Philips DVDRW228 test and review

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Philips DVDRW228

Philips is determined to make its DVD+R and DVD+RW formats the accepted standard for recordable DVD in the consumer arena. Will its 'foolproof, user-friendly' burner be a trump card or an expensive turkey?

Philips' latest DVD burner for desktop computers records to DVD+R and DVD+RW - the formats Philips pioneered. The best price we could find for the DVDRW228 - £250 - means it's only £5 less than Sony's DRU-500A - a drive which writes to all four recordable DVD formats. The Philips is also £50 more than Pioneer's latest DVD-R/-RW burner, the DVR-A05, and competing DVD+R/+RW drives from Ricoh and Hewlett Packard.
DVD+R discs have greatly impressed us lately, having proven to be compatible with machines that reject every other type of 4.7GByte recordable media. But, in the current market confusion over which discs work with which drives, the Sony's versatility - and other brands' cheaper prices - leave the Philips at a distinct disadvantage.

The drive's spec is little different to that of the last Philips burner we tested - the DVDRW208, apart from the very important fact that the newcomer can record to write-once DVD+R discs, as well as to DVD+RW. Regardless of whether discs are writable or re-writable, DVD is burned at a speed of 2.5x. CD-R burns at 12x, and a 10x speed is provided for CD-RW. DVD read speeds are 8x, while CD read speeds are 32x.

The art of going backwards
Philips' DVD burner is similar to drives from Ricoh and Hewlett Packard, but has one significant difference - a foolproof installation process, designed for the complete novice. As you'd expect of anything designed to make life easy, Philips' installation process took us over four hours to complete, as we installed, uninstalled, crashed systems, rescued systems, and switched operating systems in a frantic bid to get the thing working. We're probably too used to the bad old ways, where you install a DVD burner as you would any CD-ROM drive, then whack on any necessary video burning software, and get straight down to work. That game has obviously become boring and predictable. This is a true adventure, for which we cannot thank Philips enough.

The 228's installation disc must be run before the DVD burner is installed. Its first action is to check the system for Adobe Acrobat reader and install it if it isn't there already - so far, so good. Next, we're asked if we'd like to watch an installation video guide. This has all the inspirational vitality of an old Pathe newsreel. Alternatively, just press ahead with the installation. This asks how the drive is to be used on the system (alongside another DVD-ROM drive, or replacing it). Instructions are then given on how the drive is to be jumpered, and which IDE connection should be used for it.
The instructions were straightforward, and we followed them to the letter, only to find that the process wouldn't resume, telling us we'd made an unknown mistake that needed fixing. This failure was under Windows XP, so we installed Windows ME instead and tried again, this time finding strange display errors and an abstract error message when we reached the same point of trying to complete installation.

Things didn't get better when we tried to do things our own way - setting the drive up like any other - because the bundled software applications canít be installed without having the hardware setup finish successfully. There are no independent installers for the program. We finally had success on returning to Windows XP and choosing to replace the existing DVD-ROM drive with the DVDRW228. This did the trick - seemingly the Philips drive didn't want to share an IDE channel.


The DVDRW228 is a good piece of hardware, but by no means special when you consider that an almost identical model from Ricoh can be bought on the highstreet for under £200. Or when you consider that it's nearly as expensive as Sony's DRU-500A. Sadly, even a price drop won't convince us to recommend this bundle - simply because Philips' attempts to simplify the installation process have made things infinitely more difficult than they need to be. We'd be very impressed if many absolute novices at whom this product is aimed ever managed to install the drive. We'd consider almost any other single-format drive to be a better option.

Peter Wells

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Reviewed in March's issue:
Philips DVDRW228
Sony DRU-500A
Pioneer DVR-A05
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Sonic Desktop Movie Maestro
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