DVD Formats -/+R, -/+RW, DL & RAM

Finally, I upgraded my CD-RW to a DVD burner. Prices has been coming down, in fact it was cheaper than my DVD-ROM drive when I first bought it two years ago. Since my dad would like to learn a thing or two about burning CDs, I may as well start him easy with a CD-RW first. It takes time for seniors to learn. It was a good thing too, because there were so many DVD storage format that even I was initial bewildered about all the formats available.

Using the CD-RW was very straightforward. Just buy the fastest and best media available at the most affordable price and chuck it into the CD-RW burner and you got your data burned on the little piece of plastic. For best roasting, don’t burn at top speed but at somewhere in between. I even know one kid who will burn at the slowest setting in order to get the best imprint onto the CD. If you have the time, you can do that, because the slower the burning speed the better the data will be imbedded into the chemical layer. I do not have the time to spare, and at half speed of the specification still leaves a good impression into the CD.

However, the capacity of 700MB for CD-R was getting too small for my growing amount of data especially my photos, videos, and MP3s. DVD storage seems like a good idea to migrate too, so after looking long and hard at the various DVD models on sale at the nearest IT mall, I decided to go for Lite-On [Specs: +R 20x, -R 20x, +R DL 8x, -R DL 8x, RAM 12x, +RW 8x, -RW 6x, CDR 48x, CDRW 32x, random access time 160ms]. It has won numerous awards and seems to have very good specs too. I chose the ATA version instead of the SATA version figuring that my two-year-old Pentium 4 Intel system would not be able to handle too high a data transfer rate and save myself a few bucks.

Next, I needed to get some media to go with the DVD burner. I thought picking a DVD burner was a tough decision, but picking the DVD media was confusing to say the least. There was DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-R DL, DVD+R DL and DVD-RAM. Help! Which one do I choose? Looks like I will need some help and decided to ask the store personnel to guide me through to pick the right media.

It was a quick primer about the DVD formats, and I decided to just pick the new +R format. Later I went to find out more about the various formats and learned that there are two competing groups of companies. One is called the DVD Forum which supports the -R format, and the other is the DVD Alliance which supports the +R format. And not to be left out, there is the DVD-RAM format which was developed by Panasonic.

The -R was develop earlier, thus many of the older DVD players will support this format. This was quite true because my existing DVD-ROM drive could not read the +R media, though at first I thought I didn’t burn my data properly when I pop it into my older DVD drive, but turn out to be otherwise. In terms of user experience, there isn’t any difference, though there are supporters who says there are some benefits in using each of the differing format. For the lay user, they are just about the same. Either format has the same 4.7 GB capacity with similar burning speed. If you want to store ever more data on a single piece of disk, you could go for DL types which stands for Dual Layer or Double Layer. The differentiation in name is just to separate the two camps with Dual Layer belonging to the DVD Alliance (+R) while the Double Layer terms is for the DVD Forum (-R) group. However, in terms of cost wise, the single layer is cheaper as it cost 3 to 4 times more to use DL DVD disk.

As for DVD RW, I found that DVD-RW disk has a faster speed media of x6 compared with DVD+RW disk with the fastest media around at x4 despite the fact that my Lite-On +RW has a top burn speed of 8x compared with top burn speed of -RW at x6. Of course, the x6 media will cost a little more. For rewritable media, I decided to give the DVD-RAM a spin and bought one piece when Panasonic was having a promotional offering. The DVD-RAM was liken to a floppy disk where you can read/write at random without having to erase the disk or start a new multi-session. Although you could do it with a RW disk if you have the correct software like InCD by Nero. However, DVD-RAM does not require the installation of any software to work.

In the end, which media should you go for? -R would be a good choice especially if you have an older DVD drive or passing around your DVD disk to friends and you are not sure whether their DVD drive could support the newer +R format.

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