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Pioneer DVD-R/RW DVR-103 9/10

Pioneer have released the new DVR-103 IDE drive. It writes to DVD-R, CD-R and also to CD-RW and DVD-RW. What is different is the price. As you can see it looks like any other DVD drive or CD drive. The small DVD-R/RW logo is the only sign that this is a special drive. At £600 (cheaper in some places) it is far cheaper than the previous model at nearly £2500. This drive is also being bundled on many computers, including the Apple G4/733, where it is known as the "SuperDrive".

If you are buying the drive as an upgrade, it is simple to install, especially if you are replacing your current IDE CD drive. Just make sure you don't tamper with the jumper settings, before installing it, because in most cases the DVR-103 will install will install with the default jumper settings. I changed the jumper position and I ended up spending three times longer than I should have, installing it. I was continually trying different jumper settings until I put it back to the default position and then found Windows immediately recognised the drive.

It comes with several CD-Rs, 2 DVD-R and two software packages. The write speed on CD-R is 8x and on DVD-R Pioneer quote 2.8 MB/s (2x usual DVD speed and quicker than most DVD-RAM drives). I already own a DVD-RAM drive, so you might be thinking why get this drive. The reason is simple DVD-R can read on most DVD players and DVD-ROM drives. Also the price per megabyte of DVD-R is cheaper. Essentially DVD-Rs look like CDs and are write-once just like CD-Rs. The side to be written on by the drive is purple, unlike the blue or green usually seen on CD-Rs. For £40 (inc. VAT) you can buy a five pack of Apple 4.7 GB DVD-R discs, compared to £30 for one 9.4 GB double sided DVD-RAM. Also with DVD-R looking to become widespread the price of the media will drop over time (unlike DVD-RAM whose price seems to have stayed static). The DVD-RW discs are currently only made by Pioneer and they are around £20 - and can't be read on as many devices. The drive itself will be able to read 9.4 GB and 17 GB DVDs when they become available (like most DVD machines) but won't be able to write onto them, since a narrower laser is required to burn on to them.

The two software packages are average. Instant CD/DVD is like Easy CD Creator, but also lets you write onto DVD discs, as well as CDs. If you want to write to CD-R or CD-RW you can use Easy CD Creator, provided you are using version 4.02d or greater. The drive is also compatable with later DirectCD programmes. It performs well when writing CDs and this is crucial since it means you don't need to buy an additional CD-Writer. DVD-RAM drives can't write onto CD-R/RW!

Another package, MyDVD lets you create a DVD for playing on an ordinary DVD player complete with menus that you see on most film DVDs. It is basic and if you plan to make such DVD-Videos often, it's worth buying a proper package, the interface is quite cool though! There is also a DVD software player, but most users probably already have such a programme.

I think most users will end up using this device for cheap backup of data, music etc. (like myself), with maybe a few dabbling in making DVD Videos. This is a groundbreaking product, but at £600 it is still expensive, but thankfully with the DVD-R format taking off, because of the huge number of compatable reading drives, it should drop in price significantly. Hopefully this and similar drives will drop below the £300 level (the price band of DVD-RAM drives). There is still however uncertainty with respect to the rewritable DVD format (DVD-RW) supported by this drive with many rival standards, like DVD-RAM, DVD+RW etc.