The Sony DRU-800A is the first DVD writer in our labs supporting both DVD+/- R Dual Layer (DL) media. This mean the 800A has some longevity in the grand scheme of things. DVD-R DL media is most likely not available at the time of this review, but expect prices to be around the same mark they were when DVD+R DL hit the scene; roughly $10 dollars per disc. With a street price of around $120 dollars, The Sony DRU-800A comes with two faceplates and a software package by Nero.
Features and Design
Sony has stuck with the tried-and-true design of their DVD writers. The DRU-800A is very similar in appearance to the previous generation drives, specifically the DRU-710A and 720A recorders. All three units share the same clear plastic drive cover and interchangeable faceplates. If you have a black PC the included black faceplate will look great with your system. The black faceplate is not as futuristic looking as the white faceplate, but it gets the job done. The only difference in appearance from what we can tell is a small sticker on the front of the drive that says the DRU-800A supports both DVD+/-R DL media.
The front of the drive does not have a volume control or a headphone jack, buts that ok – how many people do you know that actually uses them? There is a single LED on the front of the drive that lights up a bright green during both the reading and writing process. Nitpicking a little, we would have liked a red LED to indicate that the drive was writing instead of green.
Packaged with the drive itself is an IDE cable, the Nero burning ROM 6 SE software, a fold out guide and the two faceplates. Sony does not include any media with the DRU-800A so you will have to purchase that separately. Sony recommends using Verbatim brand media with their writers.
The front of the Sony DRU-800A
Write speeds that the 800A supports include: 16X DVD+R, 8X DVD+RW, 16X DVD-R, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R, 24X CD-RW, 4X DVD+R DL and 4X DVD-R DL . Read speeds are rated at 16X for DVD-ROM, and 40X for CD-ROM media. For detailed specifications, please click on the “specs” tab and link above and below this review.
The Sony DRU-800A features a 2MB internal buffer and incorporates PowerBurn technology into the drive to help prevent buffer underruns errors. The DRU-800A 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 98 SE/ME/2000/XP.
Designtechnica Test System
Windows XP Professional; Intel LGA 775 3GHz CPU; 1GB Crucial Ballisitx DDR2 533MHz RAM; MSI ATI X800 XT video card; Western Digital 7200RPM SATA 80GB hard drive
Setup and Use
Sony provides a product guide and an easy fold out quick-guide to help you install the drive. We found both manuals to be well written and easy to follow. 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. The DRU-800A uses its own setup menu so you can access the software you want easily.
There was one point in time when Sony used to include Sonic CD/DVD writing software, but the last couple drives we have reviewed came with Nero Burning ROM, a software suite we prefer instead. Nero Burning Rom SE is a very feature-rich software suite that comes with Nero Burning Rom SE, NeroVision Express 3, Nero Recode 2, Nero ShowTime 2, INCD 4 and Backitup. If you have an older, paid version of Nero, than you will want to update it to the latest version in order to support this drive’s DVD-R DL capabilities. Our version of Nero was 188.8.131.52 for those that are interested.
Nero Burning Rom SE will be the software you will probably use the most for recording CD and data DVDs. NeroVision Express 3 is what you would use for video authoring such as creating VCD, SVCD and DVD’s. Nero Recode 2 is a program designed to let you copy unprotected DVD videos onto recordable DVD media. Nero Backitup is a backup program that lets you create an image of your hard drive and record it to DVD media or another computer on your network. InCD2 is Nero’s packet writing software that will let you drag and drop files onto the recordable media just as if it was a hard drive. And lastly, Nero Media Player and ShowTime 2 are the audio and video players of the software suite. If you do not currently have a software DVD player, than your dreams have been answered. ShowTime 2 is a good player that supports VCD, SVCD and DVD playback.
The contents of the Sony DRU-800A package
As can be expected, the DRU-800A is a solid performer. It really excelled in the DVD+R and –R tests. In our DVD+R DL tests, the Samsung TS-H552U proved to be the faster drive, although it can only write to DVD+R DL media, and not DVD–R DL. One thing we noticed is that the DRU-800A had some real trouble writing at the faster speeds on slower rated media. For example, we were not able to write accurately and without errors on 8X rated media at 16X speeds. This is not that big of a deal, but some DVD writers will let you do that, and it’s an added perk.
When using the appropriate media, we had no problem burning while browsing the web and doing other tasks, despite the higher CPU usage by the drive. The 800A did not produce any bad discs as long as we used the correct writing speeds. For our tests we used Verbatim and TDK CD and DVD media. For complete results, please click on the performance tab and link located above and below this review.
The Sony DRU-800A may cost a little more than other DVD writers on the market, but keep in mind that you are paying the higher price for cutting edge technology. Since this drive can record to DVD-R DL media, it is probably one of the most versatile drives out there, and it will stay cutting edge until sometime next year when you can expect to see HD-DVD and Blu-Ray writers hitting the market. Another technology that is slowly gaining in popularity is HP’s new Lightscribe DVD writers which allow you to physically burn the title or pictures onto the top of the DVD using a laser. LightScribe DVD writers do not support Dual Layer DVDs yet, but we would not be surprised to see this change in the next year.
The most important thing to remember is that the Sony DRU-800A is a fast and reliable DVD writer. It comes with a solid software suite, and two different faceplates rounding out a fairly complete package. DVD-R DL media will be hard to find and can be expensive for a while, but that should be expected for a new technology. The Sony DRU-800A is our current DVD writer champ, and with good reason.
– Supports both DVD+/- R DL media
– Fast write times
– Comes with two faceplates
– A tad bit expensive
– Has trouble writing at the faster speeds on slower rated media
– DVD-R DL media is still hard to find, and expensive