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FreewareWeb Reviews:

Panasonic LF-D311 DVD Burner

Courtesy: Andre Malesh. Posted: Friday, January 10, 2003

There's been a lot of confusion surrounding DVD authoring, mainly because of the two competing standards. The first of these is DVD-R, for 'write-once' media that can then be used with consumer DVD players and DVD-ROM drives, while the second is DVD-RAM, which allows re-writing and which is of more use in data applications (backup, archiving, in-house application distribution and so on).

So it's nice - and rare - to have a drive that can handle both. The Panasonic DVD Burner is the same size and shape as a conventional DVD-ROM drive and connects to the standard IDE channel. It has a connector at the back for audio output so that you can play audio CDs and the usual eject button and activity light at the front. The first clue that it's not a standard DVD-ROM drive (assuming you miss the writing on the front) comes when you open its tray. There's a bigger space than usual here so that it can handle the cartridges that hold the DVD-RAM media, as well as conventional CD-ROM or DVD-ROM discs.

Panasonic supplies a couple of these somewhat fragile cartridges with the drive, one with a 4.7GB DVD-RAM disc inside and one with a 2.6GB DVD-RAM disc (the older format). These can be formatted in a variety of ways, including drag-and-drop UDF, using the supplied software. You also get a 4.7GB DVD-R disc in the box, but this must be written to in one go, since it can't be erased and re-recorded.

Installation and use of the drive are pretty straightforward. There are different drive letters for the cartridge and plain old DVD/CD reader sections (although obviously you can't use both at once) and Panasonic supplies some decent software with the drive, including DVDit! DVD video authoring and PrimoDVD mastering and duplication. There's also Cyberlink PowerVCR DVD video playback and capture software.

It's a good software bundle and it means that you can make use of the drive straight away. If you're familiar with using a CD-R or CD-RW drive, there's not a great deal of difference, apart from the huge capacity and the requirement for cartridges. Once you've written the discs, they can then be removed from their cartridges and used in any conventional DVD drive. The write performance is about 11Mbps for DVD-R and 22Mbps for DVD-RAM, which equates to 9x and 18x in CD-R terms.

So, assuming you have the necessary artistic skills, DVD movie creation is now quite straightforward and relatively inexpensive. But for companies, the massive capacity is likely to be far more appealing. As and when the prices for DVD-R and DVD-RAM media fall to a 'burn it and forget it' level, 4.7GB per disc is going to be very attractive for data archiving and backup, especially as the restore process will be much simpler than for tape.

Since this drive doubles as a CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drive (and will read CD-R and CD-RW discs too), it's a cost-effective way of adding huge backup potential to a PC. It also means we're likely to see an avalanche of amateur DVD movies produced. Which may or may not be a good thing.

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