexibility than a DVD-RAM drive. If DVD-R/RW is right for you, we think you'll be happy with a current Pioneer model.
- DVD+RW drive
Sony DRU-120A. Although Hewlett-Packard DVD200i DVD+RW drives are heavily promoted and more readily available than other DVD+RW drives, we don't buy HP products, and so can't recommend them. Sony DVD+RW drives are harder to find, but are at least as good as the HP drives. Sony DVD+RW writers are fast, reliable drives that write DVD+RW very quickly, write CD-R/RW at reasonably high speeds (albeit without BURN-Proof), and read all common optical formats except DVD-RAM. If DVD-RAM support is not an issue for you, you'll probably be happy with a current Sony DVD+RW writer.
To view our current specific recommendations by make and model, visit: