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Pioneer drops price on new DVD drive

The drives, which are included in many new PCs, will cost $150 less and run faster than the current model.

Pioneer Electronics is spinning out a faster and lower cost version of its popular DVD-recordable drive.

The electronics device maker announced Tuesday that it plans to replace its DVR-A03 with the next-generation DVR-A04 DVD-R (DVD-recordable) drive, which will cost $500--about $150 less than the AO3--and be slighter faster.

Similar to the A03, the A04 will be able to read and write to DVD-R, DVD-RW (DVD-rewritable), CD-R and CD-RW discs. But the A04 drive will be smaller, will be able to read DVD-R and CD-R faster, and will record to discs more reliably, according to the company. Pioneer's A03 drive can be found in Apple, Sony and Compaq PCs.

High prices on drives and media have been one of the main hurdles preventing DVD-recordable drives from becoming a mass-market phenomenon to date, although the picture is rapidly changing. The 4.7GB storage capacity of DVD discs makes them a good media for storing clips of home videos, which tend to be large files. Digital video and photography are also continuing to grow in popularity, inherently raising the desire for recordable DVD among consumers.

"Getting to a low price has been our highest priority with this model because we think that will make it accessible to more people," Pioneer spokesman Andy Parsons said.

The A04 drive will be half as expensive as the A03 when it first came out last year for around $1,000. The A04 will be available later this month.

Another major obstacle in the adoption of DVD-R has been the compatibility of recordable and rewritable DVD discs with the large number of DVD-ROM drives and other recordable DVD drives in the market, which are based around different standards.

Earlier this year, the DVD Forum, a group of companies that advocates the DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM formats, approved the DVD Multi specification, which allows drives that use it to read all three formats. Parsons said that Pioneer has looked at DVD Multi but that the company is focused on the DVD-R and DVD-RW formats.

"Adding DVD Multi adds cost to the drive," Parsons said.

Hitachi is one drive manufacturer that is coming out with a drive using the DVD Multi spec.

Compatibility has also been a tough sell for the DVD+RW Alliance, a group advocating the DVD+RW standard. Consumers have been upset with manufacturers of first generation DVD+RW drives because the drives don't write to DVD+R discs.