Pioneer DVR-A05 test and review

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Pioneer DVR-A05

Pioneer's latest DVD-R/-RW burner for PCs boasts faster writing speeds and a lower price tag. But is that enough, when more and more DVD+R/+RW devices are appearing in High Street stores?

The very first DVD burner for the consumer market was the Pioneer DVR-A03 IDE model. This burned to General Use DVD-R and DVD-RW discs - as well as CD-R and CD-RW - and, when released, cost £750. That may sound staggering now, but it was one-third the price of the only realistic alternative - Pioneer's S201 commercial model.

Writing speeds have stepped up a notch with Pioneer's latest General Use burner, the A05. This can write to DVD-R at 4x and to DVD-RW at 2x, and creates CD-Rs at 16x, and CD-RWs at 8x. The price is £200 - which is even less than its predecessor, the A04 - and we expect it to fall further as competition among brands and DVD formats hots up through 2003.

As you'd expect, the A05 only writes to DVD-R and DVD-RW, the formats that Pioneer pioneered, and not to discs in the rival +R/+RW formats. Indeed, at the time of writing, only Sony's DRU-500A will record to all four main DVD disc formats. And, with so many companies having vested interests in promoting one pair of formats over the other, we don't expect to see many multi-format burners appearing in the near future.

The bundle
Like all good DVD burners, installing the A05 is simple and fuss-free. That contrasts hugely with the idiotic and unnecessarily restrictive set-up routine that we suffered when struggling to install Philips' latest DVD+R/+RW model, the DVDRW228. The A05 connects to the PC in the same way as any IDE CD-ROM or CD writer - no dedicated drivers are required for it to be seen by the host system. With the writer in place, the bundled software is installed, and it's time to get burning.

While a drive might support high recording speeds, these speeds are only possible if using the appropriate high-speed media. Thankfully, the A05 came bundled with a 4x DVD-R disc - the kind that will kill Pioneer A03 and A04 burners (and a bunch of other Pioneer-made products) if the firmware hasnít been updated! A 3GByte file took 10 minutes to record to this disc.

That sort of speed will be a huge attraction to video makers using previous-generation burners and who regularly find themselves creating numerous copies of large DVD projects. DVD-RW burn speed is now up to 2x, allowing the same file to be recorded in about 20 minutes.


Unlike the last revision of Pioneer's DVD burner, this model is a major improvement. It's faster and has better support for FireWire enclosures. It's also a very well-behaved drive, and took everything we threw at it without complaint.

Pioneer's software bundle is strong, and serves well to introduce newcomers to the possibilities of DV and DVD video. We do feel that purchasers will want to replace most of the applications over time - so the supplied software shouldn't be allowed to sway a buying decision - especially since MyDVD seems to be included with every burner!

With a price tag under £200 - and falling - there's no denying that the A05 is great value. But, deciding which DVD burning standard to go for is tough for everyone, and it is possible to avoid that decision (and also be better prepared for the long term) by spending a little extra on Sony's burn-everything drive. That's what we suspect a lot of folk are going to do, once Sony sorts out its current supply problems.

Peter Wells


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Reviewed in March's issue:
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