Time to ask for some advice on my next burner.
First, let me tell my history:
I burn data files. Lots and lots of data files. Only rarely do I author and burn a video DVD, and as for ripping commercial DVDs, I've fiddled about with the tools just to see if I could (because they try to keep me from being able), but in general I have no interest in that area.
I used to burn CDRs, until I got to the point I was going through 30 or 40 a day, and the Tyvek sleeves I use were costing as much as the blanks. With that much need for blank media, I worked every rebate offer, sale, etc I could find, and never really had a problem. Part way through, I learned I'd better copy back every burn and compare original and copied files before deleting the originals (I lost some data on undetected bad burns before learning that lesson), but in general everything went fine. Copying back to a different dir and then comparing seems a lot faster than verifying directly against the burner.
Eventually the bulk of discs to be stored, the cost of sleeves (a sleeve costs the same for a CDR as for a DVDR of course), and the falling cost of DVD burners and media caused me to switch over to DVDR.
So I bought a Pioneer A06 dual format burner. It ran like a champ with every sort of media I tried (with only the occasional imperfect burn), so I continued my practice of shopping for bargains on media.
Then the A06 failed. CD okay, DVD no go. I fgure I just wore it out. So I RMA'ed it under warranty, and since I couldn't stand to be without a burner for weeks, bought a Plextor 708A, based on their excellent reputation and the fact it was (AFAIK) the best available at the time.
For a while, the Plextor performed like a champ on all media, the Pioneer came back from the factory and became my spare and CD reader, and all was well in whoville.
Now the Plextor has failed (won't read or burn -R at all, burns +R always, but the files read back garbled), so it's off to the factory under warranty and I'm down to the Pioneer again. I assume I wore out the Plextor.
BUT ALL IS NOT WELL IN WHOVILLE NOW. The Pioneer is behaving oddly: It will not burn +R (current batch is Phillips). No matter, I'll set those aside for return of the Plex. It burns -R apparently fine, and I can copy back the files for comparison with the originals. Conparison succeeds, and I delete the originals. But if I then reinsert the disc later, the drive won't even see it! It's almost as if the burn is perfect, but lasts only as long as the disc is warm. Let it cool down, and the data vanishes. Is this even possible? I can't try those discs in the Plex yet, because it's away under RMA.
A while ago I suffered some data loss due to physical damage to CDRs, so I adopted a new, if very compute-intensive procedure: I chop up all big files with winrar (store-level compression for speed), and generate 12% redundancy PAR2 files for every disc image I burn. So a few unreadable files here and there I can regenerate and burn again on a new blank. Given what I've learned here about the (poor) life expectancy of DVDR media, I'm resigned to periodically rolling over my data collection: reading back the old discs and reburning their images to new discs. With the PAR2 system in place, that's not too onerous. But I do need to be able to read my discs to some extent, and it seems the ones I'm burning now with the Pioneer are, at least for the moment, unreadable.(This effect shows up with several brands of media.)
So it looks like it's time to look for yet another new drive. I solicit advice from everyone here:
I burn data files; video isn't very important.
I can go to a regimen of burning on the new drive and reading back/testing on a more fussy drive, to test for marginal burns. (As you can tell from the chop-and-PAR procedure, I'm willing to do some work, but I do need my data to be retrievable later.)
I need a drive that will go to heroic lengths, if necessary, to read back a wide variety of media, so I can at least recover, if some files are not retrievable.
I do not care all that much about speed: 4X is okay, considering all the other stuff I do to try for solid data. So I don't care about the availability of hacked firmware for speed. If there's hacked firmware for reading persistence though, that might be a plus.
I'd like one that would last a little longer than the average 9 months I've been getting from my 2 previous DVDR drives so far. (CDR burners lasted much longer service lives...in fact some of my old ones still work fine.) Are DVDR lasers the weak link, maybe? Anyone have a theory why DVDRs seem so much less robust than CDR drives?
Is there such a thing as a drive known for "strong" burns? If so, that might be a good choice.
I don't care about dual layer. Even if/when the media becomes cheaper, If I have trouble reading a disc, I try it in my other drive(s). Going DL would defeat that, so even if the drive I buy is DL, i will continue to use SL media as long as I can.
Taiyo Yuden blanks are not an option. I use too many blanks every week to be able to afford expensive media, and shiny discs don't survive well. I've found that if there's no printing on a blank, the shiny surface tends to stick to the plastic window in sleeves, leading to damage when I remove the disc from the sleeve. That's how I lost a bunch of data on otherwise solid CDRs and decided to go to the PAR2 regimen. I am willing to restrict myself to -R media howver, if that will help. So far, I've had better results with -R than +R on my 2 current drives.
Any advice on my next drive, please?