The Blu-ray and HD-DVD war is just starting to heat up, and the response of the general public has been, well, lacklustre, to say the least. Still, both sides must build their forces in order to wage war, and to that end we have the Pioneer BDR-202BK -- an optical drive capable of burning Blu-ray discs.
Included in the retail box was TDK 2x BD-R and BD-RE media, an SATA cable, four pin to SATA power converter, Cyberlink's BD Solution pack (featuring PowerDVD, PowerProducer, PowerDirector, InstantBurn, Power2Go and PlayMovie) and of course the drive itself.
Looking exactly like a standard DVD or CD writer, our black model was sparse with only an eject button, LED and the requisite DVD, Compact Disc and Blu-ray logos. It has an SATA interface as most new burners have, which means things won't get cluttered inside your desktop PC by using wide IDE cables.
The drive supports writing to DVD+-R/W/RAM, CD-R/W and BD-R/E. It only supports writing to single layer BD discs, but given the cost of a single disc (around AU$30 these days) this isn't too much of a deterrent, plus it still gives you 25GB of space. That may be just over five single layer DVD's worth, but you can buy good quality DVDs for around seven times cheaper per gigabyte at the time of writing.
While the drive supports 4x writing to BD-R discs (and can even overspeed burn some 2x discs to 4x), we were only able to find 2x discs available in our local computer stores -- and in saying that, only one store out of 10 stocked Blu-ray writable discs, and this one happened to be a specialist Sony store -- so not only is media expensive, it's not as available as DVDR.
The Pioneer drive performed admirably, burning the full 25GB of a TDK BD-R in 24 minutes and 57 seconds. It also played back all our Blu-ray movie titles with no difficulty thanks to the included PowerDVD, and of course lacked any of the "wait time" standalone Blu-ray and HD-DVD players impart currently while starting up. Just make sure you have an HDCP compatible video card and monitor before you attempt to play any BD movies on your PC, or invest some time in AnyDVD HD.
Pioneer's drive and bundle is excellent, but also expensive and clearly an early adopter's product. If you only want to watch Blu-ray on your PC and have no desire to burn them, we'd suggest Pioneer's BDC-S02 instead. It can only read Blu-ray discs, but still retains DVD writing capability and is close to half the price. Still, if you're a specialist that really needs to author Blu-ray movies, then this drive will definitely float your boat, and possibly your battleship as well.