Sony DRU-530A Review

Highs

  • Very fast and reliable
  • $25 dollars less than its closest competitor the Plextor PX-708A

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 6

Lows

  • Will not write at 8x speeds on 4x media
  • no front headphone or volume controls
...for overall reliability and speed the Sony DRU-530A is among the top of its class.

Summary

Sony’s DRU-530A 8X DVD writer improves upon its predecessor the DRU-510A in write speeds and offers some of the fastest write times we have seen to date, coming in a close second behind Plextor’s PX-708A drive in most tests. What the DRU-530A has going for it is a solid software package and a very competitive price.

We would like to have seen Apple compatibility, headphone and volume controls on the front of the drive, and some blank recordable media to polish off the overall package. But for overall reliability and speed the Sony DRU-530A is among the top of its class.

Introduction

Sony was the first to market with a multi-format DVD writer, the DRU-500A. Since then multi-format has become the standard and most new drives are offering 8X DVD write speeds. Sony’s new 8X DVD+/-RW drive, the DRU-530A attempts to make its mark in the already saturated recordable DVD drive market.

As we have pointed out in past reviews, there is little difference between 4X and 8X DVD write times, but with DVD recorder prices dropping to record lows, it just may be time to upgrade your CD-RW drive and venture into the DVD realm.

Featuring a software package that is different than what other manufacturers are providing, the DRU-530A hopes to give a reason to choose a Sony over the rest. Priced between $160 and $200 dollars, the DRU-530A offers 8X DVD+R write times for around $25 dollars less than its closest competitor, the Plextor PX-708A.

Features and Design

Let’s face it, when it comes to DVD writers speed is king. Every magazine or Website will boast about how fast one DVD writer is compared to the rest. But when it comes right down to it, we are talking seconds of difference, not minutes in most cases. Is it really worth spending the extra money on a drive that can complete a DVD or CD 23 seconds faster than the rest? Maybe, but what you should really be looking at is the overall package. What does the drive offer as far as features and software?

We have seen drives with a lot of controls on the front of the unit such as those from Plextor and MSI, and we have seen some drives come with very complete software packages that are user friendly such as the HP and TDK drives. The Sony DRU-503A comes with a software package that seems to cover everything you would want to do with your DVD writer.

Included with the DRU-503A is Sonic’s RecordNow DVD & CD recording software, Sonic DLA packet writing software, Sonic MyDVD DVD video authoring and editing software, Cyberlink PowerDVD 5 and MusicMatch Jukebox. The Sony DRU-503A drive may very well be compatible with both Windows and Mac based computer systems, but the included software is only compatible with Windows 2000 and XP operating systems. We’ve run across optical drives that don’t mention Mac compatibility, but when installed, they work fine.

Sony says the DRU-503A writes DVD-Rs at 1X, 2X, and 4X. It writes DVD-RWs at 1X and 2X, DVD+R at 2.4X, 4X and 8X and DVD+RW at 2.4X and 4X. CD writing speeds are rated at a max of 40X for CD-R and 24X for CD-RW. Read speeds are rated at 12X for DVD and 40X for CD.

While competitors are introducing drives with an 8MB buffer, the DRU-503A features a standard 2MB buffer. However, in our tests, a larger buffer doesn’t necessarily mean the creation of less coasters. Modern drives with built-in buffer underrun protection often handle burning and multi-tasking just fine with a 2MB buffer.

As is the case with almost every other Sony product, the DRU-503A looks physically different than their competitor’s products. The front tray is lined with a clear plastic shield which gives the drive a very futuristic look. The silver and white design makes it look good in many different colored cases. It looks very similar to the original DRU-500A and the DRU-510A, however, unlike the DRU-510A, there are no volume controls or a headphone jack located on the drive. For most this will not be a huge deal since few people seem to use these features, but it still would have been nice for Sony to include them, considering they are useful to some users.

Performance

 In our CD and DVD+R tests, the DRU-530A trailed every so slightly behind the current speed champion, the Plextor PX-708A drive, but was able to beat out the Plextor in our packet writing and Audio CD writing tests as well as the DVD-R tests. In our Digital Audio Extraction tests, the DRU-530A was right on par with the HP DVD 400i drive which to be honest is not a good thing. But aside from the DAE tests, the DRU-530A proved to be a very fast drive. For complete benchmarking results please click on the performance tab and link located above and below this review.

