Pioneer DVR-108 test and review

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Pioneer DVR-108

Pioneer was the first company to make recordable DVD a reality in professional and mainstream markets. It was big news back then, but can Pioneer still keep us enthusiastic in the present competitive arena?

When DVD-R first went mainstream, we thought all our Christmases and birthdays had come at once. Until then, although DVD had become a popular format for movie watching, few video producers and DV enthusiasts had any way of publishing discs for themselves - regardless of the fact that basic authoring software was already available and affordable.
Pioneer's DVR-A03 was the first burner to offer DVD-R and DVD-RW writing for under £2,500. The drive hit the market at around £750 (inc VAT), and we were overjoyed when, some months later, the price dropped down to £600. Since then, Pioneer has seen a lot of competition - not just in burners but in disc formats, too - and rather than buckle under the pressure, the company has turned it to its advantage. Its latest offering, the DVR-108, is not only faster and better than these earlier models, but also far, far cheaper. The massive uptake of burners and fierce competition has pushed prices of EIDE models below £100 with quite a few at around £50 or less.
In theory, Pioneer offers two versions of this burner. The DVR-A08XL is for retail, and comes with cables, fixing screws and a software suite, plus it has the QuietDrive low-noise design introduced with the DVR-A07XL. QuietDrive uses a honeycomb-like material, paired with noise-dampening firmware, to reduce vibration from the drive mechanism - and no internal cooling fan is required.
This was the product we'd intended to review, but Pioneer UK couldn't get sufficient stocks, so we had to look at the other version, the DVR-108, which is available in good quantities from on-line stores. This is a 'naked' OEM drive - as supplied to system builders - and comes with no accessories or software and lacks QuietDrive features.
The best price we could find was at Ebuyer - £51.99 inc VAT. Delivery adds between £4.22 and £12.33, depending on how desperate you are to receive it.
To test the 108, we used the suite of programs that comes with the A08 in those countries where it is available - reasoning that this should give the best results and was also likely to be the suite that was supplied with many other makers' burners. The suite, from Sonic Solutions - the company that recently purchased Roxio's software arm - consists of the lite V5 of MyDVD, and some basic general burning tools - RecordNow for data and music disc creation, DLA for drag-and-drop packet-write data-copying, CinePlayer for DVD Video playback, and Simple Backup for archiving and backup.


The Pioneer is a good DVD burner and far from expensive. The Sonic Solutions software bundle we looked at - and which we'd expect to see supplied with a range of makers' burners - is good enough to get novices up and running, but likely to be bypassed by enthusiasts in favour of more advanced or versatile programs.
The playability of DVD Video discs burned to DL media is clearly improving, but we're still a long way from safe ground - more work is required on the part of the makers of software and hardware, so don't expect miracles overnight. Until the uncertainties surrounding DL DVD Video discs have been resolved, we can only suggest that professionals stick with 4.7GByte single-layer media for all DVD productions being delivered to clients.

Peter Wells

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