Though it can't write double-layer DVD+R media as fast as Plextor's PX-716A or Memorex's 16X16X DL IDE drive, Sony's reliable DRU-800A DVD burner is a very good all-around performer. While many drives choke on certain brands or types of media or produce errors on the outside edge of the disk at top speed, the Sony just works. We love stuff that you don't have to worry about or fuss over when you use it, and the Sony DRU-800A definitely fits in that category.
Physically, you'd be hard-pressed to pick the Sony DRU-800A DVD burner out of a lineup of recent Sony burners. It has the same short body (6.75 inches long), which fits nicely in smaller PCs, and it ships with the same putty-colored and black faceplates for color-coordinating with most systems. On the back of the drive, you'll find the usual array of digital and analog audio outputs, an IDE connector, a power connector, and slave/master/cable-select configuration jumpers. As we mention in every Sony burner review, the back also houses the same three mystery jumpers with no apparent function. (One of these days, we'll jumper them to see if the drive light starts blinking alien codes.)
The DRU-800A ships with a limited version of Nero's CD/DVD software suite, which includes NeroVision Express authoring software, Nero Burning ROM SE for mastering, Nero InCD for packet writing, Nero ShowTime for playing DVD movies, and Nero BackItUp for backing up your system. The suite should suffice for the average user, but power users might want to check Nero's site for an upgrade path that includes the Recode2 movie-compression program, the PhotoSnap photo editor, and the full-strength Nero Burning ROM, among other utilities.
Overall, the DRU-800A's performance was acceptable, writing single-layer DVD+R and DVD-R discs (at 16X) in about six minutes, just a few seconds slower than the other drives. It was also a fairly fast ripper, easily beating most of the competition, though it was not as quick as the Plextor PX-716A. Burning double-layer DVD+R discs at only 4X, the DRU-800A was considerably slower than the 6X Plextor PX-716A but comparable to the 4X Memorex 16X16X drive. It's one of the first drives we've looked at that supports double-layer (DL) DVD-R, burning a DL-R disc at 4X. The Sony DRU-800A really shone when ripping a DL movie to the hard drive--only the Plextor outpaced it. Finally, the Sony DRU-800A was a lightning-fast CD burner; however, it proved pokier when ripping a CD.
|4.4GB DVD Video burn test||4.4GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)|
|7.9GB DVD Video burn test||7.9GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)|
|74:35 CD Audio burn test||74:35 CD Audio rip test|
|4.22GB RW write test||4.22GB RW read test|
Sony backs the DRU-800A DVD burner with a standard one-year warranty but falls short on phone support. The toll-free tech support is available only on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT. Sadly, the free telephone support expires 90 days after your first call; until you're truly in a bind, troubleshoot the drive with live chat, the more than adequate documentation, or the e-mail help available at the company's Web site.