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Panasonic LF-D321 DVD Burner
Hewlett-Packard dvd100i DVD-writer
HP's drive is incredibly easy to use
LF-D321 DVD Burner
Panasonic

dvd100i DVD-writer
Hewlett-Packard
It's worth repeating that the drive works just fine; except for the lack of burning software, any strikes against it are minor. But Hewlett-Packard's DVD-writer is such a dream to use that these inconveniences are magnified.

Hardware and software installation is just a little easier on the DVD-writer, the only difference being that you have to run only one setup program to install the driver and the software. Once that's done, the drive just works.

Really, it's that easy. Just drop a formatted DVD+RW into the drive (the included disc is ready to go) and you can drag and drop files using the Windows Explorer without a second thought. The specs claim 2.4X/8X rewrite/read performance, but using the same test files as before yielded a 43-minute write time and an 8-minutes read time. The mix of software--all HP-branded, of course--is similar to the DVD Burner's: MyDVD Video for creating DVD-Video discs, Simple Backup for offline storage, and RecordNow for copying non-protected DVDs. As an added bonus, the DVD-writer is also a 12X/10X/32X CD-R/RW drive.

The total package is also a little more polished. The software-selection menu is concise and easy to follow; the manuals are similarly streamlined, with just the right amount of information to get started. Although MyDVD has a few less features than the already lightweight DVDit! LE, it has two very user-friendly features: direct video-to-DVD recording, and the ability to drag and drop AVI files to create DVD-Video discs. (DVDit! LE requires that you first convert files to DVD-compliant MPEG-2 files, using Motion DV Studio or another program; MyDVD takes care of it behind the scenes.) However, as the Panasonic package I received was a pre-production version, there may be improvements by the time you read this.

In terms of features and usability, I'd say the DVD-writer beats the DVD Burner hands down. It may be $100 more expensive, but using rewriteable media keeps long-term costs down. (DVD+RW discs cost the same as DVD-R, about $20; DVD-RAM is more than twice that.) That it writes discs faster and it also happens to be a CD-RW drive doesn't hurt, either.

However, those of us who still have collections of Beta tapes know that features alone don't determine technological survivors; backstage wrangling and consumer convenience do. Although DVD+RW drives and discs were designed with greater compatibility in mind, it's the only existing standard that isn't approved by the DVD Forum. This is mentioned prominently on the DVD Forum home page (http://www.dvdforum.org), and you can bet other members of the consortium will be mentioning that as well. (The DVD Burner spec sheet does, indirectly: it reads "100% DVD Forum Approved.") I'm not so sure that matters from a technical standpoint, as DVD+RW discs worked just as well as DVD-R discs in any DVD-ROM or home DVD player I tried. So if the DVD Forum's pitch works and DVD+RW falls by the wayside, your DVD+RW discs would still work in other drives. If you just have to buy a DVD burner now and can live with the fact that you might have to buy a new one in a couple of years, then by all means take the DVD-writer for a spin.

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Originally printed in The Computer Paper (February 2002)
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