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4X/2.4X DVD+R/RW / 4X/2X DVD-R/RW / 12X DVD-ROM Indi DVD Internal EIDE Multiformat DVD Burner and CD-RW Drive review:

4X/2.4X DVD+R/RW / 4X/2X DVD-R/RW / 12X DVD-ROM Indi DVD Internal EIDE Multiformat DVD Burner and CD-RW Drive

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The Good Burns and writes DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, and CD-R/RW; burns DVD at 4X; good performance; easy hardware setup.

The Bad Writes CD-RW slowly; 2MB buffer; terse software manual; no Mac support; no audio cables; no backup software.

The Bottom Line The TDK 440N Indi DVD is a competent multimode drive that's best for burning movies. Those seeking superior overall performance and a bit more polish should turn to the Sony DRU-500AX.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.9 Overall
  • Setup 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Support 7.0

Intro

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That's the motto of TDK's multiple-personality 440N Indi DVD drive. Instead of supporting either DVD-R/-RW or DVD+R/+RW, it does both--a nifty hedge against obsolescence given the continuing DVD-standards war. You get 4X DVD-R or DVD+R burning, 2X/2.4X DVD-RW/DVD+RW writing, and 16X/10X CD-R/CD-RW burning/writing in the deal. Not bad. Plus, even though the drive must serve a wide variety of masters, it performs well, leading the pack in certain CNET Labs' tests. At $330, this internal drive is also priced right for the genre. (An external model that works with the Mac is coming.) So why not grab this drive now? Well, TDK's tech-support Web site lacks specific FAQs and a true knowledge base. But more importantly, for just a smidge more money, Sony's forthcoming $350 DRU-510A drive sports an 8MB buffer and 4X DVD+RW writing--two things the TDK doesn't offer. Installing any internal drive is a pain, but the TDK 440N Indi DVD is thankfully no worse than the rest. Some special touches help: the TDK drive's connectors are labeled, and you get a straightforward quick-setup guide and a solid, illustrated hardware manual. There's even a Flash tutorial on the disc that shows you how to crack open your PC and connect the drive. One quibble: the guide tells you to play the tutorial from the Disc Blender disc, but it's actually hiding on the Help disc.

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What connects where? TDK's Flash tutorial shows the way.

Installing the software is easy enough--pop in the disc and pick Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.0 and PhotoSuite 5.0 Lite from a menu. Easy CD immediately hops online and checks for software updates from Roxio--handy. (Make sure you also check Roxio's read-me file; there are plenty of known issues that may affect using the software.) Unfortunately, TDK's slim, printed manual devotes only a handful of pages to each Easy module, then it tells you to check the PDFs on the installation disc for "in-depth material"--but the PDFs are identical to TDK's printed manual. Luckily, the Easy CD apps are easy enough to figure out. Another gripe: TDK doesn't include an audio cable. The sleek, black TDK 440N Indi drive looks cool, but its design could use some rethinking. Other than an Eject button, which is recessed and hard to engage, there are no front-panel controls, such as a volume wheel, a headphone jack, or a track-forward button for playing audio CDs. The drive tray is also flimsy--a complaint leveled at TDK in the past.

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Look familiar? It should. Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator is home base for burning discs.

TDK also bundles Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.0, which is both good and not-so-good news. On the plus side, the software is a familiar face; its Creator Classic disc-burning module is solid; its new Drag-To-Disc pad is handy; and--unlike competing packages--it includes some true RW-disc diagnostic and repair tools. The downside, detailed in CNET's review of the commercial Roxio product, is its somewhat confusing multimodule interface and Roxio DVD Builder--a clunky, unintuitive movie-authoring tool. Get Dazzle DVD Complete instead. The TDK 440N Indi is either a speedster or a slug in CNET Labs' tests, depending on the media type. When burning a movie to DVD+R, the drive sails ahead of the competition. When writing data to erasable DVD+RW, it's a shade behind the pack. When copying a big, fat file to hard disk, the DVD+RW side shines. When using DVD-R or DVD-RW media in any test, the drive drags its tail, and it's also profoundly slow when writing to CD-RW.

Day-to-day use will reveal similar variations. A full format of either DVD+RW or DVD-RW media takes more than an hour. Copy data to these formats, and you'll find that, yes, DVD-RW is twice as slow as DVD+RW. Want to burn a music CD? The drive is fairly peppy, filling an 80-minute CD-R up to the brim in 5 minutes, 30 seconds.

As you'd expect, the drive shines when it comes to compatibility. We threw nearly two dozen disc types at it, including MP3 discs, ancient PhotoCDs and DVD-ROMs, DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs burned on a variety of drives, high-speed CD-RWs, and more. The drive read everything, wrote to writable disc types, and otherwise performed admirably.

Movie write  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Write a movie to write-once media  
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
4.94 
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
4.65 
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
4.09 
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
3.81 
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD-RW)
3.32 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD-RW)
3.13 
Note: Compression rates may vary, so write speed is measured in megabytes per second (MB per second)

Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media  
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media  
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
2.28 
2.20 
HP DVD Writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
2.57 
1.93 
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
2.57 
1.91 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
2.75 
2.14 
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD-RW)
3.26 
2.41 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD-RW)
3.85 
2.74 
Note: Time in minutes

Read tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Copy a 500MB directory from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Copy a 383MB file from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
2.76 
1.21 
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD-RW)
2.80 
1.43 
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
2.98 
1.29 
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW/-RW)
3.13 
1.89 
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
3.20 
1.23 
Note: Time in minutes

Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Packet writing from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)  
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43-min., 11-sec. audio CD)  
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW/-RW)
5.49 
3.03 
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
5.94 
3.39 
Plextor PX-504A DVD+RW
6.15 
3.46 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD+RW/-RW)
14.82 
3.17 
Note: Time, in minutes, to complete tasks

All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media submitted by the manufacturer and with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. For more details on how we test optical drives, see the CNET Labs site. Like its competitors, TDK offers a one-year warranty and free phone support--in this case, seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT. You can also quickly hook up with a tech-support rep via live chat or send e-mail for an answer within 24 hours. The tech-support Web site is lean and logically organized, with a page dedicated to the 440N Indi DVD drive that's complete with copies of the manuals, the Flash tutorial, and relevant firmware and software upgrades. However, you won't find much about the drive in the 20 FAQs listed here, nor will you find anything resembling a searchable knowledge base.

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Reaching out to tech support is easy--just fill out the form and click. You'll get an answer within 24 hours.

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