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Pioneer BDR-206MBK - Pioneer BDR-206MBK
A potential stumbling point for BDXL is that no player currently on the market, be it a PlayStation 3 or a Sony BDP-S570, will play these discs. However, although no current Blu-ray player can use BDXL discs, forthcoming devices almost certainly will. These new format discs are intended to be the delivery vessel for 3D Blu-ray films, as the extra capacity makes fitting the extra that data 3D-encoded films require much easier. Whether you really want to watch "The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Directors Cut - 3D Remastering!" or would happily stick to a 'normal' high-def version is a matter for debate (or, arguably, of taste) but BDXL will be the way you do it.
Moreover, even if commercial BDXL releases aren't particularly prevalent, it's likely that manufacturers will relish touting the ability of their players to access up to 128GB of your own video from a single disc. Blu-ray recorders such as the Panasonic DMR-BS850 will find plenty of utility in higher-capacity discs, too, requiring you to change them out less often - always a good thing.
There's arguably more utility outside of the video domain. External storage in the form of portable hard drives and flash memory devices may be replacing discs as the way most of us carry around large amounts of data, but discs have their advantages still. For a start, a terabyte of data on 16, quad-layer Blu-rays will take up less space (in sleeves, not jewel cases) than a 2TB 3.5in hard drive, and weight quite a lot less. We can see our government appreciating the opportunity to lose ever greater amounts of on the great British railway system, too.
While whether you would want a BDXL drive may be a matter for deliberation, but if you come down in favour of the format deciding if you want a BDC-206MBK or not is easier as its the only Blu-ray writer on the market that can handle BDXL discs - unless you could Buffalo's pending external drive, which we don't, as it uses Pioneer's BDC-206MBK within its chassis. So ahead of the curve is Pioneer, in fact, that its BDC-206MBK has become the de facto drive which anyone currently working with BDXL discs is using. Not that the Blu-ray Disc Association using Pioneer drives is much endorsement when it's the only game in town, but it should instil confidence in the fitness for purpose of the BDC-206MBK.
As the first BDXL-compatible Blu-ray drive on the market, the Pioneer BDR-206MBK is at something of an advantage. If you do need or want the ability to write up to 128GB of data to a single optical disc, this is your only option for now (short of getting the same drive in an external Buffalo enclosure). Taking into account the added value of Cyberlink's Media Suite we can't complain about the £190 the BDR-206MBK should be available for once retailers get stock in the coming weeks.