 

System Configurations:

Windows XP Pro SP1; AMD Athlon 2400+; Abit AT7 MAX2 Motherboard; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; PNY Geforce FX 5600 w/256MB video adapter.

The front of the Sony DRU-530A
The front of the Sony DRU-530A

Located on the front of the drive in the bottom right hand corner is the tray eject button and activity LED. Sony includes an IDE cable, quick start guide and instruction manual, but does not include an analog audio cable or any sort of writable media.

Sony offers a one year limited warranty with the DRU-503A which includes 90 days of toll-free technical support available Monday through Saturday 8AM to 8PM Central Standard Time. Sony also offers Website technical support 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Setup and Use

Sony packages both a hardware and software quick start guide with the DRU-503A which allows you to get the drive installed and writing discs fairly quickly. There is a larger, more detailed manual located on the CD-ROM should you need to look up specific information. We had no trouble installing the DRU-503A and found installation to be no different that any other CD or DVD drive.

Sony DRU-530A Setup Screen
Sony DRU-530A software setup screen

Once the drive is installed you will want to start the application installation process. Sony ties in all 5 applications through the use of a single menu system which will auto start when you put in the CD. Each application needs to be installed individually, but we see this as a good thing since it will allow you to pick and choose which software you want to use.

Sonic RecordNow is a very simple DVD and CD recording program that also offers backup capabilities. It is not as feature rich as Ahead’s Nero or Roxio’s Easy CD and DVD Creator programs, but it gets the job done. If you are not very fond of Windows XP’s built in packet writing software, Sony includes Sonic DLA program which will allow you to drag and drop files onto your DRU-530A drive (under My Computer) and write directly to the CD or DVD media. When it comes time to author and edit those home movies to be burned to DVD, the included Sonic MyDVD software is a nice touch. While not as feature rich as some of the other DVD authoring programs, it is a solid program that the newcomer will find easy to use. It is very intuitive to use and will give those new to DVD authoring a good base of information.

We would like to point out that besides working with the software Sony packages with the DRU-530A; we also found the drive to be compatible with Nero 6 and Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 programs.

Before you start burning any sort of media, we highly recommend that you head over to Sony’s website and check to make sure that you have the latest firmware installed on the DRU-530A. Firmware is a software update for the drive itself and will usually fix any bugs or problems the drive encounters after production.

Before updating our test drives firmware, we encountered problems with the DRU-530A completing the writing process in Nero 6. We also had problems with the DRU-530A reading from several retail software media, as we did with the Plextor PX-708A before the firmware upgrade. Once we updated our drives firmware, everything worked properly and we encountered no more errors.

Most readers may only care about the drive’s speed and we can tell you the DRU-530A is a smoking fast drive. In our tests we use Nero Drive Speed, SiSoftware Sandra, Nero 6 and Easy CD & DVD Creator to benchmark real world performance. Between each test, our hard drive was defragged and our system rebooted. Because having multiple CD/DVD writing programs installed simultaneously can skew results, we installed Nero 6 and Easy CD and DVD Creator separately and apart from each other.

In our CD and DVD+R tests, the DRU-530A trailed every so slightly behind the current speed champion, the Plextor PX-708A drive, but was able to beat out the Plextor in our packet writing and Audio CD writing tests as well as the DVD-R tests. In our Digital Audio Extraction tests, the DRU-530A was right on par with the HP DVD 400i drive which to be honest is not a good thing. But aside from the DAE tests, the DRU-530A proved to be a very fast drive. For complete benchmarking results please click on the performance tab and link located above and below this review.

After the firmware update, we experienced no problems with our test drive reading from certain media nor did we experience any buffer underruns or write errors throughout the testing process. We were also able to surf the web and do other small tasks without any noticeable slow down during the writing process. The DRU-530A proved to be as reliable as it is fast.

Several competing products, such as the Plextor PX-708A, are able to write 8X speeds to 4X media. In our tests, this was not possbile with the Sony DRU-530A. With it still being hard to find 8X recordable DVD media, this may be a concern for some users.

Conclusion

Sony’s DRU-530A 8X DVD writer improves upon its predecessor the DRU-510A in write speeds and offers some of the fastest write times we have seen to date, coming in a close second behind Plextor’s PX-708A drive in most tests. What the DRU-530A has going for it is a solid software package and a very competitive price.

We would like to have seen Apple compatibility, headphone and volume controls on the front of the drive, and some blank recordable media to polish off the overall package. But for overall reliability and speed the Sony DRU-530A is among the top of its class.

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