BenQ DW400A

This unit from BenQ is a single format drive, much like the Philips DVDRW 4410. This isn’t a huge surprise considering that BenQ and Philips established a joint venture company earlier in the year called Philips BenQ Digital Storage.

I assume that BenQ, like Philips, is so sure of the benefits of the DVD+RW format, that it isn’t bothering to try to create a multi-standard drive. This would be a sound decision if the buying public was as certain about any one format, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Also, the multi-format drives don’t tend to cost any more either, which makes buying a single format solution even less attractive.

Supported formats aside, the BenQ isn’t a bad package. Physically the drive is slightly more feature rich than some of the others we’ve seen. On the front fascia there are buttons for play/skip and stop/eject so that you can play audio CDs without the need to launch a Windows application. There’s also a headphone socket, a volume wheel, indicator light and a manual eject hole.

The BenQ is the only drive in this test that can manage four-speed DVD+RW writing, although both the Plextor PX-708A and Sony DRU-510A can also manage this feat. Along with the impressive DVD+RW write speed, you also get four-speed DVD+R, 16-speed CD-R and 10-speed CD-RW writing.

The four-speed DVD+RW writing really showed the BenQ off. The times recorded using DVD+RW media were significantly faster than the competition. So if you’re planning on using a lot of DVD+RW media this could sway your decision. The rest of the write speeds were pretty much on par with the majority of the other drives. Although the lack of DVD-R/RW support means that the BenQ can’t be compared across the board.

In the box you get pretty much everything you need. There’s an IDE cable, an audio cable, four screws to secure the drive in your PC, one blank DVD+R disc, one blank DVD+RW disc, InterVideo WinCinema, InCD and Nero eXpress.

The only problem with this bundle is the inclusion of Nero eXpress instead of the full version of Nero. Although Nero eXpress is perfectly usable, it lacks many of the features of the full Nero, and can make burning some discs far more difficult than it needs to be. This is the only drive we’ve come across that ships Nero eXpress instead of full Nero 5.5, and we have to say that it’s one corner that should not have been cut.

The price of £99.42 seems reasonable on the surface, but when you consider that the award winning LG GSA-4040B drive costs only £98.69 now, the BenQ is far from good value. Add to this the fact that the BenQ will only write to the +RW DVD format and it’s pretty much impossible to recommend the DW400A.

Verdict

The DW400A is a solid DVD writer with commendable performance using DVD+RW media. Unfortunately its limited versatility and relatively high price make it a poor choice in today’s market.

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