Sony DRU-700A Review

Highs

  • Reliable and consistent writing
  • strong software package

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 6

Lows

  • The Dual Layer format is not compatible with some DVD players
With Sony's new DRU-700A DVD writer, dual layer DVD recording has finally become a reality.

Summary

The Sony DRU-700A Dual Layer DVD writer improves upon the DRU product line by offering a better software package and faster write speeds than its predecessors. We found the DRU-700A to be a reliable and consistent drive throughout the testing process, trailing the Plextor PX-708 and Sony’s own DRU-530A drives by only a few seconds.

We would like to have seen Sony include a dual layer disc with this drive as well as Apple OS support to polish off the overall package. For those of you looking to jump into the new Dual Layer DVD arena, we recommend that you do research to see if your DVD player is compatible with this new format, if not then you may be in for a larger purchase than you had planned. You’ll also want to make sure that dual layer media is available to you for a reasonable price. Now available for under $150 dollars, the DRU-700A is a very good value, but Sony is already replacing it. For only about $30 more you can find Sony’s new DRU-710A, which burns DVDs at 16x speeds.

Introduction

 

With Sony’s new DRU-700A DVD writer, dual layer DVD recording has finally become a reality. Now you can record up to 8.5GB of data on a single disc, including a full Hollywood DVD-Video, without having to cut corners to make the movie fit. The DRU-700A can also record regular DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW media, making this a very versatile recorder. But specifications are only half the story; the software and performance are just as important. Priced at under $150 U.S. dollars, the Sony DRU-700A DVD writer has a lot to offer, but read on to see if Sony has improved upon their DRU series of DVD recorders.

Sony DRU-700A
Sony’s DRU-700A looks nearly identical to the DRU-530A

Performance

In our tests, the DRU-700A did not prove to be the speed demon we had hoped it would be. Trailing the Plextor 708A and Sony’s own DRU-530A in most write tests, the DRU-700A did hold its own and was not too far behind. We are only talking a few seconds difference in most cases. When it came to recording CD audio though, the DRU-700A did launch to the head of the pack. The most important thing to note is that the DRU-700A proved to be a very reliable drive, and it is consistent in its write times.

DAE Tests:

DAE Transfer Rate: Average Speed 25.70X

DAE Quality: 100.00

Data Errors: 13

Sync Errors: 0

DVP-NS575P/S

 

System Configurations:

Windows XP Pro SP1; AMD Athlon 2400+; Abit AT7 MAX2 Motherboard; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; MSI Geforce 6800 128MB video card

Features and Design

 

Sony’s DRU-700A was released back in May of this year; a little bit after the DVD+DL (dual-layer) specification was approved, and was supposedly the first dual layer DVD writer to hit the U.S. Market. Philips actually had developed the first dual layer DVD writer, but Sony’s DRU-700A was first to actually hit the store shelves. In any case, we are glad to see that the Dual Layer specification is picking up a lot of support. What troubles us though is that the first generation of dual layer write speeds are excruciatingly slow, reaching only a maximum 2.4x write speed.

The DRU-700A looks nearly identical to the Sony DRU-530A drive we reviewed back in February of this year. The faceplate appears to be the same as is the styling of the box, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We found the styling of the DRU-530A to be above average and representative of Sony as a brand. Sony has, however, gone one step further and decided to include interchangeable faceplates with the DRU-700A package. The drive comes with the standard silver and blue faceplate and also includes a black face, allowing it to match a black computer chassis. This is a pretty smart move on Sony’s part and we have seen Plextor do the same thing with their new drives as well. There are no volume controls or a headphone jack on the front of the drive, so if for some reason you are used to using these features, you will have to give this luxury up.

As is standard with almost all optical drives, the tray eject button and activity LED is located in the front bottom right corner. 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.

On the software front, Sony has decided to ditch the Sonic brand of DVD/CD recording software in favor of the more popular Nero software suite. This includes Nero burning ROM 6 SE which is used to create data and music discs as well perform as basic CD/DVD duplication, InCD 4 which is a DVD+/-RW and CD-RW packet writing software, Nero Vision Express 2 which is used for DVD-Video and Video CD authoring and editing, Nero Back It Up which allows you to back up your computers main files onto CD or DVD. Lastly, Sony includes Nero’s Showtime software which is used to play DVD video and video CD’s on your PC.

For read and write specifications, the DRU-700A is fast, but not the fastest available. As has been the case lately, once the review sites get the drives in to test, the manufacturers are already announcing faster products. Write speeds include 8X DVD+R, 4X DVD+RW, 8X DVD-R, 4X DVD-RW, 40X CD-R, 24X CD-RW and 2.4X DVD+R DL write speeds. Read speeds are rated at 12X for DVD-ROM, and 40X for CD-ROM media

The Sony DRU-700A features a 2MB internal buffer and incorporates PowerBurn technology into the DRU-700A to help prevent buffer underruns errors. The DRU-700A is only compatible with Windows based systems and requires a minimum of an Intel Pentium III 800 MHz CPU or equivalent, 128MB of memory and Windows 2000 or XP operating systems.

