Misc DVD Burner Questions



I’m looking for a new DVD burner to put into my computer to last me until I replace my computer. It has an NEC 1100 burner, which was one of the more primitive burners and to be honest, never worked right from day 1. While investigating which burners to get I have come across some basic questions I’d like some help with.

  1. Does “dual format” refer to burning DVD+RW and DVD-RW, or something else?

  2. What is “dual layer?” Can you burn 2 layers of the DVD and thus twice as much? I think this is new since I last looked at burners when getting my computer (which was about 4 years ago).

  3. What brands should I look at and what are the differences between them? If they all burn at, for example, 16x, why are some so much more expensive?

  4. I’m not sure if I’ll get an internal of external burner yet (open to suggestions) but someone told me the externals were really slow unless you have a special type of USB…I have a Dell Dimension Desktop that was pretty top of the line for it’s day (40GB hard drive, DVD+RW burner, etc.)–what burner brand/type is best or how do I go about deciding this?

  5. Aside from speed, what are the main things I should be looking for in a burner or considering when evaluating different ones?

I think that is all for now…if anyone has any further information that will help educate me I’d love to hear it! In case you are wondering, I just want a DVD burner to back-up digital picture files I have, create DVDs from a video camera, and copy some DVD movies I have–not sure if those facts will be important in my decision or not.


Yes. DVD+R/W & DVD-R/W.
Every modern burner does dual layer. Many modern burners also do DVD-RAM, which make it tri - format, or a “super Multi drive” :wink:

Literally, two DVD layers sandwiched together.
Single Layer disks = 4.5GB & Cheap.
Dual layer disks = 8.5GB + 10x the price.

Good question. Most modern brands are decent. But Liteon & LG are currently the best.
NEC, Pioneer, Samsung & Benq are … not fantastic, although there are fans.
Most other brands are rebadges of the above 5 manufacturers.

USB2 has been standard on PC’s for about 5 years. It still sucks for burning, and you likely won’t get 16x out of the burner.
Burning at speeds above 12x generally isn’t worth the trouble, or drop in quality though.
Firewire is widely available, and although the specs don’t look as good, it was designed for raw throughput and gets better results. Similarly, it may not reach full 16x speed.

Internals don’t suffer from the same issues as externals. Although portability counts towards externals :wink:

Price & Burn quality. Check out the respective forums to see freaks comparing quality scans.
Learn to read scans first, to understand what you are looking at.
Understand that there are TWO standards 8/1 & 8/8. 8/8 is a joke and is the predominant summing method because it’s ambiguous. :p.

Every dvd burner has been designed to take data from the PC and put it on the disc. What they differ in, is speed, and disc quality at the end. Given that most write 12x under 6 minutes, speed is no longer an issue. Go for Quality.

What you are describing above is what data to put onto the disc. These require software programs which prepare the data to put onto the disc. These should not affect your decision of the right burner in any way, shape or form.

You are what you eat … you watch what you put in your mouth, feed the burner similarly. Give it good Taiyo Yuden or Mitsubishi/Verbatims media and it will go well.
Feeding a burner ritek, or some other nasty chinese crap media, is like feeding it maccas. Expect the results to be sickening. Especially a few months later, when all those disc disintegrate for unknown reasons.


Dual format probably means it will burn either +R or -R disks. All modern dvd burners are capable of this, and some will burn DVDRam as well.

Dual layer is a different type of disk, it has two burnable layers in the dvd, and approximately twice the capacity. Again, all modern burners can cope with these disks, but some can only burn to DVD +R DL. This is not a problem though, since very very few people recommend burning to DVD -R DL disks in a computer dvd drive. The -R DL disks are mainly seen in Japan, in stand alone recorders as far as I recall. By the way, only buy Verbatim Dual Layer +R disks. They are the only reliable dual layered media we have at the moment.

Most of the dvd burners you see today will be similar in price unless they have the ablity to burn images on the top of the disk. There are two different technologies, Lightscribe and LabelFlash. Only Lightscribe is available in the US. They are used with special media, and the only purpose is to give a more finished look to your dvds—a professional looking label. Of course you could be talking about Plextor dvd writers—they are simply overpriced and trading on their brand name.

