DVR-108 OEM Drive, by Pioneer
Posted: 16-Jan-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Pioneer Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

This review is sponsored by Directron.com, a distributor of the Pioneer DVR-108 drive.

Overview

Most Mac users know their internal optical drive as a "Superdrive", Apple's nickname for the internal drive that both reads and writes CDs and DVDs. What you may not be aware of is that this drive is typically a Pioneer drive. For instance, the Superdrive that came with my Quicksilver G4 is actually a Pioneer DVR-103 drive, and the latest "Superdrive" Macs are equipped with the DVR-107 drive. The drives have evolved to faster speeds and more stable operations.

Pioneer now sports a DVR-108 internal optical drive which is not only faster than its predecessor, it also supports Dual Layered DVD media (both for read and write operations). Apple does not currently support this drive, and the only way a Mac user can add one is by purchasing the drive by itself.

The DVR-108 provides up to 16 times write speed for DVD-R and DVD+R media, and up to 32 times write speed for CD-R media. The DVR-108 also supports 4X write speed on Dual Layer DVDs. This is an internal EIDE drive, so Mac users can replace their Super or Combo drive with a speedier new DVR-108 that can also write Dual Layer DVDs.

Product Description
The Pioneer DVR-108 is the industry's first DVD writer to support 16x write speeds on both DVD-R/+R along with the option to write at 4x speed on Double Layer media . With the facility to write 4.7GB of data to write-once media in about seven minutes, or store up to 8.5GB on Double Layer media, the DVR-108 enhances a wide range of DVD applications including the authoring, editing and storing of video files, developing digital music catalogues, building image libraries and backing up data.

Directron.com sells the OEM version of these drives for $77.99. OEM simply means that you aren't getting any of the fancy packaging and box, but the drive comes brand new, and ready to install. That's all you really need. Almost.

Features

  • Writes: DVD-R: 4.7GB. DVD-RW: 4.7GB. DVD+R: 4.7GB. DVD+R DL: 8.5GB. DVD+RW: 4.7GB. CD-R: 700MB (Type 80). CD-R: 650MB (Type 74). CD-RW: Ultra Speed CD-RW. High Speed CD-RW.
  • Reads: DVD-Video (Single & Dual Layer), DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RW. CD-ROM, CD-RW, CD-R. Audio CD. High Speed CD-RW. Ultra Speed CD-RW.
  • Write Speed: DVD-R: 16x Z-CLV (16x DVD-R Media). 12x Z-CLV (12x DVD-R Media). 8x Z-CLV(8x DVD-R Media). 6x(8x DVD-R Media). 4x(4x DVD-R Media). 2x. 1x.
  • DVD-RW: 4x(4x-DVD-RW Media). 2x(2x DVD-RW Media). 1x.
  • DVD+R: 16x Z-CLV(16x DVD+R Media). 12x Z-CLV(12x DVD+R Media). 8x Z-CLV(8x DVD+R Media). 6x(8x DVD+R Media). 4x(4x DVD+R Media). 2.4x.
  • DVD+R DL: 4x(4x DVD+R DL Media). 2.4x(2.4x DVD+R DL Media).
  • DVD+RW: 4x(4x DVD+RW media). 2.4x.
  • CD-R: 32x Z-CLV. 24x Z-CLV. 16x. 10x. 4x.
  • CD-RW: 24x Z-CLV(Ultra-Speed CD-RW Media). 20x(Ultra-Speed CD-RW media). 16x(Ultra-Speed CD-RW media). 10x (High-Speed CD-RW Media). 4x.
  • Read Speed: DVD-ROM, DVD-Video (Single Layer): Quiet mode: Max.5x-speed. Performance mode: Max.16x-speed.
  • DVD-ROM, DVD-Video (Dual Layer): Quiet mode: Max.5x-speed. Performance mode: Max.12x-speed.
  • DVD-R, DVD+R: Max 12x CAV.
  • DVD-RW, DVD+RW: Max 8x CAV.
  • DVD+R DL: Max.8x-speed.
  • CD-R: Max 40x CAV.
  • CD-RW: Max 32x CAV.
  • CD Video: Max.9.3x.
  • CD Audio CD-ROM: MQuiet mode: Max.9.3x-speed. Performance mode: Max.40x-speed.
  • Interface: ATAPI (PIO Mode4/Multi Word DMA Mode2/Ultra DMA Mode4).
  • Loading Method: Power tray loading.
  • Data Buffer: 2MB.
  • External Size: 148(W) x 42.3(H) x 198(D) mm.
  • Mounting Orientation: Horizontal and Vertical.


