Do you order the fisherman's platter at seafood restaurants because you can't bring yourself to choose just one dish? If so, the recent release of a handful of versatile, multiformat, writable DVD drives will make your day--no more choosing between DVD-R, DVD+R, or DVD-RAM formats. Iomega's Super DVD Writer is one of the first of these five-format drives, reading and writing all of the major formats, as well as CD-R and CD-RW. In CNET's tests, the Super DVD Writer's performance was similar to that of other comparably rated DVDÂ±R/RW drives, and it was a bit better than the only other five-format drive that CNET has tested to date, the LG Electronics . Iomega ships the drive with a particularly strong software package, featuring a suite of programs that handle video, audio, and data needs. For users who want the maximum versatility of a writable-DVD+R/RW and -R/RW drive, along with DVD-RAM's superior performance and ease of use for data storage, the Super DVD Writer is a solid choice.
Iomega's Super DVD Writer is about as easy--or as difficult--to install and configure as any other IDE internal drive. Iomega includes a lame, amazingly short 12 sentences of printed instructions, plus a flyer with tech-support information.
Fortunately, Iomega also includes a CD chock-full of better documentation, featuring helpful directions and illustrations that should be sufficient for all but the most inexperienced users. If you know how to install &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FA%2FATAPI%2Ehtml" target="_blank">ATAPI devices and can figure out the master/slave assignments and cable connections on your own, however, you probably won't even need to consult the manual.
Iomega includes a CD with thorough, well-illustrated, and clearly written documentation for the Super DVD Writer.
The Super DVD Writer is compatible with Windows 98, 98 SE, 2000, Me, and XP, and Iomega's helpful installation interface lets you choose exactly which applications you want; it also provides an explanation of what each program does and why you would want to use it. The entire process took us a fairly typical 15 minutes to complete.
Perhaps the Super DVD Writer's best feature is its ability to read and write every major type of CD and DVD media. Most other multiformat drives support only a few or most of the formats, and it's particularly rare for a drive to support both DVD+RW and DVD-RAM, as the Super DVD Writer does. You can be confident that the drive will read discs authored on any type of drive, which is useful because each format has its own advantages. The DVD-R and DVD+R formats are most likely to play in a standard DVD player, for example, and DVD-RAM offers superior performance and ease of use for data storage.
One note: The Super DVD Writer won't accept DVD-RAM's protective cartridges, which contribute to the media's immense rewrite potential. When separated from its cartridge, a DVD-RAM is more likely to become corrupt from mishandling, and its rewrite rating drops to about the same as DVD+/-RW media's--about 1,000 rewrites.
Aesthetically, the Super DVD Writer is as nondescript as any other putty-colored, internal DVD drive. It comes with a data ribbon cable and a stereo-to-analog sound-card cable. You can't see the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2Fb%2Fbuffer%5Funderrun%2Ehtml" target="_blank">buffer-underrun protection, but it's in there. What's not there, unfortunately, is a front-panel headset jack or volume control. If you aren't the type to plug headphones directly into a drive, however, you won't miss these audiophile extras.
The software bundle is comprehensive. Iomega's HotBurn utility handles data and music recording as well as jewel-case and label design tasks. The program is fairly easy to use; we just wish it reported the remaining time needed to complete a task rather than the elapsed time.
Two accompanying Sonic programs, MyDVD 4.0 and CinePlayer, handle video-disc recording and playback, respectively. MyDVD is a bit simplistic, but it's not intended for professional-level video editing and mastering. If you have modest goals, such as transforming your photographs into a slide show that you can watch on a standard DVD player, this program will do the job. Adobe's ActiveShare is another photo organizer and publishing utility that duplicates many of MyDVD's functions. Musicmatch Jukebox helps you organize, store, and play your favorite music tracks. Iomega's Automatic Backup is also useful, letting you schedule backups of critical files from your computer to CD or DVD media. Iomega also provides a simple-to-use wizard--tell it what you want to do, and the utility will suggest a program to use.