Unless you have USB 2.0 or firewire connections, I’d stick to an internal drive. From the sounds of it you need a regular PATA IDE connection. Some of the new drives have SATA connections, and I don’t believe a computer of your vintage will have that, so go with the regular IDE drives.

As far as evaluations—look through the reviews here at cdfreaks. Read the forums devoted to optical drives. There are good drives from most of the manufacturers these days—the Pioneer 111 series, BenQ 1640 (hard to find), LG GSA-H22N, etc.


And the actual media which they stick the special Lightscribe/labelflash coating on is generally crap anyway :wink:


Thanks for the responses so far. I have learned a lot and gotten substantial and important input. I have a few follow-up questions, some of which I feel stupid for asking (I guess being a surgeon I get used to people thinking I should know everything but when it comes to DVD burners I’m pretty ignorant…but learning!) I know a fair amount about using computers and software but since I haven’t bought one in 4 years I haven’t kept up with the latest technology–I always investigate and learn every little detail about a product before I purchase it so guess I’ll learn it all when I go to buy a new computer.

  1. I’m a bit confused about the external drives. I know they have to hook up to the computer through USB or firewire. I checked my computer and did see in the device manager that it says “Intel® USB 2.0 Enhance Host Controller”–that is the only thing I could find on the USB but I assume that means I do have USB 2.0 (I think I remember that from when I bought it anyway). Now, firewire…I have heard of that but to be honest, I don’t really know what it is. I know it’s something that hooks externals to the computer but is it just a wire I have to buy, or an expansion for my computer? A sentence or two about firewire would be most appreciated. Lastly, how will using the external affect my burning? I understand that since it’s going to an external it may slow the burner down a bit and it may not reach 16x but to be honest, that is not a huge problem (I don’t think taking 10 minutes instead of 6 to burn a DVD will ever be a problem for me). Is there a difference in quality?

  2. You said to review “scans”–is this some type of way to test the quality of a burn? What is a scan?

  3. You mentioned “standards” and said there are 8/1 and 8/8…I’m lost as to what these mean…

  4. PATA, IDE, and SATA…these abbreviations lost me too…I have seen them but don’t know what they mean. Can someone please help educate me?

Thanks for all the help–if you ever need any help next time you sprain your ankle, break a bone, or need your rotator cuff repaired I’ll be happy to return the favor!


So this “lightscribe” and “labelflash” are just special DVDs and if you have the right burner, you can etch a label onto the DVD, right? So, essentially it is a fancy Sharpie marker? That sounds neat but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay too much extra for it…if it’s only a few bucks more it will be a nice little thing to have but otherwise I’ll just keep writing on the discs!


Exactly. And you get any choice of colour, so long as it’s a washed out black. Err… labelflash gets a washed out blue.

Good choice. As I stated above, the manufacturers tend to take crappy quality discs & coat it with the labelflash/lightscribe layer. So you get a crappy label on a disc which is likely to disintegrate within a few months. At least you disintegrate in style!

At any rate, you can get INKJET PRINTABLE media, in fabulous brands like TY & Mistubishi/Verbatim and pick up a cheap inkjet printer that can print direct to a disc. Wow, look at all those pretty colours.

Of course, you can be boring like (Me & ) most of the world & use a sharpie :slight_smile:

Yes. You have USB2. It’s been around since Y2kish.

Firewire, or IEEE 1394, was designed to pull video off a camcorder in realtime (aka the time it takes to play it normally). Obviously it’s designed to pull alot of data quickly with little/no interruptions (just like burning really).
Some computers come with it (I generally buy Motherboards with Firewire) or you can get a PCI expansion card (about $20 US should do it). It’s physically different to USB/USB2. USB is flat. Firewire is twice the thickness, with a funky rounded bit at one end.

USB (1)was designed for lots of little devices sending lots of little chunks of information. Every device has to wait for every other device to be polled. But that’s ok, because it’s not real-time, and it’s not that important.
USB2 is USB on steroids. It is 40 times faster, so now your burner can hurry up and wait.
Firewire was designed for one device, and one other device, to send lots of information between them.
Burning is all about sending lots of information from the HD to the burner.
You can see why USB and firewire are fundamentally different, and why firewire is better than USB for burning purposes :wink:

Of course, everyone has USB/USB2 … not everyone has firewire.

