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Introduction

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The amount of data storage sported by the current generation of PC is quite amazing. There was a time when the idea of using a CD-ROM as a distribution media was considered pointless, since there was no way that anything could fill up such a capacious medium. Now however, the CD-R is considered too small for much of what today’s PC users do.

There’s no doubt that the explosion of Internet use and broadband in particular has made it more necessary for masses of PC storage. Even a 120GB hard disk will soon fill up with downloaded files, images and demos.

What the PC user needed was a high-capacity medium for storage of digital media, and that’s where DVD writers come in.

The premise of a DVD writer is pretty clear. It gives you the ability to copy/backup masses of data to a medium that’s robust and has a long shelf life. What made the concept a little tricky was the multiple formats of writable DVD.

The original writable DVD formats as laid out by the DVD Forum were DVD-R for write-once and DVD-RAM for re-writable. However, soon after this announcement several companies broke away from the DVD Forum and announced a competing format called DVD+R/RW. As time moved on the DVD Forum also announced a DVD-RW format which confused matters even more.

The most mature of the re-writable formats is DVD-RAM, which is supported heavily by Panasonic, partly because the technology is an evolution of the Panasonic PD standard. The problem with DVD-RAM is that it’s not compatible with the majority of PC DVD drives and home DVD players, whereas DVD+RW and DVD-RW is.

That said, DVD-RAM does have the advantage of working like a hard disk, so that data can be spread across multiple spaces on the disc surface. This makes it ideal for use as a removable storage medium, but the massive price drop of write-once media means that most users will use a DVD writer in the same way they use a CD-RW drive and write far more write-once discs.

Only one of the drives on test here can write every type of DVD media which is a very commendable attribute. But you also have to ask yourself if you need this ability or whether you just want to invest in one format and stick with it.

The general public is always scared of investing in technology with multiple formats. There are probably still too many Betamax VCRs sitting in attics around the country for anyone to believe that the one standard they choose will definitely succeed where the others fail. As such most of the drives on test are compatible with at least two of the writable DVD standards, which should bring piece of mind for anyone nervous about the prospect of a redundant purchase.

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