Article - The DVD format war: What format to pick?

vbimport

#1

Below you can find an article I wrote about the current DVD format war, to help people decide what format to pick at this moment. I know there are people here with a lot more knowlegde then me and I would be very pleased with any comments on this article, so I can correct any errors and mistakes before I post it on the mainpage…

Two formats

If you’re in the market for a DVD recorder you will find out that currently one of the major issues is the ‘DVD format war’, as many people describe the competition between the DVD+R/DVD+RW (DVD+ or DVD plus) and the DVD-R/DVD-RW (DVD- or DVD minus) formats. Both are DVD recordable formats and developed to store data on a DVD recordable disc that can be played on a DVD(-ROM) player. DVD+/-R stands for DVD recordable and can only be recorded once, DVD+/-RW stands for DVD rewritable, and this discs can be written and erased, making it possible to record them up to about thousand times.
Both DVD plus and DVD minus have their own supporters and both formats are claiming they have their own benefits. In this article we are going to try to distinct the differences between both formats and take a look from a consumers perspective. We aim to give you an advice on what kind of recorder you should buy at this moment, a dual format recorder that supports both DVD-R(W) and DVD+R(W) discs, or a recorder that supports only one of the formats (either DVD- and DVD+).

Before we wrote this article we met several important people from both DVD recordable formats at CEBIT 2003. From the DVD plus format we talked to Ms Harpe from Philips, from the DVD minus format we talked to Mr Yoshimura from Pioneer.

Why two formats ?

While the CD recordable format was widely adopted by all companies in the industry, all companies could not agree on one single DVD recordable format. At the start of the war it was clear what companies supported DVD minus and what companies supported DVD plus, unfortunately at the current moment this is less clear, many companies have chosen to support both formats. South Korean and Taiwanese companies, who have a large market share in the optical storage industry, have all told us that they will not pick one format, but follow the market. DVD plus is mainly backed by Philips, HP and Dell. DVD minus is mainly backed by Pioneer, Toshiba and Apple.

Is it really a war ?

The struggle between both formats is many times described as a war, we would prefer to call it more like a competition or a race. There is chance that over the years both formats will still be present in the market. Both DVD minus and DVD plus told us that there is not really a need for a winner. Many people refer to the BetaMAX, VHS war that took place when the video recorder came into the living room. Both formats where incompatible with each other and without a winner a lot of consumers would be left in the cold. DVD plus and DVD minus are for a large share compatible with each other, and a real winner is not necessary. Also there are dual format recorders on the market, which are able to record to both the DVD plus and the DVD minus format. Altough many people see them as a solution, as a consumer you will still need to decide which DVD recordable disc you need to buy.

What is important when looking for a DVD recorder ?

As a consumer you prefer to get the best product for the lowest price. When you are buying a DVD recorder you will need to know the issues related to buying a DVD recorder. One of the main issues will be compatibility. If you buy a DVD recorder and the discs do not play in the devices you intended, you will be dissapointed. Another issue is that it has the functionality you want. We have tried to determine if there are any differences on the hardware level that makes one of the formats superior to the other. When looking at the technical details you will notice that they do not differ a whole lot, many issues seem to be software related. So issues that remain are compatibility and price.

When looking at the numbers of researches performed by independent companies there is not really one format that is MUCH more compatible then the other, DVD-R and DVD+R are compatible with about 90% of the devices while DVD-RW and DVD+RW are compatible with about 70%. If you buy either a DVD plus or a DVD minus recorder you also have the option to try DVD recordable media of several manufacturers/brands and it is likely you will find one combination that will play in your DVD player. Altough compabitility is an issue, it seems to be improving a lot lately and chances you will find a combination of DVD media, a DVD recorder and a DVD player that works are very, very high. Both formats are in general compatible with each other. However be warned, if a device claims it reads both DVD+RW and DVD-RW it might not work with the media you bought. In case it doesn’t, try different media.

