Archos DEx DVD-RW 2

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Archos DEx DVD-RW 2

There's not a wide choice of available DVD-R/-RW/-RAM burners, and even fewer that come in external USB 2.0 cases for easy plug-and-burn use, so there's every reason to welcome the Archos DEx DVD-RW 2.

The Archos DEx DVD-RW 2 - despite its name - isn't just any old DVD-R/-RW burner, it's something of a rarity. It adds DVD-RAM capabilities and, rarer still, is an external unit that can be moved between PCs, connecting via USB 2.0.
USB 2.0 is 40 times faster than USB 1.1 and, in theory, offers even faster data transfer than standard (IEEE 1394a) FireWire - 480Mbit/sec, rather than 400Mbit/sec. But, in most real world tests, FireWire usually beats USB 2.0. However, although USB 2.0 is relatively new, it's probably fitted on a greater number of the Windows desktop PCs on sale today than is FireWire, though the gap isn't large, and FireWire 2 (IEEE 1394b) - with a data rate of 800Mbit/sec - is now starting to become available (pioneered on the Apple Mac platform).
Although the name Panasonic is synonymous with all things DVD-RAM, the ATAPI/IDE drive inside the case, a GMA-4020B, is made by LG. The Archos supports reading and writing to DVD-RAM at 2x speed, as does Panasonic's latest LF-D521 MultiDrive (review, May 2003, p40). DVD-RAM allows large amounts of content to be stored on removable media, but very few PC-based DVD-ROM drives or set-top DVD players can handle DVD-RAM discs.
The DEx DVD-RW 2 is not a high-speed burner. Unlike, say, the Pioneer A05 or multi-format-burning Sony DRU-500A (reviews, March 2003, p38 and p32), it doesn't support 4x DVD-R or 2x DVD-RW media. Instead, it only writes at 2x to DVD-R and at 1x to DVD-RW. For CD, write speeds are 12x to CD-R and 8x to CD-RW.
The Archos drive comes with a selection of Roxio Windows software for the creation of video or audio CDs and DVDs on a small scale - Easy CD Creator 5 (Basic version) and VideoWave Movie Creator.

Our tests show that Archos's USB 2.0 burner does support DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM, as well as CD-recordable media. But they also highlight the fact (not peculiar to this product) that media matters - as does the type of USB card. We had major problems with Princo DVD-RW discs and with the Viatech USB 2.0 PCI card originally installed in our PC.
Roxio's bundled software suite was very easy-to-use, but the lack of authoring control and the restrictions in Movie Creator's VideoCD/DVD Maker authoring wizard are likely to mean even newcomers are soon searching for better software. One solution is to upgrade to Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 for just £35, but those who want a more professional product may want to consider Ulead's DVD Workshop, with which the Archos drive worked well.
The Archos drive costs only £25 more than the Panasonic LF-D521 MultiDrive, and that's not a lot to pay for the benefit of having an external drive that can be moved from PC to PC and doesn't take up a 5.25in drive bay.

Lisa Keddie

Read the full review in September 2003's Computer Video magazine.


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Archos DEx DVD-RW 2
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