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Panasonic LF-D321U DVD-RAM/R 4.7GB /9.4GB EIDE review:

Panasonic LF-D321U DVD-RAM/R 4.7GB /9.4GB EIDE

  • 1
MSRP: $599.00
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The Good Writes to both DVD-RAM discs and DVD-Rs; backup software included.

The Bad Won't write to CD-Rs or CD-RWs; difficult to find material on Web site.

The Bottom Line Thanks to its extensive software bundle and its ability to write to DVD-Rs, the Panasonic DVD burner is the drive to get if you're into digital video or want a good backup system for your computer.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

The Panasonic LF-D321U DVD burner is positioned as a backup/DVD-mastering device, and it more or less delivers the goods, with generally fast read and write speeds and a useful software bundle. The drive can write to DVD-RAM and DVD-R media; DVD-RAM is strictly a data medium, but you can burn movies onto cheaper, write-once DVD-Rs and play them in most (but not all) commercial DVD players. The Panasonic is good at what it does, but if you want to write to CD-Rs or CD-RWs, then you need a DVD+RW drive instead. The Panasonic LF-D321U DVD burner is positioned as a backup/DVD-mastering device, and it more or less delivers the goods, with generally fast read and write speeds and a useful software bundle. The drive can write to DVD-RAM and DVD-R media; DVD-RAM is strictly a data medium, but you can burn movies onto cheaper, write-once DVD-Rs and play them in most (but not all) commercial DVD players. The Panasonic is good at what it does, but if you want to write to CD-Rs or CD-RWs, then you need a DVD+RW drive instead.

All the fixings
Installation of the $450 Panasonic LF-D321U internal drive is fairly easy, especially if you've installed an EIDE storage device before. Set the master/slave jumper; fix the drive in a front-accessible, 5.25-inch drive bay; connect the data and power cables; and you're ready to go. You install the drivers and the software after you connect the hardware, and the procedure is clearly described in the well-illustrated manual. The DVD burner is compatible with Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0, Me, 2000, and XP. You can also connect the stereo-signal cable to your sound card so that you can listen to audio CDs through your computer speakers.

A wide range of software makes it easy to get the most from the drive. For video capturing and editing, Panasonic includes three titles with the drive: Motion DV Studio 3.0 LE, DVD Movie Album, and Sonic DVDit. Another app, Interview WinDVD, lets you view DVDs on your computer. On the computer side, FileSafe 2.1 utility makes it easy to back up and archive important data, either on demand or on a predefined schedule. And MediaSafe lets you copy the contents of one disc to another, even if your hard drive lacks the space to hold a complete copy.

In most of CNET Labs' tests, the Panasonic LF-D321U showed a slight edge over the Philips DVD+RW drive. For example, the Panasonic outpaced the Philips in the data-write tests and one of the read tests but fell behind in another read test and during the movie-write test. These small differences in performance are probably not enough to justify picking one drive over the other, however.

Media frenzy
The more important factor is which media the drive supports. Like the Philips DVDRW208, the Panasonic DVD burner can read all standard CD formats, including audio CDs, CD-ROMs, CD-Rs, and CD-RWs. But while the Philips writes to CD-R, CD-RW, and DVD+RW media, the Panasonic can write to only DVD-RAMs and DVD-Rs. DVD-Rs have the advantage of working in more DVD players than DVD+RWs, and write-once DVD-Rs cost $7.50 to $10 apiece, which is about 30 to 50 percent less than DVD+RW media. On the other hand, DVD-RAMs are compatible with players that support the DVD-MultiRead standard (or MultiRead2) only, and the discs cost about $15 each, or roughly the same as DVD+RWs.

Panasonic provides a one-year parts and labor warranty, which is on a par with the industry, but support information is hard to find on the company's Web site. You'll have to dig to find documentation, FAQs, and drivers, which are located in the industrial (OEM), rather than the retail-support section of the site. Telephone support is more comforting; it's toll-free and available from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, weekdays.

Intended use
In the end, your purchase decision should be guided by what you want to do with the drive. If you want to create DVDs for others to play on their computers or home-entertainment systems, then the Panasonic DVD burner's DVD-R support should be the definitive factor in its favor. Though the Panasonic lacks the CD-burning abilities of its competitors, its combination of DVD-R and DVD-RAM capabilities make it a good product for burning movies and backing up data.

Data write tests
Time, in minutes, to perform tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a 383MB file to DVD-RAM or DVD+RW media   
Write 500MB directory to DVD-RAM or DVD+RW media   
Panasonic LF-D321U (DVD-RAM/R)
2.44 
3.29 
HP DVD100i (DVD+RW)
2.58 
4.53 
Philips DVDRW208 (DVD+RW)
3.13 
4.01 
Sony DRU110A/C1 (DVD+RW)
3.36 
4.13 
QPS Que DVD burner (DVD-RAM/R)
5.75 
7.78 
 
Movie write tests
Movie files vary in size due to different compression rates, so write speed is measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)

HP DVD100i (DVD+RW)
2.22 
Sony DRU110A/C1 (DVD+RW)
2.10 
Philips DVDRW208 (DVD+RW)
1.98 
Panasonic LF-D321U (DVD-RAM/R)
1.32 
QPS Que DVD burner (DVD-RAM/R)
1.30 
 
Read tests
Time, in minutes, to perform tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Copy the 383MB file from DVD-RAM or DVD+RW to hard drive   
Copy 500MB directory from DVD-RAM or DVD+RW to hard drive   
HP DVD100i (DVD+RW)
2.13 
3.27 
QPS Que DVD burner (DVD-RAM/R)
2.42 
4.08 
Panasonic LF-D321U (DVD-RAM/R)
2.59 
5.35 
Philips DVDRW208 (DVD+RW)
2.05 
6.67 
Sony DRU110A/C1 (DVD+RW)
2.89 
12.30 
 
The Panasonic DVD burner outpaced the Philips DVDRW208 on most tests, but it fell behind on one of the read tests and during the movie-write benchmark. In the end, however, the performance differences between the two drives were fairly insignificant.

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