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CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD Recordable review:

CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD Recordable

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MSRP: $299.00
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The Good Burns DVD-R at 4X; burns/writes CD-R/RW media; affordable.

The Bad Has problems using 2X DVD-RW media; middling performance; minimal online help; no blank DVD-R media included.

The Bottom Line Only experienced users need apply; the CenDyne drive's packaging, performance, and support are inconsistent at best. A better choice for DVD recording is Pioneer's DVR-A05.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall
  • Setup 6.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Support 6.0

Editors' note:
Earlier this month, CenDyne was ordered by the Superior Court of California to shut down. The company is no longer shipping products and is not servicing warranties, honoring rebates, or providing technical support. Consumers should exercise caution before purchasing CenDyne products. Read the full story. (August 22, 2003)
You'd think that CenDyne's own version of the Pioneer DVR-A05--our Editors' Choice 4X/2X DVD-R/-RW drive--would yield a similarly spectacular DVD burner. Unfortunately, from its bare-bones manual to its inconsistent tech support, the CenDyne DVR-105 is a comparably sloppy packaging of the same basic hardware. The CenDyne also performed more slowly than the Pioneer drive in CNET Labs' tests, and the unit's operations proved somewhat erratic. While the drive burns DVD-Rs fairly easily, it stalled on some of our test files for no good reason. We also had trouble writing and reading DVD-RWs, in part because the hardware shipped with older firmware. At $249 on the street (less if a rebate is offered by the retailer), it's fairly cheap, and it can write CD-RW at 8X and CD-R at 16X. But if you need writable DVD, get the Pioneer-branded version of this drive instead. As with many add-on drives, CenDyne makes you do most of the heavy installation lifting. The included hardware-install guide lays out the basic steps, but fuzzy illustrations show you only how to hook up the DVR-105 as a master device. (It can work as a slave, too.)

If you've ever installed an internal drive, however, the CenDyne drive's setup process is pretty straightforward: Slide the drive into a free bay; connect the data, audio, and power cables; and turn on the PC. If you use Windows 98 SE through XP, your operating system instantly recognizes the drive. Next, pop in the supplied CD and install Nero's Burning ROM 5.5 disc burner and InCD packet-writer, Sonic's MyDVD 4.0 (video creation), and InterVideo's WinDVD 4.0 (movie playback) programs. The setup adds the relevant software manuals to Windows' Start menu--except for InCD's. Unfortunately, while CenDyne includes data and audio cables and a single blank DVD-RW disc, you'll have to buy your own DVD-R media.

The CenDyne DVR-105 4X is a capable drive, but take the company's marketing claims with a grain of salt. For example, the product box notes that you can "rewrite your DVD-RW media as many times as you like." Actually, DVD-RW media typically starts failing after 1,000 rewrites, just like CD-RW--an unlikely scenario for most people but still slightly misleading. The box also says you can use the drive to create your own home movies or transfer your VHS tapes to disc. But look for the footnote that adds "requires separate video capturing hardware."

That said, the CenDyne drive is fairly flexible. It read almost every CD and DVD format we threw at it, even aged PhotoCDs and brand-new DVD+Rs and DVD+RWs. And burning a DVD-R with the drive is just as easy as burning a CD-R; load Nero Burning ROM 5.5, pick the files you want, and click a button. Creating a DVD movie disc is similarly straightforward: Fire up Sonic MyDVD, then pull in video from your camera or select video files from disk; MyDVD assembles the clips in order and creates a simple menu. But encoding that video and burning it to disc can take a long time; in our tests on a 1.3GHz Dell Dimension 8100, the drive took nearly 84 minutes for 84MB of data.



MyDVD makes creating DVD movies easy.


The real rock in our shoe? In our tests, formatting and/or writing to DVD-RW with the CenDyne drive sometimes failed or crashed our PC. In one test, three out of four 2X discs failed to format properly. One likely culprit is the drive's outdated 1.0 firmware. CenDyne admits that it shipped drives with 1.0 and even 0.52 versions of the firmware, so if you buy this drive, run Nero's InfoTool. If this utility detects that you have the old firmware, download the 1.21 update. While you're at it, update the InCD packet-writer. In our tests, the updates mostly eliminated problems using 1X and 2X DVD-RW media.

The CenDyne DVR-105--at least, the version we tested with the 1.0 firmware--is by turns speedy and sluggish. Curiously, the nearly identical Pioneer DVR-A05 drive beat it in almost every test. In burning a movie to disc, the Pioneer clocked in nearly 20 percent faster. In writing data to DVD-RW, the CenDyne fell to the back of the pack. The drive read data from DVD-RW fairly fast but dragged its platters when burning CD-Rs and writing CD-RWs. If speed is your muse, seek it elsewhere.

Movie write tests
Rate, in megabytes per second, at which a movie is written to write-once media (longer bars indicate better performance)

Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
4.63 
CenDyne DVR-105
3.96 
Sony DRU-500A (DVD-RW)
3.32 
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
3.01 
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
2.96 
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
2.48 
 
Write tests
Time in minutes (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media   
Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media   
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
1.91 
2.57 
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
1.98 
2.85 
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
2.36 
3.67 
CenDyne DVR-105
3.23 
4.27 
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
2.00 
5.82 
 
Read tests
Time in minutes (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Copy a 383MB file from rewritable media to the hard drive   
Copy a 500MB directory from rewritable media to the hard drive   
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
1.04 
2.21 
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
.76 
2.59 
CenDyne DVR-105
0.90 
2.8 
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
1.89 
3.13 
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
2.42 
3.20 
 
Write tests
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)   
Packet writing from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)   
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW/-RW)
3.03 
5.49 
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
4.32 
6.12 
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
3.29 
7.25 
CenDyne DVR-105
3.24 
13.31 
 
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 CNET Labs' site.

CenDyne backs the DVR-105 with a one-year, parts-and-labor warranty. Toll-based phone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT. But like the drive, the company's tech support is inconsistent. For example, CenDyne's Web site resembles a ghost town. It contains only a few software and firmware downloads, some online manuals, and a tech glossary. You'll find almost nothing here on the DVR-105--not even a link to the 1.21 firmware upgrade. (The InCD link points to an old version; the "Free Nero/Nero Express Demo version and Update from previous versions" link takes you to a dead page.)



CenDyne's support Web site.


Thankfully, CenDyne's tech support answered phone and e-mail queries quickly (the latter within a day or two) and usually accurately, although we found some advice to be incomplete. Savvy users will be able to maneuver these shoals; everyone else should seek companies with better hand-holding.

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