What Should I Consider When Buying a DVD Drive?

Shannon Kietzman

DVD drives are available in many different speeds with a variety of options and formats. The main factor to consider when purchasing a DVD drive is its purpose. Usually, a DVD drive is intended to play DVD movies and audio CDs, as well as to read DVD-Rom and CD-Rom discs.

A stack of DVDs.
A stack of DVDs.

Consumers interested in obtaining a more advanced DVD drive will need to consider other options, such as burners, drives that support DVD-R technology, and drives that support DVD+R technology. The only difference between the two formats is the way the DVD drive determines the position of the laser on the disc. DVD-R discs are read by the DVD drive through special grooves on the disc known as land prepits, whereas DVD+R measures a disc's wobble frequency. A consumer can also purchase a "dual-DVD" drive that supports both the DVD-R and DVD+R format, typically known as DVD±R.

DVD and Blu-Ray players use an optical drive to playback movies stored on an optical disk.
DVD and Blu-Ray players use an optical drive to playback movies stored on an optical disk.

The DVD-R format, which was introduced by Pioneer in 1997, was the first to hit the market. The DVD-R is a write once, read only optical disc that enables the user to copy movies or data with a capacity of 4.37 GB using the DVD drive. The DVD-RW format can be written and re-written multiple times.

The DVD-R format was split into two types in 2000 for security reasons. These types are DVD-R for Authoring, or DVD-R(a), and DVD-R for General, or DVD-R(g). Although these types of DVD-R can read each other, they cannot write in each other's format.

In 2002, Sony and Phillips introduced the DVD+R format. All DVD+R formats are compatible with each other. DVD+R has the same capacity as a DVD-R, and DVD+RW works exactly as a DVD-RW. This format also offers DVD+RW DL. The DL stands for dual layer, a technology which allows a single disc to hold up to 8.5 GB of information. The DVD-RAM offers more storage capacity, but it requires a specialized DVD drive which is more expensive.

The DVD-RAM format enables the disc to be re-written with the DVD drive up to 100,000 times as opposed to only 1,000 times or so for an average DVD-RW. It can be two-sided, enabling as much as 9.74 GB on a single DVD-RAM disc. This disc is best for users with mass portable storage needs.

A "dual DVD" drive or DVD±R with DVD-RAM is very versatile, as it reads all formats of DVD technology and is capable of writing to all forms. Typically, a user will achieve speeds of 16x write for DVD+/-, 8x write for DVD+ DL and 5x write for DVD-RAM, as well as the capacity to write regular CD-R at 48x with this type of DVD drive. This ensures any format of disc will work when using the dual DVD drive.

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