Optical drive endeavors to attain format nirvana
By Brian Dipert - May 2, 2002
Pioneer's DVR-A04 dodges the controversy still swirling around the underwhelming DVD-RAM and perpetually delayed DVD+RW optical-storage formats: It supports neither (Picture). The company believes that user-writable DVDs will follow a near-identical usage pattern to that of CD-R and CD-RW predecessors (which the DVR-A04 also supports), and, therefore, that little need exists for formats other than DVD-R and DVD-RW. As a result, the DVR-A04 makes incremental, albeit notable, improvements over its DVR-A03 predecessor, which Apple's (www.apple.com) SuperDrive and other computers currently use.
The most important attribute of any high-volume success story, of course, is continual price reductions. Silicon integration, chassis and front-panel simplification, and other cost-cutting factors enable Pioneer to offer the DVR-A04 at a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $499, versus the DVR-A03 it introduced last April for $1000. A quick glance at Pricewatch (www.pricewatch.com) shows DVR-A03s selling for much less than $400, suggesting just how inexpensive the DVR-A04, which is now in production, may be by year-end.
Price cuts are even more attractive when they come with enhanced and additional features. The DVR-A04 reads DVD-ROM, CD-R, and CD-RW media at 6, 24, and 24× CAV (continuous-angular-velocity) rates, respectively, versus 4, 16, and 16× rates for its predecessor. Pioneer has added both CD-buffer-underrun support and the 33.3-Mbyte/sec UltraDMA-interface mode to the DVR-A04 (see "Perceived value: ally or antagonist?" EDN, Sept 20, 2001, pg 33). The company also reduced initializing and loading times, more than halved power consumption to 3.1W, and boosted the audio-line output's SNR to more than 75 dB and its channel separation to more than 65 dB.
Pioneer Electronics, 1-310-952-2000, www.pioneerelectronics.com.