The already active DVD burner market is getting another speed upgrade, from 12X to 16X for write-once media. We looked at a drive with the new capability: BenQ Corp.'s US$149 DW1600 DVD+ReWriter double-layer DVD burner, a shipping IDE unit that can write DVD+R at 16X and does it with a few brands of 8X media.
In PC World Test Center tests with bundled software, the device took a slothful 7 minutes, 45 seconds to write 4.35GB of data on preproduction 16X media. In our hands-on testing with Ahead Nero Burning ROM, however, the drive wrote a 4.35GB DVD movie structure in 6 minutes flat. Software and vagaries in preproduction discs are probably behind the speed difference. Alas, that 6 minutes represents only a 30-second boost over the speed of 12X drives.
The unit wrote a full double-layer DVD+R in about 46 minutes -- on target for 2.4X. Note: DL discs must be fully written to have the right opacity for reliable reading, so you won't save any time by burning less data -- not that you'd want to at today's $10-plus per disc.
The DW1600 also performs 40X/24X/40X CD-RW and 4X DVD+RW chores; DVD-R/RW writing should be ready via a firmware upgrade by the time you read this (we were unable to test it). Along with typical DVD software, you also get a handy utility that lets you change DVD+R/RW disc IDs to mimic the ones on a DVD-ROM, for compatibility with a wider range of players.
Users should like this drive's speed and its ability to work with cheaper, slower-rate media at advanced speeds -- final 16X media is slated for late summer. Also coming soon are the first SATA burners, the Plextor PX-712SA and the Pioneer DVR-A08 with 4X DL D VD+R and 16X DVD+/-R.