Sony DRU-500A est and review

Self Help | The Magazine | Downloads | Links | Tips & Advice | Help! I'm new | Contact Us | Subscribe | Home  

Inside the magazine
Self-help message board
Article reprints
How to contact us
Web links directory
Software downloads
Tips and advice
Fire-wire campaign
Subscribe today
Help Me, I'm new!
Fair pricing petition

In Software Downloads:
Adobe Premiere 6 (trial)
Paint Shop Pro 7 (trial)

Tips and Advice:
How to get started with computer video editing

Fire-wire Campaign:
Join our ongoing campaign

Sony DRU-500A

Just when it seems that there are no easy answers in the choice of which recordable DVD format to opt for, Sony provides an all-in-one in the form of the DRU-500A. But is it the answer to our prayers, or a new nightmare all of its own?

A couple of years back, the dream of recordable DVD for the consumer market was simple. The fantasy involved an optical disc onto which video was burned, and which could then be played on a DVD player. But reality has an unerring knack of hobbling even the most modest flights of fancy. The powerful media content creators insisted that a new version of DVD-R - General Use - be created to prevent piracy of commercial movies. Then, more recently, Philips came up with a rival consumer recordable standard, DVD+R. The original commercial-use DVD-R Authoring format is all but dead, except at the very high end of the market, but the General Use DVD-R and DVD+R formats are now in fierce competition as they struggle to dominate the consumer market.

Sony was initially quick to champion Philips' standard with the launch of its own DVD+R/+RW burner, the DRU-110A. Then, to our surprise, we found that Sony was installing Pioneer's rival DVD-R/-RW drives in its top-of-the range Vaio desktop PCs. That lent credence to rumours that Sony had no intention of taking sides in the format battle - and the launch of the DRU-500A shows this is indeed so. The new Sony is an IDE internal burner for PCs that records to four DVD formats - Pioneer's DVD-R and Philips' DVD+R, plus the rewritable versions of each DVD-RW and DVD+RW.

At a recent Philips press briefing, mention was made of the Sony burner and of another burn-everything recorder due from Panasonic. Philips' message was that a burner which supports all formats would just add further confusion to the marketplace, with customers not fully understanding the different capabilities of each standard. We had to disagree, however, pointing out that any such confusion would be minimal compared to the frustration of being sold a DVD+R disc for your DVD-R burner or vice versa - a problem that is all too common in High
Street stores where staff lack training on this and many other subjects.

From our perspective, the specs for the DRU-500A show that it has enormous potential - particularly in the general consumer arena where people don't fully understand that not everything round and shiny will work in their recorders. Another reason why the DRU-500A looks like an all-round winner is that itís reasonably priced, at £255. That's only about £50 more than the average highstreet ticket for competing burners that support only one pair of DVD formats.

How fast?

Writing speeds for the Sony are: DVD-R (4x); DVD-RW (2x); DVD+R and DVD+RW (2.4x), but DVD+R's speed is claimed to increases to 4x with the V1.0f firmware updated.

Perversely, while the drive is said to read DVD-ROM discs at up to 8x, and can write to some media at 4x, we found that the read speed for the discs we created was only 2x. That may be okay for watching movies, but is likely to prove frustrating when restoring gigabytes of data from backup discs. Itís possible that read speed may increase with 4x media, but that's not something we were able to check. CD-R burning speed is 24x - fast compared to the competition. Pioneer's A03 and A04 burn CD-R at 8x, and the A05 at 16x. With second-generation DVD+RW burners from Philips, Ricoh and Hewlett Packard - which also write to DVD+R - CD-R discs burn at 12x. For CD-RW, the Sony's write speed is 10x. That's far better than the 4x of Pioneer's A03 and A04, a little ahead of the A05's 8x, and equalling the speed of most DVD+R/+RW drives.


Ever-increasing numbers of new set-top players are equally at home with all types of DIY DVDs, so in a couple of years time, when compatibility is no longer an issue, there may be no need for multi-format DVD burners. But that's then, and this is now. Currently, the DRU-500A is the only one of its kind and, as such, is a sensible choice both for buyers looking to make a long-term investment and for those just staying ahead of the game.

Peter Wells


Recent features...
View The Archive

Reviewed in March's issue:
Philips DVDRW228
Sony DRU-500A
Pioneer DVR-A05
DVanced PAL/NTSC Converter
Sonic Desktop Movie Maestro
Sonic Foundry Sound Forge/Acid Pro

In March's news:
Real-time MediaStudio
Combustion slashed to under £900
Matrox FX exchange web site
Avid DV editing freebie
DVD X Copy
MS WM9 hits the net
Video Forum 2003

Contact Us | Subscribe | Home (c) WVIP. Designed by Mark Newman.