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Sony DRU-500A review: Sony DRU-500A

Sony DRU-500A

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
5 min read
The alphabet soup of competing DVD-recording formats is enough to make anyone's head spin. How do you know if the DVD disc you just burned will work with your home DVD player? And will it also run on your computer's DVD-ROM drive? With the Sony DRU-500A internal DVD burner, you no longer have to worry. This remarkable drive is the first to support all four popular formats (DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW). In addition, it offers superb performance and packs a comprehensive software bundle--all at a very affordable price. If you need a DVD burner, look no further than the DRU-500A.
Editor's note: Sony has released a new version of this drive, the DRU-510A. To read our review of the the DRU-510A, click here. Out of the box, the $350 Sony DRU-500A looks sleek. Like most burners, it comes with an IDE cable, mounting screws, illustrated hardware and software quick-start guides, one 2.4X DVD+RW, and a software CD. You can get the burner up and running within minutes, provided you possess a basic understanding of your computer's innards and know how to use a Phillips screwdriver. If not, the CD contains an in-depth and helpful electronic user guide with step-by-step instructions. On the back of the drive, you'll find IDE, analog audio, and power connectors as well as jumper settings.
Because the DRU-500A supports all four recordable formats, you won't have to choose one DVD-recording format over another. Instead, simply select the media most compatible with your existing DVD player and DVD-ROM drive, then start recording. Alas, while the drive works with PCs running Windows 98 SE, 2000, Me, and XP, it's not Mac compatible.

Not only does the DRU-500A support all four recordable formats, but it also does its job with amazing speed. It writes DVD-RW media at 2X and DVD-R at 4X, double the current speed of other products on the market. The DRU-500A's DVD+R/DVD+RW media speed remains at the industry-standard 2.4X; however, you can now download a free upgrade from Sony's Web site that will enable the drive to write DVD+R media at 4X. The drive also burns CD-Rs at 24X and CD-RWs at 10X. To prevent buffer-underrun errors, it features an 8MB buffer memory and Power-Burn technology, which matches the burning speed with the amount of data in the buffer.

The DRU-500A also comes with a generous list of software titles for all your recording-related needs. It includes Veritas RecordNow for mastering both writable and rewritable DVDs and CDs; Veritas Simple Backup for backing up data; Sonic MyDVD, which turns your home movies into video DVDs; ArcSoft ShowBiz for video editing; MusicMatch Jukebox, which lets you play, record, and organize your music; and CyberLink PowerDVD 4.0 for DVD-movie playback.

MusicMatch Jukebox.
So what's missing? The software CD fails to include Veritas DLA (Drive Letter Access) packet-writing software, which lets you drag and drop files onto rewritable discs. Sony does provide a link to a Web site (which Sony says will be live in November), where users can download it for free. You can also download a free copy of Veritas RecordNow DX, a more comprehensive version of the user-friendly, wizard-oriented Veritas RecordNow.

Because of the Sony's multiformat support, we had to run more tests on the DRU-500A than on other DVD burners. However, thanks to its swift performance, the job wasn't too time-consuming. In CNET Labs' tests, it burned our 3.24GB test movie (960MB after compression) to DVD-R in only 4 minutes, 49 seconds, or about 3.32MB per second. By comparison, the slower-rated Pioneer DVR-A04 DVD-RW took 7 minutes, 23 seconds (about 2.17MB per second). When we switched to 2.4X DVD+R media to burn the same movie, the Sony took 5 minutes, 19 seconds (about 3.01MB per second), a tad faster than the HP DVD-Writer DVD200i.
In packet-writing tests, the DRU-500A once again rocked the chart. It recorded 500MB to DVD+RW in only 2 minutes, 34 seconds--more than twice the speed of the HP. Unfortunately, Sony failed to provide us with 2X DVD-RW media in time for testing, but as soon as we get some, we'll be sure to update this review.
Movie write tests
Rate, in megabytes per second, at which a movie is written to write-once media (longer bars indicate better performance)

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)
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW)
The DRU-500A also did very well with CDs. It burned a 43-minute audio CD in only 3 minutes, 2 seconds and recorded 400MB to a CD-RW in only 5 minutes, 29 seconds--comparable scores to those of most current, high-speed CD burners.
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)   
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW/-RW)
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
In read tests, however, the DRU-500A performed a little slower than the HP. It took 1 minute, 53 seconds and 3 minutes, 8 seconds to copy a 383MB file and 500MB folder back onto the hard drive, respectively.
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   
Sony DRU-500A (DVD+RW)
Philips DVDRW228 (DVD+RW)
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+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.
Sony backs the DRU-500A with a standard, one-year limited warranty. Toll-free tech support is available Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT, and Sony's Web site features a useful support library for PC storage, including manuals, drivers, software patches, FAQs, and e-mail support.

DRU-500A support page.

Sony DRU-500A

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 9Performance 9Support 8