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Review: Pioneer DVR-A09XL
Posted Jul 26, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1

After years of spoiling us with practical improvements through genuine innovation, new Pioneer DVD/CD recorder models offer incremental improvements. Witness the DVR-A09XL ($129.99), where the enhancements are limited to minor reading and writing speed increases along with support for the latest DVD-R Double Layer (DL) format.

The A09XL maintains the distinctive Pioneer appearance of previous designs available in black, beige or silver to suit any décor. Taking it for a spin, the A09XL wrote DVD±Rs slightly faster than its DVR-A08XL predecessor. During testing at 16X it took 6:01 to complete a full 4.7GB DVD+R and 6:05 for a DVD-R. CD-R recording speed is also up a little now tracking at 40X and 3:19 and with 3:58 for a 24X CD-RW.

Rewritable DVD performance is also up a notch. However, while I was fortunate enough to have some Verbatim 8X DVD+RW discs on-hand for testing, Pioneer had yet to release the enabling firmware. I had to settle for 14:09 at 4X to complete a full disc which at 8x should drop this time below eight minutes. My disappointment was appeased by the 10:14 it took to complete 6X DVD-RW disc.

Although Double Layer (DL) technology is hampered by uncertain playback compatibility, high prices and spotty availability there are ongoing efforts to increase its writing speed. Indeed, the A09XL is one of the first units to write DVD+R DL (Verbatim only) at 6X resulting in a respectable 19:09 during testing. A "dash" version (DVD-R DL) was introduced some months ago but only now are blank discs trickling out of the lab. My Verbatim specimens also wrote at 6X taking 19:32.

Minor improvements were also evident on the reading front with DVD±R handled at 12X (6:23), DVD±RW at 8X (9:33), DVD±R DL at 8X (19:01), DVD-RAM at 2X (27:58), prerecorded DVDs at 16X (5:01), CD-R at 40X (2:37) and CD-RW at 32X (3:16).

Practically and economically speaking, it's desirable for recorders to support as broad a selection of high-speed disc brands as possible. Here, the A09XL is merely average with 16x writing possible to one out of the five makes of 16X-rated DVD+Rs I tested and four out of the six DVD-Rs. The story was similar for 8X-rated DVD+Rs with none of the eleven types I examined writing at 16X and only three working at 12X. DVD-R results were similar with three out of seven disc brands writing at a maximum of 12X. Be aware that if you have existing duplication equipment employing the older A08XL model that the A09XL does not write the same disc brands at high speed. For example, I found instances where discs that wrote at 12X on the A09XL managed only 4X on the A08XL.

Sticking with tradition, Pioneer ships the A09 with Ulead's Burn.Now, DVD MovieFactory 3.5 Suite Deluxe, VideoStudio 8 SE DVD, CD & DVD PictureShow 3 SE, Photo Explorer 8.5 SE, DVD Player and NovaStor Nova Backup 7.1.

While the advances made in Pioneer's DVR-A09XL aren't sufficiently compelling to warrant running out to replace your existing high-speed recorder, the A09XL is a solid state-of-the-art choice when shopping for a new unit.

System requirements: 933MHz Pentium 3 running Windows 98SE/ME/XP/2000; 256MB RAM; 16MB AGP video card, sound card; 1024x768 16-bit color monitor; 10GB free hard drive space (20GB recommended); 80-wire IDE cable; 5.25" half height empty drive bay.

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