So it’s all about the Benjamins (money) ?

At the moment it seems that only price makes a real difference when buying a DVD recorder, another issue is availablity. From our perspective DVD plus has a better marketing machine and is more offensive in putting their format on the market as having more functionality. DVD minus seems to be more defensive and has to battle everything DVD plus is saying. However most technical advances marketed by DVD plus seem to be software based and there is no reason for DVD minus to not implement the features that are currently marketed by DVD plus. According to both spokesmen the current market situation is pretty stable and numbers are 50/50, so none of the formats is currently clearly ahead. However it must be said that DVD plus has entered the market after DVD minus.

Another important factor is that Taiwanese and South Korean companies are not supporting one of the formats, they support both. Companies like LG, Lite-On, Samsung and Benq are key players on the market and LG and Lite-On have already announced to be releasing dual format recorders for less then 200 EURO/Dollar. At this moment DVD plus media and recorders are more expensive then DVD minus equipment, and according to both spokesmen this has nothing to do with a structural problem. The production of both media types is technically about the same and there is no reason for DVD plus to be more expensive other then less production. Once both formats have about the same output of recordable discs, it is expected that also the prices of both will be about the same.

As for Microsoft supporting the DVD plus format, this might be seen as an important issue, however this is only a small step. Technically it is relatively simple to implement support for both formats.

The market decides

If we need to give an advice on what format to buy we will go with the same approach as the South Korean and Taiwanese companies, the market decides. It is important to know that DVD plus is supported by Dell and HP, both are number one and number two of the PC building market. They have a large market share, and they are key factors in promoting the DVD formats. The largest share of the PC market is in their hands (meaning most consumers who buy a new PC, buys from them) and it is likely that their support will give the DVD plus format a large boost. HP has already announced it will start to ship DVD plus drives as standard equipment in their PC’s. If also Dell with follow this trend it won’t take long before DVD plus recorders can be found in many homes.

This will raise the demand of DVD plus recordable discs and make them cheaper. Once the media is cheaper there will likely be a larger demand for DVD plus recorders and media, possibly making them cheaper again, creating a larger demand again, etc. This scenario is very likely and therefor if we have to pick one format as a winner, we would pick DVD plus.

Does this mean DVD minus will leave the market ? We don’t think so. There is no reason to believe that DVD minus is less superior then DVD plus and there are already millions of happy owners of DVD minus drives. We also expect that development of DVD minus drives will continue. (according to Pioneer the maximum writing speed will be about 16 speed). We however expect that the price of media and drives will make the difference.

So our conclusion

Altough dual format recorders might not be the real solution from a consumers perspective we would advice to buy one. The dual format recorder allows you to buy the cheapest media and if you are lucky you will be able to find both DVD minus and DVD plus media that works with your DVD player.

LG and Lite-On both announced that they will sell dual format drives for about 200 EURO/Dollar. In the CD recordable era they have build up the reputation of making quality drives for a very good price. Knowing this there is no reason to pick one format, as the price for a one format and a dual format will likely to be very close. There is however one problem, availablity! At this moment (April 2003) only Sony is able to ship dual format recorders and they are still pretty expensive.

In case you can’t wait and want to buy a DVD recorder you will need to chose between DVD plus and DVD minus. If you want our advice, we think a DVD plus recorder will currently be the best choice for the long term.

We however want to add that in case you have a DVD minus, or plan to buy one, this is still not a bad choice, but likely not the best.


#2

Sounds like a fair even minded assessment to me. Good article.


