i was looking at the Sony that you list above and the Plextor, however I talked to several people who have them and discussed the problems that they had with burning dvd's that couldn't be played back on just any dvd player and so I started surfing the net and talking to more people.
After several weeks I decided upon the BenQ EW162I 16XR+, 16R-, USB 2.0, 8.5 gb Double Layer and i took out the programs that came with it except for the BenQ Book Type Management, which is one of BenQ's own software programs and what it gives you is an option to Change the disc type to dvd rom, and I have copied over 20 dvds and given them as presents and they have run on every dvd player that my friends have had.
I got to understand the book management and how to set it up through their 1-866......free help line I was able to get it set up and flash the latest firmware and use dvd r+ maxell or sony or tdk disks brands.
The techs advised me on how to set up the "check drive" feature of the book management so that my dvd R+ was set up as "current writing Book Type dvd rom" and then they sent me an "executable command" email for the Book Management Program which I have on my desktop and then click on my "check drive" and it will convert from dvd+R to DVD Rom and then I minimize to my task bar and that way it does not revert back to the dvd+R setting and burn copies that other players can't read. If you don't minimize it to your Task bar and simply exit the Book Mangement as I mentioned earlier it goes back to the default setting of dvd R+ and R- and you want to burn the movies in dvd-rom so that they are readable by diverse players.
i sometimes use Nero the latest version, but mostly use the One Click DVD copy and DVD 43 Free. These 2 programs work great together and I rip off several dvd's in a short period of time. you can browse the 2 programs on the net. the One Click DVD Copy got the Platinum award this year and it certainly is very user friendly, I simply sit and watch tv and get up and insert a blank dvd and get my back ups or presents for friends and family completed.
i use 4.75 gb R+ maxell ,sony or tdk blanks. no complaints from anyone yet, this Book Management feature of BenQ is great and I have found their support very good especially one particular tech who has enough interest to email me the executable Book command and advise me to check their Global site for updates for their firmware and I did one flash on my hard drive right after I bought it.
I have had it for a several weeks now and still within my return period of 30 days but will not be doing that, my neighbor who has a Plextor is wishing he had looked into the Book Management program that they offer before he bought his external as he has not been able to watch his dvd's on his home theatre unit and yet is able to watch on his cheaper video/dvd player combo that he has in his kitchen which he finds annoying.
just an idea for you to look at, i certainly don't say it is the best; however it is doing the job for me!! check out the site for BenQ at:
http://www.benq.com and you can talk to a tech from 9 - 5 California time Monday thru Friday before you purchase, that is what I did. I have the name of a good tech and the phone number. If you want the info, let me know. When you get to this site click on your country or Global, Global is where I get my firmware information from and according to the tech it is the site that is the most uptodate. when at the site go to Products, Peripheral and DVD rewriter and you will see the external EW162I with all of the features and specs and a description of the Book Management Program.
I must say I found it nice to be able to speak to a tech at their support centre before I decided to purchase, and they did not mind.
i do a lot of reading before I buy and this Book Management program which my friend had experience with was the major feature that caught my eye but i turfed out the other programs and then use Nero or my One Click Copy and DVD 43 free, mostly the latter as i simply like to sit back and leave the driving to my notebook while i do something else.
The price on the unit was great too!!
Cheers and happy shopping!!!