It's a good time to be in the market for an advanced dual-layer DVD burner, an all-in-one drive capable of burning CDs and DVDs, in addition to playing back your favorite movies. When you take into account the online prices and rebates, each and every one of our contenders can be had for less than $100 and they all offer a boatload of functionality for the money. However, the drive that you choose as a favorite will depend on several different factors, including performance, price, features, software, and bundles.
Though its principal forte is motherboards, ASUS' optical drive offerings are also strong. The DRW-1604P ties Plextor's PX-716A in dual-layer writing performance and comes with a useful bundle. Where it falls a bit short is DVD+R write speed and CD-R recording, which is limited to 32x speeds. It's available for under $80 online, quite possibly compensating for the modest performance numbers, though. Given the balance between price, performance, and a respectable feature set, ASUS' DRW-1604P is an admirable mid-range burner.
A true value proposition, BenQ's DW-1620 shows up online at about $65--an admittedly tempting entry point for novices looking to dabble in home video production or simple music compilation backups. Naturally, performance isn't one of the drive's strong points and support through firmware updates looks to be lacking. Then again, you get what you pay for. In this case, it's a budget drive with great stability, consistent burns, and moderate speed.
There's actually a lot to like about Lite-On's SOHW-1633S, including a $60 price tag, an ultra-small chassis for use in small form-factor systems, a great bundle, and excellent 48x burn speeds for CDs. However, there's no working around the fact that we're looking at a new breed of drives that flaunt dual-layer capabilities at the top of their specification sheets and this SOHW-1633S is limited to 2.4x while the competition is doing 4x or 6x numbers. By all means, grab an inexpensive drive if you're on a budget, but remember that 2.4x performance means waiting roughly 45 minutes for a dual-layer disc rather than 26 or 27 minutes.
Now here's where things start to get interesting. The Plextor PX-716A is available online for about $90. That's a fairly substantial price when you look at the drive's competition. And although we're looking at 6x DVD+R DL speeds and the first DVD-R DL capabilities, performance with dual-layer discs is equal to ASUS' offering at 4x speeds. Granted, the sub-three minute CD-R burn times are phenomenal. However, we were certainly expecting more from the DVD-related features. Plextor is known for its exceptional customer support, though, and we're anticipating additional firmware releases to properly age the drive. Hopefully, by then we'll see improved performance to match the impressive feature set.
Sony had this one in the bag with the older firmware that enabled 4x dual-layer burn speeds. Problems with that file prompted Sony to remove it, though, replacing it with 2.4x performance times once again. According to Sony it will re-post the accelerated firmware soon, after rectifying reported bugs. In the meantime, Sony's DRU-710A turns in blazing-fast DVD+R speed and competitive numbers with 40x CD-R burning. Priced at about $90 online, the DRU-710A falls right behind Plextor's drive in our roundup given its feature set today.
Bear in mind also that Sony has just announced its DRU-720A, which officially introduces 4x dual-layer performance.