Setup
The effort required to install the drive depends upon the Macintosh model you have. It's basically an exact swap of whatever optical drive you currently have, so the only real difficulty is figuring out how to remove your current drive.

As a Mac user, I'm accustomed to having everything come easy, and for the most part, things are much simpler on the Mac. However, on my Quicksilver G4, it was not visibly obvious to me exactly how to remove the optical drive. I've replaced hard drives, memory, and even my processor card, but this was the first time tinkering with the optical drive. Not knowing exactly which screws were holding the drive in, I started removing screws left and right. When I got to the point where I was disassembling the G4's case, I began to consider that I was probably doing way more work than I should have.

So before I completely disassembled my Mac, I Googled the web for some detailed instructions on how to remove the optical drive from a G4 Quicksilver. Sure enough, it was just 4 screws, but 2 of these 4 screws were slightly hidden and not at all obvious. Now that I knew how to do it, I figured I should put my case back together first, then I proceeded to remove the 4 screws holding the drive in the bay. I unplugged the IDE cable and the power cable, and with a little bit of jiggle maneuvering, I was able to take out the old DVR-103 drive. I then slid the DVR-108 into the bay, attached the cables, and attached the screws. Once you know the trick, it's actually quite easy. For those with different models, this may be easier or harder depending upon your Mac's design.

As an OEM drive, there are no screws or cables included, but considering that you probably wouldn't be buying this unless you were replacing an existing drive, you don't need any cables or screws (just use what the old drive was using). There is no instructions for how to replace your drive, but then again, that would be a huge user manual if it were to cover every model possible (that would include both Macs and PCs). So while I didn't expect a manual specific to my Mac, I could have really used a reference sheet that told me where I might find instructions for my specific make and model.

The DVR-108 also doesn't come with any software, and as of Mac OS X Panther, Apple does not "officially" support the DVR-108 drive. Your Mac hardware sees the drive, but Mac OS X thinks it just a read-only drive. If you have 3rd party DVD writing software, such as Toast Titanium, this is a non-issue because Toast fully supports the DVR-108 drive and Dual Layer (DL) media for read and write.

Because Panther doesn't currently support this drive, by default you cannot write to the drive using the Finder, iTunes, or iDVD. You can read from the drive just fine, but if you're like me, even if you have Toast, you still want your Mac to be "friendly" with your new drive (i.e., you want to be able to write CDs and DVDs using the Finder, iTunes and iDVD).

The solution is a 3rd pary freeware patch utility called
PatchBurn. The lastest version of PatchBurn is 3.0b7, and runs native on Mac OS X. PatchBurn provides the option to install "profiles" for all kinds of drives, including the DVR-108 drive. This utility is very simple to use. Once you run PatchBurn, you are prompted for an administrator password, and then it provides a list of all the CD/DVD writers connected to your machine. It lists the vendor, model, and whether it has a profile or not. The "profile" is the key. If it says no, that's telling you that your native OS does not support it. Click on the drive, then click Install, and just like magic the drive is now supported.

In Use
Upgrading from my older DVR-103 Superdrive to the Pioneer DVR-108, I instantly noticed two things. One is that the drive is quieter then my old superdrive, and second is that it reads and writes much much faster. It read CDs and DVDs so much faster that it made my whole system feel zippier.

Mechanically, it performs identical to my old drive. The tray pops through the optical drive bay door smoothly whenever I eject the drive, and I have not had any problems reading CDs or DVDs. This drive has been more stable and more constistent than my old Superdrive.

Without PatchBurn installed, the drive shows an a generic drive when viewing with the System Profiler. It allows me to read CDs and DVDs just fine, but the Finder, iTunes and iDVD do not recognize the drive as writeable. However, Toast Titanium 6.0.7 recognizes the drive just fine, both for reading and writing, including writing Dual Layer (also known as Double Layer) DVDs. As a test, I took a DVD that I own, Hidalgo, and used Toast to copy the DVD to a disk image. I then put in a blank Dual Layer DVD into the drive, and used Toast to write the disk image to the DVD. This particular DVD had some copy protection going on, so I had to use MacTheRipper to resolve that, and then Toast copied the DVD no problem. The resulting DVD is just like the original, complete with the slight pause you see viewing a DVD when it is switching from the first layer to the second layer.

