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 certain media manufacturers to do 8X recording on their 4X-certified discs. It worked conistently in our testing, producing full DVDs in <9 minutes, though it's not exactly the sort of thing that sets the buying public at ease.
Sony's DRU-530A 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 effortless 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 there—TDK for the 1-2 split or Sony since they worked with Verbatim to get me the discs). In any event, 4.35GB burns clocked in at just under eight and a half 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 that 8X number at the outer edge of the disc. So 8X is a nice improvement over 4X, but it doesn't halve 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 (consistent 13-minutes-a-disc-and-good-playback success on a half-dozen Verbatim DVD-Rs, including a couple of the spiffy new Digital Movie 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 beyond the speed curve on the CD end. 40X isn't exactly state of the art for CD-R (see TEAC review below), but it's so fast and returns are so diminished (especially with typical half-capacity discs) you'll hardly notice the difference.
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!, a multipurpose CD/DVD recording and backup tool; and DLA for variable-length packet writing to rewritable media. Also included are CyberLink's PowerDVD 5 for software DVD playback, 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.
Sony DRU-530A 8x4x4x2 DVD±RW Drive: $250 ($30 rebate from Sony through 7/3/04)
System Requirements: Pentium 2 300mHz with 128MB 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