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The Pioneer DVR-103 was one of the first affordable DVD burners to hit the consumer market. In addition to being widely available at many major electronics stores, both brick and on the Internet, the drive was re-branded and could be found almost everywhere. As just one example, the SuperDrive on the Mac was really a DVR-103. Since that time, Pioneer has released incremental updates to the DVR-10X product line, culminating (at this writing) in the DVR-106.
Format Wars +/-
For a time, Pioneer was the champion of the DVD-R/RW Forum, opposed by the challengers from the DVD+R/RW Alliance. Then Sony broke ranks, started producing a hybrid drive that could burn discs of both the – and the + format and all heck broke loose. Though it wasn’t exactly chaos, we (the consumer) ultimately got exactly what we wanted: a format agnostic drive that could burn (and read) anything. Pioneer’s necessary response was the DVR-106.
We received the DVR-A06U retail package and opened it to find a normal-looking drive, a thin manual and a couple of discs. This is an internal drive and no cables were included. Unless you’ve installed extra drives in your computer already, it is likely that you already have a spare IDE channel (and cable) in your case. Installing a DVD burner is a safe process, but it can be frustrating as you switch around jumpers (reboot), change the cable order (reboot) and generally try to squeeze the drive into the clutter and chaos that is the inside of most computers. Once installed so that the BIOS sees the drive correctly, Windows will have no trouble and will not need to install any other drivers.
We tested the drive with the included software, which included lite versions of Nero burning software and Ulead multimedia applications. The Nero Express Toolkit was especially useful during the course of this review, as it is a great utility for identifying and testing drives and discs. The Ulead package was quite extensive and could get the novice from capturing video through fairly sophisticated editing and finally out to DVD in style.
On the Bench
Our extensive tests revealed that this drive performs pretty much as advertised (see the Tested Performance numbers). With 4x certified media from Verbatim we were able to burn a full 4.5GB DVD movie in about 14 minutes. It made no difference whether we used DVD-R or DVD+R media. When we ran data rate tests across the entire disc, we were able to average 6,279 KB/s, which is about 4.55X in DVD terms. The drive did throttle back to 2X towards the outside edge of the disc, but at times exceeded 6X speeds. The Average Seek Time was very fast, hovering around 156ms for most of the disc, but, again, the outside edge really put the brakes on the drive and the average we ended up with was 210ms. From the moment we dropped a disc into the tray until Windows could see data was a mere 12 seconds.
This drive is one of the most widely available DVD burning drive on the market, which means you can easily find the bare DVR-106 drive at a very competitive street price (late summer 2003: $215).
In the final analysis, if you are prepared to install it, this is a very fast, solid and predictable drive that burned DVDs as advertised.
Model Number: DVR-A06U
Firmware Version: 1.05
Platform: PC and Mac
Operating System: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
Processor: PIII 800MHz
Write Formats: DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R/RW
Maximum Speeds (manufacturer reported)
Read: CD 32X; DVD 12X
Write: CD-R 16X; CD-RW 10X; DVD-R/+R 4X; DVD-RW/+RW 2X
Interface: ATAPI (IDE, UDMA33)
Buffer Size: 2MB
Included Software (Mac): none
Included Software (Win): Ulead VideoStudio 7SE, DVD MovieFactory 2SE, DVD PictureShow 2SE, DVD Player; Nero Express, Toolkit; WriteDVD!
Extras: DVD-R disc, DVD-RW disc, analog audio connection cable, mounting screws
Average Transfer Rate: 6,279 KB/s (4.55x)
Average Seek Time: 210 ms
Load Time: 12.14 seconds
Burst Transfer: 16,976 KB/s
Burn Time (4.5GB): 14:15 minutes
No frills, no nonsense: the Pioneer DVR-A06 is an all-purpose disc-burning workhorse.