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The retail version of the drive comes with a software bundle featuring Ulead products. DVD MovieFactory 3.5 Disc Creator is included for authoring movies, VideoStudio 8.0SE for video editing, PhotoExplorer 8.5SE for handling digital photos, BurnNow 1.5 for data chores, and DVD Player 1.5 for playing movies. NovaStor's highly regarded NovaBackup 7.1 is on hand to take care of backup chores. All in all, Pioneer has put together an adept and easy-to-use software package.
Installing the A08XL, with its plain black or putty-colored face and big silver eject button, is easy enough. However, the information-challenged installation guide will be no help. If this is your first optical-drive installation, we suggest you read CNET's guide to installing an internal burner before you start. Also, though Pioneer includes four mounting screws, there are no cables. Generally speaking, most PCs will have an open connector or a spare IDE cable, but if you want to tap the drive's analog audio output instead of playing music across the IDE bus, get a cable when you purchase the Pioneer. The DVR-A08XL is also the first drive we've seen in quite a while that lacks a digital audio output.
The A08XL's performance may make you forget the missing cables. Its 4X double-layer writing smoked the 2.4X competition by nearly 20 minutes, and it edged out Asus's DRW-1604P by 3 seconds (check back soon for a review of the Asus drive). It turned in excellent times reading all types of DVDs. Alas, CD write and read performance was subpar for a first-rank DVD burner, though it will easily be fast enough for the large majority of users.
Pioneer provides a one-year warranty on the DVR-A08XL, as well as toll-free phone support from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT for the full life of the product. Don't hesitate to call if the lackluster documents don't answer your question--maybe the company will improve them to match the documentation that Ulead provides for the software. Online support is a bit better, with downloadable firmware, white papers, and the like, but we were unable to locate a link to e-mail a tech-support agent.
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