At low speed, aka less than 8x, not much difference. However, USB/USB2 is quite CPU intensive, so don’t expect to be playing games while you are burning (whats the odds of that anyway) :wink:

At 8x, 10x or 12x … firewire is better than USB2 … but not as good as an internal.

There can be. But only if the burner and case don’t suit eachother. Usually the external case is the culprit. Generally, you should be fine.

Most burner brands support PI/PIF scanning. The DVD standards specify the maximum number of Drive correctable errors (PI) & Drive Uncorrectable errors (PIF) in any … err … sector.

The scanning programs report these PI/PIF errors by checking every part of the disc.

It’s the way the DVDwriter reports the errors it finds.
8ECC/1ECC is the way specified by the original DVD standard.
8ECC/8ECC is for some reason the most popular way of reporting.

The original DVD standa specified that you can’t have more than 4 PIF in any ECC block. But in 8ECC blocks, that means you can have 32, right?
Wrong! If the burner adds all 8ECC PIF results together, there’s no way you can tell whether you have 8x4 PIF (within spec), 2x16 PIF (bad), or 1x 32 PIF, or any other combination summing to 32.
In a 1ECC scanner, it’s either less than 4 PIF, or it’s bad. YOu know right away :wink:

PATA = Parallel ATA = IDE = big chunky 40pin / 80 wire cables.
SATA = Serial ATA. It’s new, and much faster, uses skinny cables, and you most likely don’t have it on anything under 3yrs old. :wink:

Yeehaw! Err … How about if I get a high speed frisbee stuck in my forehead?

One other thing.
A PI/PIF scan only tells you how the disc feels today. It’s not an indicator of quality (except in very poor quality media where the results are terrible) or longevity.
The only way to tell longevity is keep it for awhile & scan it again.

Or you can just trust us when we say, buy TY & Verbatim media.

Some of us have lost quite large collections of Discs, by saving a few $$$.
Some of us have also spent twice the $$$ by replacing every working disc with a better brand, only a few months after the discs were burnt :wink:


Thanks again for the response. I actually knew a decent amount of that but was rusty on some of it and for the most part, was lost in the abbreviations and lingo. From what you said, I could get an external and it would run pretty well with my USB or I could invest $20 in a firewire connection. And, assuming I get a decent unit, quality should be the same. The only other downside would be that I can’t play any high tech games while I burn (the most I would want to do it check my email or maybe open winamp and play a few songs while it burns). With regard to the scans and errors–am I correct in saying that basically that’s the drive’s way of telling whether or not the result is within acceptable limits or whether it needs to tell you there was an error?

From this I’m leaning towards the Lite-On external drive that Circuit City has for about $50. It seems like that is a top of the line brand and the price is reasonable. The cheapest internals I have seen have been at least $30. I’m thinking I’ll probably cover the $20 by being able to transfer the drive to another system here or there and also cutting down my installation time and the chance that I’ll screw things up installing it (I’ve never installed a drive so I’m kind of scared of doing it, even though people have told me it’s easy). I can just see it now…even if I do get the thing in the computer will be lost because the old burner is gone and it will be all confused and then I’ll be confused…it worries me a bit…

Let me know if I’m correct in my understanding and how my plans sound to you. About the frisbee to the head…glad to help however I can but I’m an orthopaedic surgeon so you would have to get hit in the neck or lower for me to be able to help! :slight_smile: If it’s above the first vertebrae in your neck (ie-skull or brain) we let the neurosurgeon’s handle it…I could refer you to a good one though! :slight_smile:


Yes, the scan results are really a combination of how well the disc was burnt, the quality of the media, and the drive ability to read the disc at that particular speed.

The easy explanation, immediately after burning, is disc burn quality :wink:

Post a link, and everyone can comment on the choice, yu nevr know, someone might know where you can get it cheaper/faster / etc :wink:

It’s easier than changing a toddlers nappy… for blokes at least :wink: