Pioneer DVR-A review:

Pioneer DVR-A

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Superfast 4X DVD-R mastering; improved 2X DVD-RW and 16X/8X CD-R/RW performance; much cheaper than last-generation drives.

The Bad Lacks write support for DVD+R/+RW; slower rewrite speeds than DVD+RW drives.

The Bottom Line With a retail price of less than $300, the DVR-A05 is easily the fastest, cheapest way to burn DVD movies.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Support 7.0
CNET Editors' Choice Nov '02

The Pioneer DVR-A05 writes DVD media twice as fast as its DVR-A04 predecessor. In CNET Labs' tests, it smokes all of its competitors when burning DVD movies, including the Sony DRU-500A. It also ditches the albatross of poor overall performance, which hurt its predecessors in the battle against competing DVD+RW drives. The DVR-A05 retails for less than $300, so it's the cheapest option for converting your VHS collection and storing home movies. (The cost is even more attractive when you consider the low price of DVD-R media.) We do have one minor caveat, however: the drive copies to DVD-rewritable media more slowly than competing DVD+RW drives, though it's still plenty fast enough to improve your backup habits. For tech-savvy users, the DVR-A05 should be a cinch to install. If, however, the thought of popping open your computer makes you break into a cold sweat, you may want to call for reinforcements. But should you decide to brave it alone, Pioneer provides a decent amount of support. The box includes two of the three most common pieces of installation hardware: an audio cable and mounting screws. Pioneer neglects to supply an IDE cable, figuring most users will simply attach the drive to an existing cable. Still, check to see if you need one before you trek to the store. In its favor, the company includes a handy emergency-eject tool. The included setup sheet offers precise and easy-to-understand instructions but lacks troubleshooting advice for postinstallation conundrums. The DVR-A05 is compatible with Windows 98 SE through Windows XP--sorry, there's no Mac support.

The drive comes with a full complement of software. The CD includes Roxio Easy CD Creator 5.3; VOB InstantWrite; Sonic MyDVD 4.0; and Sonic CineMaster 1.5. The electronic software installation guide gives you a basic description of each program and offers step-by-step instructions, as well as technical support contacts. If you need more information, you can refer to the individual software manuals, also located on the CD.

The DVR-A05's front panel features a headphone jack, a volume control, an eject button, an emergency-eject hole, and a power/busy light. It lacks a CD-track-advance button, but we can live without it. The back of the drive sports a power connector, an IDE connector, jumper pins (for setting the drive to master, slave, or cable select), and a standard MMC analog audio connector. Unlike most modern drives, however, the DVR-A05 lacks a digital audio output. This omission won't concern the average user who uses digital audio extraction (DAE) to rip CD audio tracks, but it rates a demerit point from audiophiles who like to connect their drive to the digital input on their sound card.

Roxio Easy CD Creator.

Pioneer ships the DVR-A05 with a versatile software bundle. It includes Roxio Easy CD Creator 5.3, the first version of the popular CD-mastering package to support DVD-R/RW; VOB InstantWrite to take care of the packet-writing chores; and Sonic MyDVD 4.0 (ArcSoft ShowBiz video editor is now included) to handle DVD movie-authoring and video-capture chores. Sonic's CineMaster 1.5 DVD movie player rounds out the bundle. To get you started, Pioneer includes one DVD-R and one DVD-RW.

ArcSoft ShowBiz.

The Pioneer DVR-A05 blew away the competition when burning movies to DVD-R, besting the second-place Sony DRU-500A by a wide margin. It turned in a strong performance writing to DVD-RW, though it's still slower than competing DVD+RW drives in that respect. The DVR-A05 burns and reads CD-R/RW much faster than its DVR-A04 predecessor, but it still lags behind the DRU-500A in all-around CD-write performance. Still, the DVR-A05's overall performance and matchless movie-burning capability make it a clear choice for digital-video buffs.

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
Sony DRU-500A (DVD-RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
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)
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
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   
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
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)   
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW/-RW)
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 DVD-recordable drives, see the CNET Labs site.

Pioneer covers the DVR-A05 with a standard one-year warranty. Toll-free telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Because the drive is not yet available, the Pioneer Web site offers no support for the DVR-A05. However, based on our review of the DVR-A04, we expect it will include a multitude of FAQs, white papers, firmware upgrades, manuals, and links to relevant software vendor sites.

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