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October 08, 2004

Pioneer DVR-108 16x DVD Burner Review

Posted by Mark Mitford (editor) on October 8, 2004 12:53 PM in Computer Hardware , Reviews , Storage .

pioneer DVR-108 16x dvd writer review

The Pioneer DVR-108 is the OEM version of the first 16x DVD Writer that also supports 4x dual-layer write speeds.

The main differences between this and the retail box version (DVR-A08) are that the DVR-108 comes with a plain faceplate and no software or cables.

We got a Pioneer DVR-108 to test from Directron. Keep reading to find out what we thought of it.

Introduction:

Why upgrade the CD or DVD drive in your PC?

Most PCs come with just a CD or DVD reader, and are unable to write disks. This means that you can't use your CD/DVD drive to backup your files, create compilation discs of music you own, or burn your home movies to CD or DVD.

Older CD or DVD drives are also slower at reading data than more modern drives. Buying and installing a faster CD or DVD drive will speed up software installation, copying music off of CDs you own etc.

Upgrading a CD or DVD drive is also one of the easier upgrades you can do to your PC. Yes, you have to open the case and play around with wires but we will tell you what to do later in this review.

Even the best CD/DVD drives are under a hundred dollars these days so it is a good investment that adds to what you can do with your PC. Because of the low price you can also buy the best drive available to make your new drive as "future proof" as possible.

For this review we chose the Pioneer DVR-108 DVD recorder, which has the fastest speeds available for writing DVDs and even supports the fastest speed for the new dual-layer discs that double the storage capacity to 8.5 Gigabytes per disc.

First Impressions:

We bought the OEM version of the Pioneer DVR-A08 DVD drive.

The OEM version of a drive is one that is cheaper than the regular retail version and comes in a plain box without cables or software.

Going for the OEM version of a drive is a good idea if you already have a drive installed (so you already have all the cables you need) and already have CD and/or DVD writing software (or want to use one of the free software alternatives available).

Our drive came is a plain white box, wrapped in bubble wrap, and with a simple fold-out instruction sheet.

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review packaging

The instruction sheet is fairly simple giving, in 3 languages, the features, interface, and installation instructions for the drive.

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review instructions

The front of the DVR-108 drive is nice and simple.

At the top there is the tray that contains the CD or DVD disc. Below the tray, from left to right, are the "forced ejection hold" (used for opening the tray when there is no power or it is stuck), an activity light, two air vents, and the eject button to open the tray.

(Some drives also have a headphone connector on the front but that is not a feature of the DVR-108).

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review front of drive

The rear of the drive is where you connect the DVD drive to the rest of your computer.

From left to right there is a 4 pin analog audio connector (this connects the audio output of the drive to either your soundcard or the motherboard for directly playing audio CDs), the jumpers (explained later in the review), the 40 pin IDE interface (the main connection between the drive and your computer), and the 4 pin power input.

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review rear of drive

The only other thing on the drive is a label that has all the regulatory warnings associated with lasers and (more usefully) tells you the serial number and date of manufacture of your drive.

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review label

Installing the DVR-108:

Installing a CD/DVD writer drive isn't too difficult. Here's what you usually have to do:

  1. Turn off the power and remove the power cord from your computer.
  2. Remove the case from your computer. Normally this involves unscrewing 4 or 6 screws on the rear of the computer, then sliding off the case. (Note: If you haven't worked inside your computer before you should check inside before ordering a new drive to make sure you are comfortable with what you have to do).
  3. Carefully remove the cables from the back of your old drive. There should be 3 cables: a power cable, an IDE cable, and an audio cable.
  4. Unscrew the old drive. Normally there are 2 screws on either side of the drive although sometimes your drive may be screwed into a quick release rail system.
  5. Remove the old drive. This is usually best done by pushing the drive forward and out the front of your case.
  6. Look at your old drive and see how the jumpers were configured, and set the new drive to be the same. On most newer computers the drives are configured as cable select which means that the computer auto-detects the drives and determines which is which. Sometimes though you might have to move the jumper to set it to with master or slave.
  7. Insert the new drive into the computer (usually done the same way you got the old drive out).
  8. Connect the 3 cables to the new drive. Each cable can only go on one way around so don't force them. Look at the cable and the drive to see which way around they go. There is also a diagram in the instructions to help with this.
  9. This would be a good time to double check the connections, then put the power cable back on and power up your computer to make sure the drive is recognized. It is better to discover a problem now rather than when you have the computer back together. If you do this be sure to unplug the power before putting things back together.
  10. Screw the new drive in place, this is usually done the same way you unscrewed the old drive. Often computers allow the drive to slide back and forward a little to make sure you screw it in place flush with the front of your computer.
  11. Put your case back together the same way you took it apart.
  12. The drive should now be ready to use.

