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Pioneer DVR-A review:

Pioneer DVR-A

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The Good Writes DVD+R and DVD-R at 8X; excellent software bundle.

The Bad Terrible printed documentation; no front-panel headphone jack or volume control.

The Bottom Line The DVR-A07U's software and performance place it among the best and fastest 8X drives, but its scant documentation will leave newbies cold.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.5 Overall
  • Setup 5.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Support 7.0

summary

Pioneer's latest writable DVD drive, the DVR-A07U, is one of the first drives on the market that boasts true 8X DVD+R and DVD-R reading and writing, as well as 4X DVD+R and DVD-R rewriting and 24X CD write speeds. Besides reading and writing plus and dash DVD media, as well as all CD formats, the DVR-A07U can also read DVD-RAM media but not write to it. In our performance tests, it gave the Plextor PX-708A, our Editors' Choice, a run for its money. Pioneer also includes an excellent bundle of software for video- and photo-editing, disc burning, and backup. Experienced users will have no trouble installing the drive, but woefully incomplete printed documentation will leave novices behind. Once the drive is installed and running, however, the Pioneer DVR-A07U's performance and software bundle should make anyone smile.

The retail packaging for the Pioneer DVR-A07U emphasizes the drive's speed and versatility, but novices may struggle with installing the drive. The installation directions are minimal, and Pioneer does not explain how to set the master/slave jumper. The manual does mention that you can connect the drive to a sound card using an audio cable and that the connector is "compatible with Molex 70553. Choose a suitable connection cable"--whatever that means.

Neither does Pioneer explain how to install the software on the companion DVD. But if you put the disc in the drive (assuming the drive has been configured correctly), the Autorun feature will begin the installation automatically (assuming Autorun is not disabled on your computer). Software installation is easy, and there's a helpful wizard to guide you through the process. It also automatically enters your name and product serial number so that you don't have to hunt and peck while reading an endless string of digits from some box sticker.
None of these issues is likely to pose much of a problem for experienced users, but a beginner is likely to feel unsure how to proceed. An overhaul of the installation documentation would go a long way toward improving this product. Until then, if you need help getting set up, check out CNET's new feature on how to install an optical drive.

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Novice users will have an easier time installing the DVR-A07U's software, which has a simple front-end menu to guide you through the process, than the drive itself.

Beyond its 8X DVD+/-R recording speeds, Pioneer's DVR-A07U is notable for its comprehensive software bundle, which includes a variety of applications from Ulead and NovaStor. The software bundle comes on one disc, and one simple installation menu lets you select which elements you want to install.

You can record still and movie images, music, and data to CDs or DVDs using Ulead DVD MovieFactory 3.0 Disc Creator. Video Studio 7SE makes it easy to assemble still and moving images along with sound files to create impressive videos. My Scrapbook 2.0 lets you work with still images and includes a handy batch-processing feature for editing many images at once. You can manage your digital photo collection with Photo Explorer 8.0. Ulead's DVD Player has a default control panel that looks like a typical car stereo but comes with a pair of alternative skins. Burn.Now, a simple but effective burn utility for CDs and DVDs, simplifies copying discs or making copies of disc images stored on a hard drive.
In addition to these applications, Pioneer includes a host of other handy utilities. For example, Ulead's COOL 360 is a panorama-stitching utility that lets you seamlessly combine separate photos to create a wide-angle--or even full-circle--image. It lets you print tiled images on a single sheet, create a poster, or make CD covers. You can even create your own slide-show screensavers.

NovaStor's NovaBackup 7.1 supports incremental, differential, and complete backups. It offers compression and lets you select portions of your hard drive to back up. It can even scan for viruses. You can also configure the program to run specific external commands before or after a backup session. For example, you could set the ScanDisk utility to run before backup and the Defrag utility to run after, combining your disk management into a single step.

The DVR-A07U's physical design features the Ultra Dynamic Resonance Absorber, intended to reduce vibrations during high-speed disc rotation. We found the technology effective; the drive is nearly silent during operation, especially compared to most other high-speed drives, which often sound like a jet engine spooling up.

On the downside, Pioneer has omitted the stereo headset jack and volume control from the DVR-A07U's front panel. Granted, most users do not use these features, but they can be valuable when troubleshooting analog stereo playback of audio CDs.

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The Pioneer DVR-A07U comes with a comprehensive and useful suite of bundled software, including a clean and convenient front-end menu system.
As we expected from its specifications, the Pioneer DVR-A07U is a top performer, even besting Plextor's PX-708A in a few tests. The DVR-A07U delivered excellent DVD-R and DVD+R performance and scored high in the DVD+RW read and write tests. It did not stand out as well with DVD-RW media, however. Still, overall, it delivered very competitive performance, comparable with the fastest drives we've tested.

At the time of this review, 8X-rated media is extremely scarce, as manufacturers are just ramping up production. According to a Pioneer representative, the drive is able to write to 8X DVD+R media at full speed with the 1.10 version firmware available on the company &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Epioneerelectronics%2Ecom%2Fpna%2Farticle%2F0%2C%2C2076%5F4249%5F39099161%2C00%2Ehtml">Web site. A new firmware update should be available by the end of March to provide full-speed support for 8X DVD-R media.

Movie write test (megabytes per second)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Write a movie to write-once media  
Note: Compression rates vary depending on the drives' bundled software.
* Plextor drive tested with 4X DVD+R media
** Pioneer drive tested with 8X DVD-R media from JVC

Data write tests (megabytes per second)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media  
Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media  

Data read tests (megabytes per second)  (Longer 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  

All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media, submitted by the manufacturer, and &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Everbatim%2Ecom">Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. Find out more about how we test optical drives. Pioneer backs the DVR-A07U with a typical one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Toll-free telephone support (800/872-4159) is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT for the life of the warranty. &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Epioneerelectronics%2Ecom%2Fpna%2Farticle%2F0%2C%2C2076%5F4249%5F39099161%2C00%2Ehtml">Pioneer's Web site has some limited support features, including downloadable drivers and documentation. There is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a knowledge base of technical-support issues. While there are no items specific to the DVR-A07U, this is not surprising for a brand-new product. A site-wide search feature makes it quick and easy to find all the available information about the DVR-A07U.

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The Pioneer Web site has a wide range of support information available for the DVR-A07U, including manuals, product brochures, and firmware upgrades.

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