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Pioneer DVR-SK12D Review

Highs

  • Supports both FireWire and USB 2.0
  • very slim and stylish

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 7

Lows

  • Slow CD-R/RW recording times
  • no support for Apple operating systems
  • cannot run off the laptops battery
We cannot argue that the Pioneer drive is great to look at and it would score a 9/10 on the coolness factor alone...

Summary

We cannot argue that the Pioneer drive is great to look at and it would score a 9/10 on the coolness factor alone, but the poor CD-R write times leave something to be desired, at least on the desktop computer side. If you mainly use your laptop computer, then you are probably already used to the slower read/write times since laptops are behind desktops on the recordable CD/DVD side. Overall we were satisfied with the performance of Pioneer’s drive. The DVR-SK12D is a very rugged and flexible external drive and would make a great companion for your trips on the road provided you are near a power outlet.

Introduction

 

Ever wanted to upgrade your laptop’s CD/DVD player but didn’t want to have to buy a whole new system in order to do so? Now you do not have to. Pioneer’s new DVR-SK12D external slim drive is shorter than two CD’s stacked on top of each other and weighs just over one pound. Add to that CD-R/RW and both DVD+-R/RW support and you now have more options available to you. But don’t buy this DVD writer just for its speed; buy it for its great looks and ultra-portability. The DVR-SK12D can be found online for just under $330 dollars.

Features and Design

What makes the DVR-SK12D so interesting is that is seems to be one of the first of its kind to market. From what we can tell the DVR-SK12D is one of the only slim Dual Format DVD Writers available with no offerings available from Sony, Plextor, or TDK’s camps. LiteOn manufacturers a slim external dual format DVD writer, but features slower writing speeds and costs about $100 dollars more than Pioneer’s drive. Interestingly, the big brother to the DVR-SK12D, Pioneer’s DVR-S606 external DVD writer appeared to be somewhat late to market featuring 4X DVD write speeds when models from competitor’s Sony and Plextor feature 8X writing capabilities.

The DVR-SK12D supports the following formats and speeds: 2X DVD-R, 2X DVD-RW, 2.4X DVD+R/RW, 16X CD-R, 10X CD-RW, 8X DVD-ROM read, 4X DVD+-/RW read, 24X CD-ROM/R/RW read. Included in the DVR-SK12D’s package is: the user manual, eject pin, FireWire cables (6-6pin, 6-4pin), USB cable (A-miniB), Video Studio 7, DVD Movie Factory 2se and Nero Express. Unfortunately Pioneer has not included any Apple software in the package, and there is no claim for Apple support at this time.

If you were to take a laptop’s internal CD/DVD writer and put it into an external case, the Pioneer DVR-SK12D is what you would have. The DVR-SK12D comes in a deep metallic blue case with a shiny blue LED located on the right hand side of the top. Located on the back of the drive are both USB 2.0 and FireWire ports, with each using a mini-plug. The DVR-SK12D will automatically detect which interface you are using and will switch accordingly. The DVR-SK12D also features a 2MB data buffer.

Pioneer's DVR-SK12D drive using the stand

The slim design of the DVR-SK12D will make this drive particularly attractive to laptop users or those that want ultra-portability on the go. If you currently have a laptop computer with no internal CD/DVD drive, the DVR-SK12D is even more attractive because you can manually turn it off or put it away; saving your laptops precious battery life.

One other cool feature on the DVR-SK12D is that you can flip the power switch to the “auto” position. This will automatically power the drive off when your computer system is turned off. We would love to see this feature available on the larger external DVD writers, not to mention external hard drives.

Pioneer's DVR-SK12D compared to 2 CD's

Performance

 

 

 

 

System Configurations:

Windows XP Pro SP1; AMD Athlon 1700+; Abit AT7 Max 2 motherboard; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; PNY GeforceFX 500 video adapter.

Use and Testing

 

The manual that comes with the DVR-SK12D is pretty detailed and includes all the information you should need to install your drive. It does not however explain how to install the software, for that you will need to use the manuals located on the software CD itself. If you are familiar with laptop CD/DVD drives then you already know that it can be a chore getting the drive tray to stay locked when closed. On this particular drive, you will have to push the left hand side of the drive to get it to stay in the closed position. This was not mentioned anywhere in the manual, so be forewarned.

It is always hard to test a drive like this because it is based on a laptop drive rather than an internal desktop drive. This means that you will be faced with slower read and write times right off the bat when compared to drives found in a desktop system. There are also few laptop computers shipping with both dual format DVD writers, so our hands were tied a little bit forcing us to compare the DVR-SK12D against larger external DVD writers based off of internal desktop drives.

For our test line-up we decided to put the DVR-SK12D against Plextor’s 504UF 4X external DVD drive and the Pioneer DVR-S606 4X external drive. Sure we could have thrown in the Plextor 708UF 8X DVD writer for fun, but seriously, that would not be a fair comparison.

In our CD-R/RW write tests, the Pioneer drive averaged between a 10x and 13x write speed throughout the process; considerably slower than the drives 16X CD-R rating. We also noticed that the DVR-SK12D really struggled writing our single large 385MB file versus the 525MB directory. We tried multiple media brands and computer systems but were unable to get the DVR-SK12D to write the 385MB file in under 10 minutes. We noticed that the drive was unable to sustain a consistent high-throughput data stream but wrote fast when it was able to write in bursts which may explain our frustration.

We also noticed that write times were improved when the system was rebooted between writing tests. While this may prove to have more accurate results in a lab, it does not reflect typical results which you may find in your own home. In fact, write times were decreased dramatically as more applications where simultaneously open and when we did back-to-back writing tests (without rebooting the system).

On the DVD+/- R/RW side, the DVR-SK12D had no trouble writing to any of the media we threw at it. Write times were fast and error free, even while multi-tasking on our test system. The DVR-SK12D did not seem to favor any type of recordable DVD format over the other.

If you plan on taking this drive with you on the road, be forewarned, the DVR-SK12D cannot run off of the FireWire or USB bus alone. You will need to have the drive plugged into a power source using the AC adapter. What is sort of misleading is the pictures located on the box this drive is packaged in. It shows people enjoying their notebook computers in the airport, on the beach and on the go. If you take a closer look you will notice that the picture show people using their laptops, not the drive itself. The fact that this drive needs an AC adapter sort of ruins the excitement the DVR-SK12D appears to offer upon first glance.

For complete benchmarks and scores, please click on the performance tab and link found above and below this review.

Conclusion

 

We cannot argue that the Pioneer drive is great to look at and it would score a 9/10 on the coolness factor alone, but the poor CD-R write times leave something to be desired, at least on the desktop computer side. If you mainly use your laptop computer, then you are probably already used to the slower read/write times since laptops are behind desktops on the recordable CD/DVD side. Overall we were satisfied with the performance of Pioneer’s drive. The DVR-SK12D is a very rugged and flexible external drive and would make a great companion for your trips on the road provided you are near a power outlet.

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