It's no shocker when a drive performs as promised using a testbed that falls within the manufacturers recommended specs, and we've already seen how well Sony's first attempt at a Dual RW drive worked around these parts (See Bob Starrett's review of Sony's first Dual RW, www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=4978). But when the DRX-510UL—not only a second-generation Dual RW burner that promises 4X DVD recording in all formats save DVD-RW, but an external unit with both USB 2.0 and FireWi…er, iLink interfaces—brightened our doorstep in late July, our first reaction was "Finally, a Dual RW drive we can use on the Mac!"
I can just see the good folks at Sony cringing right now, since they make no claims that the DRX-510UL will work on the Mac. But since all of the previous Dual RW drives we've seen have been internal units with trays that won't pop open through our G4's round-bevelled drive bay doors, our attention couldn't help but turn to the thought of using it on the Apple. What's more, for the moment, the "SuperDrives" Apple is bundling with its G4s are Sony Dual RW drives, so these machines have got to be copacetic, right? And the question of why more drive manufacturers don't ship with both USB and 1394a interfaces has always left us scratching our heads. (Of course, with Apple finally adding USB 2.0 ports, in addition to FireWire 400 and 800, on the new G5s, that's going to become less of an issue, at least for Mac users.)
But back to the drive at hand. The DRX-510UL ships with a terrific software bundle that includes Veritas RecordNow DX for CD and DVD mastering, Veritas SimpleBackup and DLA for packet-writing, Sonic MyDVD for DVD-Video and Video CD authoring, ArcSoft ShowBiz for video editing, CyberLink PowerDVD for video playback, and MusicMatch Jukebox for music recording and playback. All are solid choices for an entry-level foray into their respective application areas, but none will set the world on fire. There's lots of fuller-featured DVD authoring software out there, including Sonic's own retail version of MyDVD and all the more sophisticated tools above it; ShowBiz has pleasantly hokey effects and basic functionality, but it's consumer all the way; RecordNow DX is a good basic recording tool, but it can't hold a candle to its Editor's Choice-winning retail stablemate, RecordNow Max.
What's more, the bundle is PC only, which meant we were on our own, software-wise, for any Mac testing we wanted to do. That said, the drive and all the software worked fine on our PC testbed, a Sony RX790 VAIO, a 2.4gHz Pentium 4 running Windows XP Home Edition with 512MB RAM and a partitioned 120GB hard drive. Quad-speed burning proved no problem with 4X DVD-R, DVD+R, and DVD+RW media from Verbatim, and 2X burns with DVD-RW media went smoothly as well. Another thing you've got to like about this drive is its CD-R speed—at 24X, it remains the fastest of any DVD/CD recorder on the market.
On the Mac side, the drive works just dandy with Roxio's Toast Titanium 5.2—the software recognized it right off the bat, and soon I was up and copying full DVDs in all formats at the promised speeds on a G4 running OS X 10.2 with 512MB RAM and a 100GB hard drive. Each of the test discs worked for both CPU and set-top playback, save for a couple of DVD-Rs that wouldn't work on a Magnavox MDV 410 player, and whether that's the fault of the drive, the media, or the playback device is open to debate, so the DRX-510UL gets no points docked there.
With its beginner's software toolkit and its "what format war?" multi-media approach, Sony is clearly aiming this drive at the consumer market. And at $309 for the external we tested, $229 for the internal version—it delivers just about anything anyone in that market could ask for. Even Mac users.
System Requirements: Pentium II 400mHz or higher (Pentium III 800mHz to use MyDVD); Windows 98 SE, 2000, Me or XP; 128MB RAM (256MB RAM for Windows XP); 1GB HDD space (10GB for MyDVD). [The DRX-510UL also performed to spec on a 1.25gHz dual processor Macintosh G4 running OS X 10.2 with 512MB RAM and 90GB free HDD space using Roxio's Toast Titanium 5.2.]