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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.
The Super DVD Writer's wizard helpfully recommends which bundled application to use for any given task.
The Super DVD Writer writes DVD-RW and DVD+RW at 4X, DVD-RAM at 3X, and CD-RW at 24X. Because 4X media is not available yet, we tested the drive using 2.4X DVD+RW and 2X DVD-RW media. In our DVD+R speed test, Iomega's drive came in just behind the Pioneer DVR-A06, which doesn't write to DVD-RAM, and well ahead of the LG Electronics , the only other five-format drive we've tested. The Super DVD Writer led the pack in DVD+RW writing, but delivered only an average performance with DVD-RW. There was a noticeable difference in performance when the GSA-4040B and the Super DVD Writer went head-to-head with DVD-RAM; the LG drive was quite a bit faster writing our 500MB test directory, while the Iomega read our 383MB test file almost twice as fast as the LG drive.
Overall, these results suggest that the Super DVD Writer can compete with the hash of similarly rated drives that don't write DVD-RAM, while offering the flexible support of all the different DVD and CD media types.
Movie write test (megabytes per second) (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Compression rates vary depending on the drives' bundled software.|
Data write tests (megabytes per second) (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Iomega Super DVD Writer tested with 2.4X DVD+RW and 2X DVD-RW media|
Data read tests (MB/sec) (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Note: Iomega drive tested with 2.4x DVD+RW and 2x DVD-RW media|
|Note: Due to an error in our calculations, we originally published slightly innaccurate data-read results in this review. The scores have been corrected.|
Unless otherwise mentioned, all write tests are run with &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Everbatim%2Ecom" target="_blank">Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. Find out more about how we test optical drives.
Iomega backs the drive with a typical one-year warranty on parts and labor; you pay for shipping if it has to be returned for service. The company provides toll-free technical support at no charge during the warranty period, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, but there's a fee for telephone support after the warranty has ended.
Iomega also offers excellent, free, online one-on-one chat and e-mail support, both in and out of warranty. We tried the chat service and found it to be quick and helpful, with a cheerful and responsive human being on the other end. And there was no endless hold; it only took about a minute or two for the support technician to come online.
Iomega's one-on-one online chat feature lets you take any technical problem straight to a support technician.
Iomega also offers additional information on its &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eiomega%2Ecom%2Fsupport%2Findex%2Ehtml" target="_blank">Web site, such as tutorials, FAQs, and a knowledge base of technical issues.