#3

From our perspective DVD plus has a better marketing machine and is more offensive in putting their format on the market as having more functionality.
DVD plus has introduced more features, but for example CAV writing is so far not supported by any recorder…kinda weird to call that a “feature” then…
There is no reason to believe that DVD minus is less superior then DVD plus
Either the formats are about equal, or one is superior over the other one, but “less superior” is weird, because this would require a 3rd one over which both dvd+ and dvd- are superior :stuck_out_tongue:

From our perspective DVD plus has a better marketing machine and is more offensive in putting their format on the market as having more functionality.
Which functionality does dvd plus have? I mean, which one does not only exist in the specs, but is also implemented in at least one recorder…

Since you want to post in on the mainpage, I should also make some notes on the language…

“pretty expensive”: i would write “rather expensive”. “pretty” would, IMHO, mean that it is good that they are expensive because they can be a status symbol then…

And, of course, typos:

  • “therefor”
  • “from a consumers perspective” instead of “consumer’s”
  • “and this discs can be written and erased” (btw, dvd+rw discs cannot be erased! They can only be overwritten…may appear to be the same to you, but it isn’t…)
  • “to give you an advice”: not sure, but I think that “advice” is the same as “information” and “evidence”: don’t use indefinite articles with these.
  • “(either DVD- and DVD+)”: I’ve never seen either…and :wink:

I won’t correct commas, because the english usage of commas is a bit too crappy for me to learn…


#4

Either the formats are about equal, or one is superior over the other one, but “less superior” is weird, because this would require a 3rd one over which both dvd+ and dvd- are superior

This having been said, DVD-RAM spings to mind. :slight_smile:


#5

DVD-RAM also has (a few) advantages, so you cannot generally say that dvd±r(w) is superior.

For example, DVD-RAM can be formatted using FAT 32 / NTFS, so that you don’t need to install crappy packet writing software.


#6

Point taken. :bigsmile:


#7

Originally posted by alexnoe

From our perspective DVD plus has a better marketing machine and is more offensive in putting their format on the market as having more functionality.


Which functionality does dvd plus have? I mean, which one does not only exist in the specs, but is also implemented in at least one recorder…

Some of the marketed features are background formatting, DVD+VR (“On-disc editing”) and Mt Rainer (Ricoh’s latest burners).

With the purpose of helping the average consumer I think the article is good. If you want to write something about the “real” technical differencies between the formats you could perhaps add a comment about the addressing systems they use.

About the price issue it could be worth to mention that although you could find DVD-R media cheaper than DVD+R media today those cheap DVD-Rs are often of bad quality (manufactured by CMC, Princo, Vivastar etc).

Some further remarks on spelling and grammar I noted:

…plus, unfortunately… -> …plus. Unfortunately…
…between both formats is many times… -> …between the formats is often…
BetaMAX, VHS -> BetaMAX vs. VHS
Both formats where incompatible -> were
Altough -> Although
dissapointed -> disappointed
Altough compabitility -> Although compatibility
Both formats are in general compatible with each other. (I think that could be misinterpreted.)
However be warned, >even< if a device claims…
…recorder, another issue is availability -> …recorder, >but< another issue is availability
…media that works with your… -> work
…one problem, availablity! -> …one problem: Availability!
You should not use space before a ?, only after.


#8

About the price issue it could be worth to mention that although you could find DVD-R media cheaper than DVD+R media today those cheap DVD-Rs are often of bad quality (manufactured by CMC, Princo, Vivastar etc).
Ritek G03 is an exception, but it’s the only one I’m aware of.

…media that works with your… -> work
Although media is a plural form, it is allowed to use it with a singular verb form (another example of this is “news”)


#9

Unfortunately,with the old format war(VHS vs.Betamax),you either bought one or the other,and either got stuck or breathed a sigh of relief…Now in 2003,with the upcoming advent of cheaper dual drives,there’s really no reason to be without the writing capability of both formats. If you move or for whatever reason,one format out of the blue becomes unavailable,you’re still smelling like the proverbial rose… :smiley: :cool: :smiley:


#10

Originally posted by alexnoe
Although media is a plural form, it is allowed to use it with a singular verb form (another example of this is “news”)

The sentence was “…you will be able to find both DVD minus and DVD plus media that works with your DVD player” so here I think it should be “work” anyway or? But English is not my native language so I shouldn’t really comment on the grammar :slight_smile:


#11

Can some of you talk some more about the CAV vs CLV issue as it relates to 4x speed, and why CAV is so limited?

