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HP DVD300i review: HP DVD300i

HP DVD300i

Robert Luhn
5 min read
HP is a trusted name in the CD-RW business, so it's no surprise that the company's latest DVD+R/+RW drive is solid contender. Like other HP drives we've looked at, the sturdy DVD writer DVD300i is intelligently packaged: You get a manual that's logically organized by task; on-disc help; a fairly complete Web site; speedy e-mail tech support; free, 24/7 phone tech support for a year; and acceptable, if uninspiring, burning software. Factor in the rock-bottom $299 list price, 16X CD-R burning (fast for the DVD-writable crowd), and overall solid performance, and you have a respectable replacement for your aging CD-RW drive. Installing an internal drive is never fun, but HP's conscientious documentation and software make the process easier. You just pop in the included CD; watch a video of the hardware installation; run a diagnostic application that recommends jumper settings and notes which controller and cable to use; then install Veritas's RecordNow disc burner, the DLA packet writer, and the Simple Backup program. You also get CyberLink's PowerDVD movie-playback app and ArcSoft's ShowBiz DVD movie-building software.

HP's software shows you how to install the drive, from removing the case to connecting the cables.

Turn off the PC and follow the illustrated guide to physically install the drive. (One plus: the back of the drive is clearly labeled, so you know exactly what plugs into what. And another: the drive comes with all of the cables you'll need, plus one blank DVD+R and DVD+RW disc each.) Turn the PC back on, and you're up and running. If you have a live Internet connection, HP's software will even hop online and download the latest firmware for the drive.
That's how it usually works. However, if you've already installed a different packet-writing program on your system, the HP installer will disable it--but it won't install the Veritas packet writer in its place. You must uninstall the other packet writer, reboot, drag out the HP installer disc, and run it again to install the Veritas packet writer. It's an easy enough procedure but difficult to figure out at first.
The DVD writer DVD300i's software bundle is competent but limited when compared to Nero Burning ROM 5.5.9, Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.0, and standalone movie-authoring tools such as MyDVD. The Veritas disc-burner program can copy discs, create audio and MP3 discs, burn data ROMs, and so on, but you won't find handy extras such as Easy's music player or Nero's ability to "overburn" discs. The Veritas packet writer can format CD-RWs and DVD+RWs in a flash, too, but you won't find anything like Easy's disc diagnostic and repair tools. The included Simple Backup program is just that: a straightforward and speedy way to back up your system to CD or DVD media.

Building a movie with ArcSoft ShowBiz is a snap.

The ArcSoft ShowBiz DVD tool for building movies could have been the star of the bundle. Unlike the god-awful DVD Builder that comes with Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.0, ShowBiz is genuinely easy to use and follows a logical sequence to build a movie. From a series of tabs, you pick background layouts and title text, pull in live video or existing files, create chapters and menus, and finally burn the DVD movie. Right-clicking is consistently used throughout, and you can even preview a video file within the File > Open menu. The only problem? Opening or playing some MPEG files can crash ShowBiz faster than a bumper car. At post time, HP and ArcSoft had not resolved the issue.
Aside from such quirks, using the DVD300i is a snap. It read just about every disc format we threw at it, from ancient PhotoCDs to all manner of DVD-Rs to DVD movies.
Like most mixed-mode drives, the DVD300i's performance is a mixed bag. In some tests, such as burning a movie to DVD+R, it's at the tail end of the crowd. When it comes to pouring data onto a rewritable DVD, it sails ahead. When copying data to hard disk or writing data to CD-R or CD-RW, it's more or less in the middle. In short, it's a solid, but not spectacular, performer.
But you will appreciate some benefits that the DVD+R/+RW spec brings. Formatting a DVD+RW disc on this drive (and on competing DVD+RW drives) takes less than a minute, whereas formatting a DVD-RW on competing drives can take more than an hour. And unlike competing DVD+RW units, such as the Philips DVDRW228 DVD+RW and the Sony DRU-500AX, the HP DVD300i can read CD-ROMs at 40X, not 32X.
Movie write
(Compression rates vary, so write speed is measured in megabytes per sec.  Longer bars indicate better performance.)

Write a movie to write-once media  
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable (DVD-RW)
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD-RW)
Write tests
Time in minutes  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media  
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media  
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD-RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable
Read tests
Time in minutes  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Copy a 500MB directory from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Copy a 383MB file from rewritable media to the hard drive  
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW/-RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Write tests
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Packet writing from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)  
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)  
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW/-RW)
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
HP DVD writer DVD300i (DVD+RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD recordable
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 optical drives, see the CNET Labs site.
The HP DVD300i is backed by a one-year warranty and free telephone tech support (via toll call) during that period. After that, tech support costs $25 per incident. Help is available 24/7, but you may not need it, given HP's clear documentation. From its printed manual to the setup guide to the on-disc help to HP's fairly complete Web site, there's a lot of information available.

The useful but elusive DVD300i support page.

And unlike many companies, HP doesn't hide contact information--there's a link right on the opening support page to every venue HP has. More important, HP's help is usually accurate. In one test, HP's e-mail support responded in 30 minutes with just the right solution. HP's support site is also fairly complete, although finding the DVD300i's support page means searching for a drive model, then digging through a few results. But once there, you'll find downloadable manuals, information on upgrading the drive (but not the software), FAQs about setting up the drive, and a Solve A Problem search tool.

HP DVD300i

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 7Support 9
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