Sony offers a one-year limited warranty with the DRU-700A 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 includes both a detailed and a quick start guide to get you going with the installation process of the DRU-700A. We found both manuals to be well written and easy to following. Physically installing the drive is a relatively simple process and does not require any special instructions other than making the drive the first one on the IDE channel.

Once the drive is installed you will want to run the software CD which comes with the unit. Sony uses their own setup menu so you can access the software you want easily. In previous models of Sony’s DVD writer line, they used software from multiple companies such as Sonic and MusicMatch, so you had to install each program individually. This time around, you still have to install each application individually, but because they are all part of the Nero suite, you just have one menu screen.

Sony DRU700A Setup Screen
The setup menu for the Sony DRU700A software

We are big fans of the Nero software and think they make some of the best CD and DVD recording software available. Nero is at times not as intuitive and as easy to use as Roxio’s Easy CD & DVD Creator software, but it is more powerful and certainly faster. Nero’s Burning ROM 6 SE software is what you will probably use the most. It is fast and easy to use and we did not encounter in media incompatibilities or slowdowns while writing our media. Nero’s InCD 4 packet writing software is pretty solid and reliability, but may not be a necessity if you are used to using Microsoft’s own packet writing software which is integrated into their Windows XP operating systems.

Sony DRU-700A Nero Software
The Nero software suite covers everything you should need

The rest of Nero’s software including their DVD editing, and backup software are not as strong as stand alone packages you can buy separately, but for the casual user, they still work very well. Nero’s Showtime software is similar to WinDVD or Cyberlinks PowerDVD software, but not as good in our opinion. Overall, the software suite which Sony packages with the DRU-700A is the best we have seen with a DVD writer in a long time.

In our tests, the DRU-700A did not prove to be the speed demon we had hoped it would be. Trailing the Plextor 708A and Sony’s own DRU-530A in most write tests, the DRU-700A did hold its own and was not too far behind. We are only talking a few seconds difference in most cases. When it came to recording CD audio though, the DRU-700A did launch to the head of the pack. The most important thing to note is that the DRU-700A proved to be a very reliable drive, and it is consistent in its write times.

In our Dual Layer writing tests, it took our DRU-700A almost 41 minutes to write a 7.16GB directory. Since this is our first Dual Layer DVD writer, we had nothing to compare it to. We can tell you that at 2.4X, 41 minutes felt like an eternity. We will upgrade the graph and this review once we get our hands on more Dual Layer DVD writers. We do expect 2.4X to be the speed standard for this generation of DVD writers from all manufacturers.

Compatibility

 

Although we saved this section for last, it is probably the most important. Dual Layer DVD’s are new so you are probably wondering how compatible this new media is with stand alone DVD players. First of all, Dual Layer media is still very expensive and incredibly hard to find in most cases. With a price of at least $10 per disc, most people cannot afford to make a mistake while writing to the Dual Layer discs.

We were able to get our Dual Layer DVD disc to be read in the Pioneer DV-563A and Sony DVP-NS575P/S stand alone DVD players and in our Plextor 708A DVD writer, but not in our HP DVD 400I DVD writer. We searched the web to see if we could find other players that are incompatible and found that ExtremeTech was unable to get their test DVD to work in the Sony DW-U10A and Teac DVW58E DVD recorders. We recommend that you search the web or post in our forums to find out if the DRU-700A will create discs compatible with your DVD player. Because the Dual Layer format is still relatively new, you should expect to run into some incompatibilities with this media unless you own a relatively new player. You should also be safer if you stick with Sony equipment too.

Conclusion

 

The Sony DRU-700A Dual Layer DVD writer improves upon the DRU product line by offering a better software package and faster write speeds than its predecessors. We found the DRU-700A to be a reliable and consistent drive throughout the testing process, trailing the Plextor PX-708A and Sony’s own DRU-530A drives by only a few seconds.

We would like to have seen Sony include a dual layer disc with this drive as well as Apple OS support to polish off the overall package. For those of you looking to jump into the new Dual Layer DVD arena, we recommend that you do research to see if your DVD player is compatible with this new format, if not then you may be in for a larger purchase than you had planned. You’ll also want to make sure that dual layer media is available to you for a reasonable price. Now available for under $150 dollars, the DRU-700A is a very good value, but Sony is already replacing it. For only about $30 more you can find Sony’s new DRU-710A, which burns DVDs at 16x speeds.

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