I think it would be useful to put some of this additional information like in that link from this thread where I was posting some about these issues, but cannot find more detailed authoritative links about CAV vs. CLV as it relates to DVD-R & DVD+R, and types of data recorded (video vs. data)

Yes DVD-RAM has a few more features, but I seriously doubt it will even gain widestream acceptance beyond the Japanese market. As such, without mainstream support, I would not want to invest in it for long term compatibility reasons. I saw the same thing happen with the Laser-Disc technology, and feel sorry for those who bought a player &/or the media.

If you are talking about the file system, you are likely looking towards data storage. Personally, I would rather use a series of additional HD’s for that purpose.


#12

@jsl: As a non-native speaker, one usually has to learn these exceptions :wink:

@PC-Stuff: When using CLV mode for packet writing, you get terrible seek times, because the drive has to correct the RPM each time you seek


#13

Alexnoe, yea I know about that…but when it was said that CAV is not available for DVD burners, what is being used to write data on them now then? Data backups work fine on DVD


#14

They only support CLV at the moment. And since you write them at once, you would not want CAV anyway.


#15

Thanks a lot for the comments.

Specially to jsl for the typos and such, I will correct them in the article on the mainsite!


#16

Dominator, you’ve written an excellent article as always.

As far as I am concerned, typos and grammatical errors do not matter so much as the fact that CD Freaks now tends more towards DVD Plus even though DVD Plus media generally cost far more than DVD Minus media in Europe and many other parts of the world.

I myself will buy everything. I have already used Sony DRU-500A, Toshiba SD-R5002, and NEC ND-1100A. I am aware that there are tens of thousands of DVD Multi drives manufactured by Matsushita to be sold right now somewhere in Seoul and that NEC ND-1100A and ND-1300A will be imported by the thousands soon. When I feel I do not need any one drive I own, I can always sell it for a price I choose, usually at half the market price.

The price difference, mostly under US$50, is so negligible when you think of the cost of a fine HDTV, a TFT-LCD monitor of 22-inch and over, the latest Sony Blu-ray recorder, either the consumer electronics standalone type or the PC drive SCSI 160 type, or even a small home. Anyway, I want them all.

Maybe this question should be also raised now: which type of Blu-ray recorder do you want to buy? Or, The blue laser format war: What format to pick?


#17

As far as I am concerned, typos and grammatical errors do not matter so much
when writing something which is read by really lots of people, I’d try to write as correctly as possible :wink:

as the fact that CD Freaks now tends more towards DVD Plus
The ND-1100A is available at 186 Euro at www.snogard.de , and the corresponding 4x Verbatim dvd+r discs are 3,70 Euro each
=> while the dvd+ alliances first tried to advertise their products by stating features which don’t even exist, they finally got it now and make people buy it due to low recorder prices…


#18

Originally posted by alexnoe
while the dvd+ alliances first tried to advertise their products by stating features which don’t even exist, they finally got it now and make people buy it due to low recorder prices…

I don’t think Ricoh MP5125A was so expensive. It was cheaper and better than any Minus drive at least in the Japanese market. The Plus 2.4x drive’s OEM price was somewhere around US$90 only even in 2002. The retail NEC ND-1100A in IO DATA package costs US$170 in Japan and its OEM price to IO DATA is US$120 or so. The OEM price to HP and Dell could be under US$90 as well. I do not yet know what the Hitachi-LG GSA-4040B’s OEM price will be. Some things are trade secrets revealed to and shared with only the industry insiders but any interested person can know and guess these.

That CAV and a few other technologies not implemented yet in any DVD Plus product is true but Serial ATA 10K-RPM HDD and 5GHz Prescott similarly do not exist in any retail sector while it is often important where the markets and technologies are moving.