Pioneer's latest optical drive employs the fancily-named Multi-Effect Liquid Cristal Tilt/Thickness Compensation Mechanism, which can compensate for various flaws in writable media and uses fewer moving parts than traditional mechanical mechanisms, while an Ultra Dynamic Resonance Absorber reduces vibration when discs are spinning out of balance. Of course the competition offers similar enhancements, but Pioneer products generally have a well-deserved reputation for reliability.
Both OEM and retail drives, meanwhile, will come with CyberLink's Blu-ray Disc Suite 6, which is an easy-to-use piece of software with a polished interface that will let you watch and burn all forms of optical media. As expected, our copy of Casino Royale played back perfectly with PowerDVD (which is part of the suite), and the drive was relatively quiet in operation.
At the moment, 8x BD-R media is about as easy to find as an Ion-based netbook, and the quickest discs readily available in the UK seem to be 4x. However, we were still able to test the drive's headline-grabbing speeds because certain 4x media from CMC, MBI, Panasonic, Philips, Ritek, Sony, TDK and Verbatim are 'overspeed' capable, meaning the Pioneer can actually burn them at 8x. For a 50GB dual layer BD-R, the BDR-203BK took just 30 minutes to burn 46GB-worth of files, a figure that will only improve when 'real' 8x media comes out.
Finally then we get onto price. At £160, the BDR-203BK is anything but an impulse buy. Bare Blu-ray drives are available from as little as £50 with writers coming in at around £115. While nothing can match this Pioneer's BD-R 8x write speeds (the next-fastest option would be 6x), in other regards cheaper competitors from the likes of LG and LiteOn match it.
For purely backup purposes you're better off going the hard drive route, as external 1.5TB drives can be had around the £100 mark these days while writable Blu-ray media can cost as much as £20 a pop. However, if you do write to BD-R often and need it done as fast as possible, the BDR-203BK is your drive.
The BDR-203BK is up to Pioneer's usual high standards and even OEM drives come bundled with CyberLink's Blu-ray Disc Suite 6. If you need the fastest BD-R writer around Pioneer has the answer, but it comes at a price. Cheaper drives match it in other speeds and for backup purposes Blu-ray hasn't reached a feasible price-point compared to hard drives.