Test Drive: Pioneer DVR-A03 DVD-R/RW Writer

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted March 14, 2002
Wayne N. Kawamoto
Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com

While CD burners are standard fare on PCs these days, the immediate future lies in DVD burners that can store far more data and entire movies on DVD discs. Pioneer's DVR-A03 DVD-R/RW writer is a competent internal drive. However, the device comes with limited documentation and is clumsy at performing data backups.

Using the DVR-A03, we burned MPEG-2 movies onto DVD-R (one-time recordable) and DVD-RW (rewritable) discs. We used video that was taken with a dv camcorder and imported through a firewire connection, as well as VHS video that we converted using a Dazzler Digital Video Creator II. (You can't copy commercial Hollywood DVDs because the drive can't recreate certain information that is need to make the video play.)

As a 2X DVD-R and 1X DVD-RW recorder, the A03 is slow-be prepared to wait hours for DVDs to burn. Note that the DVD movie discs that you burn with this drive can only be read by newer DVD set-top players. We had no problems burning audio files and tracks onto CD-R and CD-RW discs-the drive acts as a 4X burner. The drive also works as a DVD-ROM drive to adequately play commercial DVD movies through the included PowerDVD 3.0 software.

The DVR-A03 comes with MYDVD authoring software, a straight-forward program for selecting and burning video onto DVD-R discs, and PrimoDVD for copying DVD discs and burning audio and data files onto DVDs and CDs. Unfortunately, there's no software documentation, so you're forced to use the online help to learn the programs.

Because a DVD can store 4.7GB, it sounds like an excellent backup medium. However, using the DVR-A03 to perform backups is clumsy and slow, and the DVR-A03 offers no software to help perform backups. Other DVD burners, such as Hewlett-Packard's dvd100i, come with dedicated backup programs that make the process easy and practical. (Note that HP's dvd100i is a DVD+RW drive, which works with a different, incompatible DVD disc format.)

We had no problems installing the drive, however, the DVR-A03's inadequate documentation leaves a lot to be desired. Computer novices who are not accustomed to opening computers and dealing with the nuances of IDE connections and master/slave drive settings will likely encounter problems.

While recordable DVD holds promise for distributing video and backing-up computers, the Pioneer DVR-A03 only fulfills the ability to burn video onto DVD discs. If you can't wait to burn videos onto DVD, the DVR-A03 may be one to consider. But based on our evaluation, we recommend that you wait until prices come down and the technology matures before buying.

Manufacturer: Pioneer Corporation, www.pioneer.co.jp/product-e/ibs/

Price: $500; media price for DVD-R is between $6-10 per disc, and for DVD-RW, about $20 per disc.

Pros: Competently burns MPEG video onto DVD-R discs; acts as a CD-R/RW burner.

Cons: No true backup utility; inadequate documentation.

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