Though Sony's DRU-530A isn't the first DVD±R/RW drive capable of 8X DVD+R recording we've checked out in THE DRIVING RANGE, it's still a new thing of sorts for us, and for the DVD recording world at large. Since the first 8X DVD+R-capable recorder, Plextor's estimable 708A, debuted in a world devoid of 8X DVD recording media, it didn't exactly herald the dawn of the 8X era.
And we aren't quite there yet. Plextor got the job done by recording 8X DVD+R to 4X-certified DVD+R media, having worked with media manufacturers like Verbatim to do 8X recording on their 4X-certified discs. It worked conistently in our testing, producing full DVDs in 7-8 minutes, though it's not exactly the sort of thing that sets the buying public at ease.
Sony's DRU-830A arrived the same day as a small shipment of 8X DVD+R media from Verbatim, the first company to bring the higher-speed discs to market, albeit in limited quantities at present. And results were excellent, if limited. After installing the internal ATAPI drive with ease on my testbed 2.66gHz Pentium 4 Compaq running Windows XP Home, I used two 8X discs for the Sony review and saved one for TDK (not sure who I should apologize to there—TDK for the 1-2 split or Sony since they worked with Verbatim to get me the discs). In any event, 4.25GB burns clocked in at just under eight minutes, and the discs played back well on a Pioneer DVD player, two Toshiba DVD-ROM drives, Pioneer A04 and A06 recorders, the Sony recorder, and the TDK.
(Doing a little basic math here, we discover that 8X DVD+R is to 4X DVD+R what 24X CD-R was to 12X CD-R—that is, we've reached the point where speed designations don't represent beginning-to-end numbers anymore, but rather represent a speed arc that reaches the 8X number at the outer edge of the disc. So 8X is a nice improvement over 4X, but it doesn't double the speed; we'll see the same sort of recording time delta with 12X and 16X when they debut in mid- and late-2004.)
The DRU-530A, latest in Sony's distinguished line of Dual RW recorders, also records DVD-R media at 4X (a consistent 13 minutes a disc and good playback success on a half-dozen Verbatim DVD-Rs, including a couple of the spiffy new DigitalMovie discs, which look like film reels), DVD+RW media at 4X, and DVD-RW media at 2X. Again, Verbatim supplied test media for all formats, proving reliable and stable, as is their wont, throughout testing. The drive also does 40X CD-R, which is great news. I genuinely believe these DVD recorders need to serve as all-purpose recording devices, and it's high time they stopped lagging so far behind the speed curve on the CD end. 40X isn't exactly state of the art for CD-R (see TEAC review below) at higher speeds, but it's so fast and returns are so diminished especially with typical half-capacity discs you'll hardly notice the difference. (At press time, Sony announced a firmware download that brings 8X DVD-R to the 530A.)
Sony's DRU-530A also ships with a nice assortment of software, including three Sonic tools: MyDVD, for entry-level DVD-Video authoring and slideshow creation (the bundled software is a feature-reduced version of the Editor's Choice-winning MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe); RecordNow!, for multipurpose CD/DVD recording and backup; and DLA, for variable-length packet writing to rewritable media. Also included are CyberLink's PowerDVD 5 software DVD player, a nice program that's also a necessity if you plan to use the Sony as your primary PC DVD player; and Musicmatch, for MP3 and audio CD creation and playback.
Pentium 3 400mHz with 64MB RAM running Windows 2000 Pro/XP Home & Pro with 1GB free HDD space
Pentium 3 800mHz with 256MB RAM and 10GB free HDD space for MyDVD projects