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Hardware Review of:
A reasonably priced DVD burner


Optorite DD0203 DVD Burner

Dale Swafford is a retired ol' codger who is fascinated with burners and burning CDs and DVDs. Questions and comments (no flaming please) to Dale Swafford.

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

With the price of dual format DVD burners hovering around the $270 to $325 price range, it was exciting to me to find one under $200. Being of the frugal (can you say cheap?) persuasion, I figured it would be around Christmas before the price of DVD burners got close to my sweet spot. But, being a blithering optimist required an occasional run at PriceGrabber just in case. Imagine my delight when PriceGrabber showed a dual format DVD burner under $200 including shipping and handling. The Optorite DD0203 DVDR/RW dual format including HD-Burn CD-RW drive is a reasonably priced DVD burner. But the Optorite brand name was unknown to me. So off I went to my favorite drive test sites.

At CDR-Info I hit paydirt - a complete test of the Optorite DD0203. I learned Optorite is a new Taiwanese manufacturer that packaged the Sanyo dual format DVD drive with HD-Burn to increase the normal CD data capacity to 1.4 GB. You probably remember Sanyo for developing the first (and some say the best) buffer underrun prevention - BurnProof. Sanyo also developed HD-Burn by using smaller pits and changing the error correction code from CRC to Reed-Solomon, effectively doubling the normal 700 MB data CD capacity to 1.4 GB. The spec sheet looked good too. It would write DVD: R at 4X; -RW at 2X; +RW at 2.4X; read DVD-ROMs at 12X; and will support DVD-ROM and DVD-video in all four of the most popular DVD formats. And for CDs, it's a 24X10X40X that supports all the normal formats including raw burn. I know, the Sony 510A will do a 4X DVD+RW burn, but it's not worth $100 more to me especially since the 4X +RW blanks won't be on the shelves at a reasonable price for some time. The bundled software is a little thin, with B's Recorder5 Gold and WinDVD. If you buy the new Nero6 Ultra, it will cover everything this drive is capable of except making an archive copy of your DVD movie.

The results of this test concluded it was a good, fast drive, but didn't support the Mount Rainer protocol (problem if you use the latest DirectCD packet writing) and had a problem reading badly s cratched CD/DVDs and coping with the new CD copy guard on games and music. No sweat! I need to mention a caution area. As in our Sony 500AX, the Optorite has a hard wired Region Control. If you change the DVD region in the software to play a DVD from another region, on the fifth change it will lock in that region (we are in region 1). So if the 5th change is to another region, you will have to send the drive to a service center to reset the region control - at your expense, of course. I have no experience with the software region foolers, so proceed with caution.

Since my birthday was approaching, my sweetie asked what I wanted. I told her about the Optorite and in a few days I was installing it. Nothing special there. Three cords, four screws, set the shorting block to master, and the BIOS picked it up automatically on boot-up. Software installed like a breeze and I was ready to burn those expensive coasters. It didn't take long to figure out that the 4 GB limit on file size in FAT32 put serious limits on some software. The NTFS file system in Win2K and WinXP will handle terabytes (I only needed 12 GB). Also, I burned two coasters before I hit the forums on Cdfreaks and found that t he software I was trying to use wasn't compatible with my burner yet. After downloading the update, I still burned a coaster.

Ignorance is expensive. Yes, it is possible to burn coasters even with the best buffer underrun protection. With DVDs, it wasn't an interruption in the data flow (buffer underrun), it was usually some form of incompatibility and inexperience. The only way around that is if you are using rewriteable DVDs so you can erase them and try again (sorta' like training wheels). Up until a month ago, I couldn't understand why anyone would want to watch a DVD movie on their computer. Now that I've seen how sharp and clear, almost 3D like, movies on a 19 or 21 inch monitor, it can really spoil you.

Am I happy to have a new DVD burner in my computer? You bet! And is it a challenge to find the capabilities and limits of the new software in my machine? You better believe it! If only I had waited a few weeks longer, it would have been $30 cheaper. Such is life in the new technology fast lane.

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