Despite Pioneer being one of the biggest players in DVD technology, I havenâ€™t reviewed too many optical drives from this particular Japanese manufacturer. Thatâ€™s not through lack of trying, but thankfully now Pioneer has got its act together as far as PR goes, and you can expect a lot more coverage in the future.
As timing goes, Pioneerâ€™s is impeccable. The company couldnâ€™t have picked a better moment to get new hardware into the TrustedReviews lab, because the DVR-111 is the fastest DVD writer that Iâ€™ve tested to date. It almost feels strange labelling a drive that isnâ€™t manufactured by NEC as the fastest around, because NEC has had such a strong grip on the DVD writer market. But thereâ€™s no denying that this Pioneer sets new performance standards.
Before I get into the performance results though, letâ€™s take a look at the drive itself. The unit is pretty nondescript, with a beige fascia, single eject button, indicator light and a manual eject hole. Itâ€™s slightly longer than the Sony, so it wonâ€™t be quite as easy to fit into a small form factor box, but it will still slide into any such chassis just fine. Youâ€™ll notice on the top surface of the drive that there are several divots â€“ Pioneer told me that these improve stability when the disc is spinning and given that this is one of the quietest drives Iâ€™ve tested, it seems that Pioneer is right on the money here.
When it comes to specifications, this Pioneer is pretty much at the cutting edge. The DVR-111 will burn both DVD-R and DVD+R dual layer media at 8x, while single layer DVD-R and DVD+R get 16x treatment. DVD+RW discs are burned at 8x, while DVD-RW media can be written at 6x. Of course even though the rated speed of DVD-RW is lower, the fact that 6x rated DVD-RW media is actually available (while only 4x DVD+RW can be had with any ease), means that DVD-RW performance is actually faster. The DVR-111 will also write to DVD-RAM discs at 5x, CD-R media at 40x and CD-RW discs at 32x.
It was the dual layer performance that really impressed with the Pioneer. Performing the 7.9GB burn of a large MPEG and ISO file, the DVR-111 completed the test in an amazing eight minutes and five seconds. Although the 8.1GB of mixed image files took around double that time, itâ€™s still a pretty good result. The same two tests using DVD-R DL media took 17 minutes 37 seconds and 17 minutes 24 seconds respectively â€“ very good results for this media.
DVD-R and DVD+R results were par for the course, as were the DVD+RW scores. However, the DVD-RW results were very good, with every single test completed in under 10 and a half minutes. CD-R performance wasnâ€™t the best around, but the CD-RW results were above average. Finally, DVD-RAM performance was average, but considering the outstanding results seen elsewhere, this is easily forgiven.
The only thing really missing from the DVR-111 is some kind of disc labelling support in the form of LightScribe or LabelFlash, but unless you are desperate for â€œin driveâ€ labelling, you shouldnâ€™t let this put you off an otherwise excellent drive.
The DVR-111 only comes as a bare drive, but to be honest I donâ€™t think that this will bother too many users â€“ most of the time youâ€™re replacing an older drive anyway, so all the supporting kit will already be there. The price of Â£26.42 is pretty amazing considering how fast this writer is and is unlikely break the bank as far as upgrades go.
Pioneer has snatched the DVD writer performance crown from NEC â€“ and I was starting to think that no one would ever build a faster drive than NEC, judging by the past few models. As well as being very fast indeed, the DVR-111 is also very quiet, and with a price thatâ€™s lower than most DVD games that youâ€™ll be putting in it, you just canâ€™t go wrong.