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TDK 420N Indi DVD review: TDK 420N Indi DVD

TDK 420N Indi DVD

Jon L. Jacobi
4 min read
Although TDK consistently garners high marks for its line of VeloCD burners, we wondered whether the company's success could easily carry over into the highly competitive and divided DVD market. That is, until now. The TDK 420N Indi DVD, one of the first drives to write DVD+R media at 4X, delivered excellent performance in almost all of CNET Labs' tests and set a new record for movie-mastering performance. Best of all, TDK incorporates the same first-rate setup documentation and support as with the VeloCD, making the Indi DVD an excellent drive for both beginners and well-seasoned movie enthusiasts. Few companies pay as much attention to the out-of-box experience as TDK does. The 420N Indi DVD comes with a concise, informative manual and an equally precise setup sheet. In addition, the software CD includes an excellent Shockwave presentation (available with Spanish subtitles) that shows you how to open your system, install the drive, set the jumpers, and connect the cables. You'll also find several Acrobat software manuals and even a Windows Media video on how to use the company's own Digital Mixmaster audio-ripping and burning software. You'll still need screwdriver skills to install the drive, but if TDK's documentation doesn't set you at ease, you should probably have a professional take charge.

The TDK setup video makes installation easy.

In addition to the documentation and software CD, the box contains an IDE cable, an emergency-eject tool, and mounting screws. Our only quibble is the lack of an audio cable. Windows Media Player and other programs can play tracks across the IDE bus, but unless you have a very fast system, playback may hiccup occasionally when you run other programs. The Indi DVD works with Windows 98 SE, Me, NT, 2000, and XP.
The TDK 420N Indi DVD sports a black front panel and features the usual power/busy light, emergency-eject port, tray-eject button, headphone jack, and rotary volume control. On the back of the drive, there are jumper settings, IDE and power connectors, plus both digital and analog audio ports. Our biggest complaint with the Indi DVD, however, concerns the media tray, which seemed noisier and flimsier than those of competing products such as the Sony DRU-500AX.

Pinnacle Systems' powerful Studio 8se.

TDK includes its own Digital Mixmaster program for ripping, playing, and burning audio files and Pinnacle Systems' powerful Studio 8se for authoring and mastering VideoCD, Super VideoCD, and DVD movies. You also get Ahead Software's beginner-friendly Nero Express for mastering CDs and DVDs and the same company's InCD for packet-writing chores. The only thing missing is a dedicated backup program; however, if you keep your data well organized, NeroExpress can handle the backup needs of most users.
The 4X/2.4X Indi DVD blasted through CNET Labs' movie-authoring test in record time, burning video at a scintillating 4.95MB per second--about 300K per second faster than the Pioneer DVR-A05. In packet-writing tests, the drive copied 500MB to DVD+RW in 2 minutes, 46 seconds, just a few ticks behind the top-ranked Sony DRU-500AX. However, the Indi DVD struggled on one test: it took the drive 3 minutes, 34 seconds to read a 500MB file folder and copy it to the hard drive, slower than all of its competitors. Finally, the Indi DVD proved a facile CD burner and reader, completing our battery of tests just a few seconds behind the faster-rated DRU-500AX.
Movie write
(Compression rates vary, so write speed is measured in megabytes per sec.)

Write a movie to write-once media  
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD-RW)
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD Recordable (DVD-RW)
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
TDK 420N Indi DVD (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  
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD Recordable (DVD-RW)
Sony DRU-500A (DVD-RW)
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW)
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  
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW/RW)
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD Recordable (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)  
Pioneer DVR-A05 DVD-RW
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
CenDyne DVR-105 4X DVD Recordable (DVD-RW)
Sony DRU-500AX (DVD+RW/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. For more details on how we test optical drives, see the CNET Labs site.
TDK backs the Indi DVD with the industry-standard one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT. The company's easy-to-navigate Web site offers firmware and software updates, FAQs, manuals, and a Flash installation demo. You can also chat live with TDK tech support during the hours listed above.

TDK support site.


TDK 420N Indi DVD

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 8Support 8