Sony DRU-720a DL DVD+/-RW drive
The Sony DRU-720a is the slightly older predecessor to the recently released DRU-800a, though the 720a is still a good, lower-price alternative. The only real difference between the two drives is that the 800a supports both the new dual-layer DVD-R and double-layer DVD+R formats, while the 720a supports only the latter. If you've no use for still-pricey dual-layer -R media and you want to save a few bucks, the 720a is a more than serviceable drive. All things considered, you'll find the DRU-720a both a solid performer and a decent bargain, if you can take advantage of the $30 rebate that was in effect at the time of this writing.
Little has changed physically on Sony's internal DVD burners during the last couple of iterations. Like its immediate predecessors, the 720a measures a shorter-than-normal 6.75 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and 1.63 inches high, making it especially suitable for smaller, space-challenged PC boxes. It ships with both computer-beige and black faceplates, so you can color-match the drive with most PCs. Look on the back, and you'll find Sony's familiar three mystery jumpers (they have no apparent or documented user function), along with the digital and analog audio outputs, the standard IDE connector, the power connector, and slave/master/cable select configuration jumpers. Installing the DRU-720a is basic and routine. If you haven't yet attempted this operation, check out CNET's guide to installing a DVD drive. Sony's multilingual software quick-start guide, hardware quick-start guide, and front-bezel replacement guide that ship in the retail box are decipherable if not eloquent, and the single-language operating instructions are adequately informative. If you didn't read that as damning with faint praise, it continues to amaze us that a company as vast, experienced, and international as Sony doesn't offer top-flight documentation. We'd also like to see mounting screws and an audio cable accompany the IDE cable in the box.
The software bundle that Sony includes with the DRU-720a is a limited version of, featuring the wizard-based Nero 6.0 Express CD/DVD mastering software, along with the NeroVision Express video-authoring package, InCD 4.0 packet-writing software, and several other Nero apps, including the BackItUp backup program, the Showtime media player, the Cover Designer label and book creator, the Toolkit utilities, the SoundTrax audio CD creator, and the WaveEditor audio editor. Some of Nero's more advanced programs, such as the full-blown Nero Burning ROM app, Recode2 movie-compression program, and PhotoSnap photo editor, are omitted, but the included bundle will easily meet the needs of the average user.
The Sony DRU-720a turned out to be a decent if not spectacular performer--placing in the middle of the pack in most tests but displaying no real weaknesses. It writes both +R and -R discs at 16X and double-layer +R discs at 4X. It couldn't match the overall performance ofor , but it nudged by the Plextor when writing to single-layer DVD+R. It was also the second-fastest DVD burner we've tested for burning audio CDs.