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While the PS3 may be the undisputed champion of standalone Blu-ray players currently available, there's still a huge potential market for watching high-definition movies on the PC and in this sector the choice of drives is far less clear-cut. This is mainly due to the fact that most PC Blu-ray drives include not just playback but Blu-ray writing capabilities as well, which adds considerably to their cost. However, even though Blu-ray writing may be useful for some it's far from a necessity and DVD and CD writing is enough for most. Therefore, the perfect solution is surely a drive that has all the DVD and CD writing capabilities we've become accustomed to but with the added bonus of Blu-ray playback? Well, you'll never guess what I have in front of me now.
The Pioneer BDC-S02 is the first DVD and CD writer we've seen with Blu-ray playback and with high street prices hovering around the £100 mark, it looks set to be the perfect high-definition upgrade for anyone with an HTPC or just a PC with a screen large enough to watch HD content. Unfortunately there isn't support for reading HD-DVD discs as well but it's unlikely we will see affordable drives that can read both formats for a good while yet. For the time being you'll just have to choose a side and hope for the best. Either that or just buy one of each drive.
Getting the numbers out of the way first, specifically the drive can read BD-ROM/BD-R/RE (Single Layer Blu-ray) discs at 5x, BD-ROM/BD-R/RE (Dual Layer Blu-ray) at 2x, and write DVD-R/+R at 12x, DVD-R DL/+R DL (Dual / Double Layer) at 4x, DVD-RW/+RW at 6x, DVD-RAM at 5x, and CD-R/RW at 24x. If you have any familiarity with CD/DVD writers, you'll probably note that the writing speeds aren't the fastest available. However, although you'd be quite right, these are still respectable speeds that shouldn't cause you too many headaches unless you fancy making a living on the black market.
Optical drives are one part of PCs that have never undergone the makeover that has seen computers transform from boring beige boxes to stylish sleek powerhouses and the BDC-202 is not going to be breaking this trend. Apart from the choice between a black or beige fascia you're still going to be faced with a large ugly chunk of metal with a dull plastic front panel plastered with brand names and logos. It's not something to get hung-up on as no other drive is going to offer you anything different but if you were hoping for a renaissance in optical drive design, you're going to be left wanting.