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HP DVD writers aim to play nice

The company says its new double-layer burners are largely free of compatibility problems.

Aiming to take advantage of compatibility problems in early, double-layer DVD burners, Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday announced a model designed to minimize playback problems.

In March, Sony introduced double-layer DVD burners, which can store up to 8.5GB of information on a disc compared with the 4.7GB of data that can be burned onto a single-layer disc. But reviews of Sony's burners have discovered compatibility issues, saying that discs written by the devices were unreadable in some machines by other manufacturers.

One review, at EMediaLive.com, discovered that a double-layer disc burned on a Sony drive could be read by fewer than half the DVD players tested at local electronics stores. HP said it had planned to put out a double-layer product in June, but testing showed compatibility with just 40 percent of other machines. The company said it went back to the drawing board to create a product that burns discs compatible with nearly 90 percent of DVD players and DVD-ROM drives.

"For users who want to create video DVDs on their PCs and play them back in the living room, excellent compatibility is a must," Steve Johnson, HP DVD product manager, said in a statement. "We identified and investigated the potential issues and waited until we got it right."

HP said its DVD Writer dvd530i is expected to be available at retail outlets in the United States and Europe in August at an estimated price of $99.99.

Sony on Tuesday acknowledged compatibility issues with its double-layer drives. Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for Sony's branded optical storage products, said the company complied properly with the specifications for DVD +R double-layer drives. The problem, he said, stems from the fact that some DVD players do not recognize the disc identification code for double-layer +R discs. The problem seems to affect portable DVD players in particular, DeMoulin said.

A tool to address this problem should be available soon, DeMoulin said. It would essentially alter the disc ID on double-layer burned DVDs to make them appear as recognizable discs, he said.

Overall, compatibility has not been a major complaint from customers, he said. "We're not really getting a lot of calls about these things," he said.

HP said its new burners already address the disc ID issue for DVD players. The company also said it has worked with DVD burner software to make sure double-layer recording occurs properly.

Even so, HP said some DVD burners may misidentify discs burned on its new double-layer recorder. An HP official said "firmware" updates will be needed for those machines to be able to read the discs properly.