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Sony announces its first Blu-ray drive

Sony announces its first Blu-ray drive

In the Blu-ray race, Pioneer was first to market with the BDR-101A, an internal PC drive it began selling in May. Sony announced its first Blu-ray burner yesterday, also an internal PC drive, the BWU-100A. (Samsung is selling the only stand-alone Blu-ray burner currently, the BD-P1000; more are expected in September.) The BWU-100A is expected to start shipping on August 18 (preorders are being taken now here) for $750--that's $250 cheaper than Pioneer's. Sony's drive also reads and writes double-layer 50GB Blu-ray discs and CDs in addition to single-layer 25GB Blu-ray discs and DVDs. Pioneer's drive supports only the latter two formats because it features two lasers to the Sony's three. Sony states that a 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc can store four hours of HD video in all its 1080i glory. Burning speeds are the same for both the Sony and the Pioneer drives: 2X for both write-once BD-R and rewritable BD-RE discs. Sony claims 50 minutes to burn a 25GB disc.

Considering the high cost of the drives and media, plus the slow write times, these first-generation Blu-ray drives are likely to appeal only to professionals and (very enthusiastic) enthusiasts with lots of HD video on hand. Until prices come down and write speeds go up, Blu-ray drives can't be considered viable backup solutions. But hey, you have to start somewhere; DVD burners didn't start out selling for $30. And 50GB of data on a single disc is an impressive feat regardless of how long it takes to get it there.

Look for a full review of Pioneer's drive later this week, with Sony's hopefully to follow shortly after that.