Here is our computer all opened up ready for the drive. We have a Shuttle mini PC case that can be difficult to get into; luckily the designers allow the tray for the hard drive and CD/DVD drive to lift out for easier installation.

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review ready for install

We had no problems installing the Pioneer DVR-108 drive. Here is our PC with the drive installed:

Pioneer DVR-108 A08 Review drive installed

Using the DVR-108:

The DVR-108 should work out of the box with no problems.

DVD drives usually need to be set to understand DVD disks from a certain region. The DVR-108 allows you to do this a maximum of 5 times.

We set out DVR-108 to Region 1 (includes the US) by going into Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Manager -> DVD/CD-ROM Drives

Before using the drive you should also update the firmware on the drive to the latest version (1.14 at time of writing)

Pioneer firmware download page

To write CDs and DVDs you need software. You may already have software or you may want to use some free software.

Sudhian.com has an article where they talk about free software. Here's what they say about burning CD/DVDs:

"I have some rather strict criteria for mastering. I want software that has an easy to use interface. It has to be able to create bootable CDs and must support extended long file names. The option must be present to remove that damnable two second gap between audio tracks and it must burn DVDs as well as CDs. With each successive item on that list, the choices grow fewer and fewer until only one is left:

burnatonce – a front-end for cdrdao / mkisofs that will also burn DVDs with the freeware add-in ProDVD (you do have to register the latter but it's still free)

For working with DVDs, whether the task is backing them up (and so removing the copy protection so that you can) or re-authoring them as part of that process, there are two excellent alternatives:

DVD Shrink – backup and / or re-author your original store-bought DVDs.

DVD Decrypter – backup your DVDs to disk or an ISO file; it also burns several formats backed up by other programs such as CloneDVD.
Naturally you'll be buying blank media to use and all media are definitely NOT created equal. Every blank DVD made should be stamped with a Media ID that indicates which manufacturer created it If the Media ID is missing, the quality of the media is immediately suspect, to put it mildly. You can check the Media ID with this tool:

DVD Identifier – display the Media ID of blank media AND check the burning capabilities and acceptable media list of firmware of the CD / DVD burner it is run on."

You can get the software by clicking on the following links: burnatonce, DVD Decrypter, DVD Identifier, and DVD Shrink.

The DVR-108 is supposed to be capable of writing a large range of formats and speeds (the speeds are expressed in multiples of 150MB per second):

Write Speed
DVD-R16x,12x,8x,6x,4x,2x,1x
DVD-RW4x,2x,1x
DVD+R16x,12x,8x,6x,4x,2.4x
DVD+RW4x,2.4x
DVD+R DL (Dual Layer)4x,2.4x
CD-R32x,24x,16x,10x,4x
CD-RW32x,24x,16x,10x,4x
Read Speed
DVD-ROM (single)max 16x
DVD-ROM (dual)max 12x
DVD-Rmax 12x
DVD-RWmax 8x
DVD+Rmax 12x
DVD+RWmax 8x
DVD+DLmax 8x
DVD-RAMmax 2x
CD-ROMmax 40x
CD-Rmax 40x
CD-RWmax 32x
CD-DA (DAE)max 40x
CD-DAmax 9.3x
VCDmax 9.3x

Note that although it promises to write DVDs at 16x speed and dual layer DVDs at 4x speed there aren't discs available yet that support those speeds. 16x DVDs should be available in October 2004 and 4x DVD-DL will be available in January 2005.

We aren't big on benchmarking, preferring to just tell you what we thought of the product and how it improved out lives and made us better more productive people.

We did run some tests and found that the DVR-108 was able to write a 4.7GB DVD-R in just under 8 minutes 30 seconds (this compares to over 15 minutes on our earlier DVD writer).

Fancy numbers but what does that mean: it means that we can back up our data in about half the time it used to take.

Conclusions:

Overall if your DVD or CD drive is getting long in the tooth and you are comfortable upgrading it yourself the Pioneer DVR-108 is probably the best DVD/CD upgrade currently available.

It is fast, seems reliable, and comes from a well known high quality company, yet sells for under $100.

Pros:
Great price
Works well
Very fast
Supports the fastest write speeds currently available
Good support for different brands of disc

Cons:
Doesn't look as nice as some retail drives
Have to provide your own software

Overall Rating: 9/10

You can order the Pioneer DVR-108 from Directron for $84.50 (price as of October 8th).

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Comments on Pioneer DVR-108 16x DVD Burner Review

i have bought the pioneer dvr 108 and i keep getting buffer underrun errors at the moment i am using 8 speed dvds and roxio 6 i have updated the firmware to 1.14 and turned down the write speed to x8 but my nec 2500 out proforms this writer i would apprieciate any solution you could give me

Posted by: stephen at October 26, 2004 01:11 PM

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