Although I was pleased that Toast worked great with the DVR-108 right out of the box, wanted more. I like to use iTunes for burning playlists to CDs, and iDVD for burning home video DVDs. Occasionally, I even like to use the Finder to burn a CD or DVD (I like to preserve Finder window attributes that Toast sometimes does not do well). In order to get all of these functions to work with the DVR-108 drive, I had to install PatchBurn. Once PatchBurn was installed, the System Profiler showed the drive's writeability as "Vendor Supported". I tested it out by making a few CDs with iTunes, making a DVD with iDVD, and backed up some data onto a blank DVD using the Finder. All my tests worked flawlessly. As expected, when using a Dual Layer DVD, none of the Mac OS programs were able to utilize the 2nd layer (i.e., the most I could back up using the Finder was 4.7 GB, even though the DL DVD holds nearly twice that). This was not really an issue for me because Dual Layered DVDs are still quite expensive, and when I did need to utilize the full 8.5 GB, I simply could use Toast Titanium. NTI's DragonBurn 4 also supports writing to DVD DL media.

I was extremely pleased with the functionality and useability of the DVR-108 drive. After weeks of testing, I began thinking "beyond the box". I have an old QPS CD-RW drive, and I've been wanting to replace it with something that reads and writes both CDs and DVDs. I really like the QPS case because it looks slick, has a small profile, and has a Mac-savvy power bridge (aka, when you shutdown your Mac, the drive shuts down with it). So then I thought, why not replace the internal CD-RW drive with the DVR-108 drive? CD-RW drives are fast becoming obsolete, so this was a way to breath new life into my QPS case. To accomplish this task required disassembling the case, and swapping out the drive. I unscrewed a few screws, and then began unsnapping the case. I was a little hesitant when *prying* apart the case because I wasn't exactly sure how it came apart, and I didn't want to break it. I finally got the case off, and found that the internal drive was hooked up just like the optical drive in the Mac: with a IDE connector and a power connector. At that point it was pretty easy to swap out the old CD-RW drive with the DVR-108 drive, and then reassemble the case. I powered up the new QPS DVR-108 external drive, and we please that nothing blew up or caught on fire. At first, the Mac did not recognize the drive at all, not even for reading. Then I realized that it's on a different bus (previously, it was on the ATA bus, but now it's on the Firewire bus), so I probably needed to reinstall a PatchBurn profile. Sure enough, PatchBurn showed the device as a viable burning device, but without a profile yet installed. After I installed the profile for the drive, it worked flawlessly! I could read and write using the Finder, iTunes, and iDVD (and Toast as well, of course). The drive no longer appeared under the "ATA" hardware section of System Profile. It was now under the "Firewire" section, labeled as "QPB-2 Bridge", drive type of "CD-RW/DVD-RW" and disk burning as "Vendor Supported".

I was ecstatic to see my QPS drive turn into a CD-RW/DVD-RW drive. The drive even shutdown with my Mac just like before. Sweet.


Summary
The DVR-108 is Pioneer's latest CD-RW/DVD-RW optical drive, and serves as the perfect "Superdrive" replacement. It sports CD writes speeds up to 32x, DVD writes speeds up to 16x, and DVD-DL write speeds up to 4x. This drive is very affordable as an OEM drive, with a price tag of $77.99 through Directron.com. As an OEM drive, there is no fancy packaging, screws or cables, but none of that stuff is necessary when replacing your Superdrive. By default, the DVR-108 is supported by Toast Titanium for reading and writing CDs and DVDs (including DL DVDs), but initially there is no native support
for burning CDs or DVDs using the Finder, iTunes, or iDVD. However, by downloading and installing a 3rd party freeware utility called PatchBurn, you get full read and write support for CDs and DVDs by Mac OS X native applications. Mac OS X does not currently support Dual Layer (DL) media, so if you need to utilize the 8.5 GB of DVD-DL media, you'll need to use 3rd party programs such as Toast Titanium or NTI DragonBurn. All in all, I was extremely pleased with this drive. It ran faster, smoother, and more reliably than my old Superdrive, and at a very reasonable price. Whether you want to replace your old Superdrive, your internal CD-RW drive, or even if you want to convert an old external CD-RW drive to a CD/DVD-RW drive, the DVR-108 drive is a versatile solution that will truly enhance your Mac system.

Pros

  • Fast DVD and CD writing
  • Supports a lot of media, including DVD Dual Layer media
  • Smooth and reliable operation
  • Mac OS X native support with PatchBurn
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • No instructions referring to PatchBurn
  • No instructions regarding where to go to learn how to remove your optical drive
  • Mac OS X native support currently does not support DVD DL media


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

If you are looking to purchase a DVR-108 drive, please consider buying from our review sponsor, Directron.com, at a really good price!