In order to store data on a disc, there are two essential ingredients: the optical drive, and the optical media. Many reviews focus on the optical drive, and how it performs writing a variety of media. We now have the opportunity to focus on the other component, the recordable disc. Playo products, manufactured by the Abcron Corporation have recently introduced their Playo line of discs. They include CDR, DVDR, and DVDRW (plus and minus) varieties. In this review we will focus on the DVD+R and DVD-R discs which are two of the popular discs that users feed their DVD rewritable drives. Other Playo products include flash media cards, flash card readers, and cases.
Here at LIVEdigitally we have access to three of the current crop of DVD rewritable drives: the LiteOn 1693S, the Plextor 740A, and the Samsung WriteMaster. All are 16x burners that can write to both “plus” and “minus” discs. A good test of the media would be to see how each of the drives can write to it. The write time of each disc will be monitored. Each of the discs will be scanned in Nero’s CD-DVD Speed on my LiteOn 852S drive at 4x, which I’ve used for scanning duties on all my previous optical drive reviews. This will give us an idea of the write quality of the media with the drive. In addition, we will test that the discs play in a Sharp DV-S1U stand alone DVD player.
In the spirit of fairness, LiteOn’s (KS0B) and Samsung’s (TS10) firmwares were upgraded to the latest as of early December; Plextor (1.01) has not released a new firmware for their 740A drive since testing. On the Playo website they provide a compatibility list of drives by manufacturer and firmware with expected burn speeds. The Samsung WriteMaster is not listed as a supported drive, but the LiteOn 1693S and the Plextor 740A both support an 8x burn speed.
Both the DVD+R and DVD-R discs are tested from the Playo optical media line. Often, finding a good media for a given drive can be a frustrating experience for the average end user. When buying a box of media from a company, it is nice to know that the discs will work well with your drive, before you own a whole stack of media that your drive doesn’t want to work with. Also, it is difficult to return a 50 pack of media after you have burnt three disc coasters. Perhaps manufacturers should sell “trial size” packages of media; until they do, a review such as this can be very helpful at eliminating some of the trial and error guesswork.
Playo’s DVD-R discs here are seen in a 25 pack, other sizes are available including a “price club warehouse” 100 pack. The discs have a silver metallic coating, the appropriate logos, and plenty of space to write on with your Sharpie marker. The discs are labeled for the 8x speed.
The “Disc Info” feature of Nero’s CD-DVD Speed provides some information about the discs. The code of “TYG02” would indicate Tayo Yuiden, which are Japanese, and highly regarded as some of the finest media. However, some manufacturers just put that code on their discs, so it may not really indicate such high quality.
Here, we can see how the Plextor 740A drive did with Playo’s DVD-R discs. The burn was completed at the 8x speed in 8:45. Overall, it is a good quality write. The PI Errors are at a maximum of 48, and average 15.7 (recall that less than 280 is within spec). Also, the more important PI Failures have a maximum of 3, and average 0.18 (recall that less than 4 is within spec). This disc played fine on the Sharp DV-S1U player.
We similarly had a nice burn from the LiteOn 1693S writer. It was also burnt at 8x, in a time of 9:16 (the longest burn of the test, but only by a little bit). The PI Errors maxed out at 36, and averaged 10.6 which is very good. The PI Failures were also low with a solitary spike of 22 (which is allowed in the specs), and an average of 0.17. The disc played fine in the Sharp DV-S1U player. In my mind, both of these burns are of similar high quality.
The Samsung WriteMaster did not like these discs. Despite the latest firmware update, the drive could not complete a write cycle despite several attempts at 8x. This was disappointing as the Samsung drive is generally very strong at writing “minus” DVD discs. If you own a Samsung drive, consider yourself warned. The Playo website did provide accurate information about Samsung’s compatibility.
The Playo line also includes DVD+R discs. This is currently the most common variety of DVD recordable media sold. I appreciate that Playo puts the media in a different color labeling to differentiate it. The media is also 8x speed. The disc itself is similar to its minus counterpart. It has the same silver coating on top, logos, and plenty of space for labeling.
The disc info on Nero’s CD-DVD Speed shows that the DVD+R disc supports 2.4x, 4x, 6x, and 8x speeds. The manufacturer is listed as “unknown” leading me to believe that this disc is really new, and not just a relabel of someone else’s disc.
The Plextor 740A wrote the disc in 8:16, set to the 8x speed (the fastest write of the test). Overall, it is a good quality write. The PI Errors have two spikes, the taller one being 65, with an average of 2.5 which is low. The PI Failures have a max of 4, and an average of 0.1 which is also low. I was pleased with this write, and it played fine in the Sharp DV-S1U player.
The Playo DVD+R disc was also cooked in the LiteOn 1693S drive. This was done at 8x, in a time of 8:55. The PI Errors had a spike of 33, and an average of 4.8 which is very good. The PI Failures had a spike of 23, and an average of 0.24 and a few spots above the cut off of 4 (seen in yellow in the graph). This puts it just over specs, but it should still play in most machines. The disc played fine in the Sharp DV-S1U player.
I also attempted to write the DVD+R disc on the Samsung WriteMaster drive. The write could not be completed even after several attempts using the latest firmware. This was disappointing that the Samsung experienced trouble on these discs. Consider yourself doubly warned!
As a bonus, the Playo included some samples of their newest mini DVD media. While standard optical discs are 12 cm, these are a smaller 8 cm. These discs fit into the inner tray of players and burners. Trust me, it’s there, you probably just never noticed it. The discs are seen in the opening image, in the two smaller cake boxes on top. These discs hold 1.4 GB of data. These are not currently for sale, and are prototypes. I eagerly fed them into CD info on Nero’s CD DVD Speed program.
Apparently, Nero doesn’t know much about these discs either as the manufacturer is “unknown.” The capacity comes up as 1463 MB, and it is a DVD-R disc (minus, as opposed to plus. The write speed is listed at a pokey 2x, although that wasn’t an issue. I cooked the disc in the Plextor 740A drive, and performed the following scan.
The quality of the scan was above average. The PI Errors maxed out at 21, and the PI Failures hit a maximum of 5 in one spot, the average was 0.51. Especially for a prototype disc, this was very good, and it’s likely that in the final product the scan would even look better. The disc was burnt at the 8x speed, in a time of 6:17. While that is somewhat long, remember that on any disc, the inner tracks take longer to burn than the outer tracks because they move past the laser at a lower speed for a constant rotation. Also remember that a mini DVD, such as this, essentially has only inner tracks and no outer ones. Thus, it takes a while to burn such a disc.
The bulk of mini DVD’s will likely be used for the newer digital camcorders that drop tape and write directly to disc. These mini DVD’s can also be used for projects that are too small to fit on a CDR, but too large for a full size DVDR. Also, they definitely have a “gee whiz” and out of the ordinary appearance to them. (In a mini case, a photo slideshow of your latest trip would make a great stocking stuffer on one of these discs to a loved one.)
Who should buy these discs?
Users of the Plextor or LiteOn drives looking for a quality DVD recordable media would do well to choose this media for their everyday writing duties. Both the plus and minus varieties performed as expected, and consistently across both drives, and in a variety of readers. The mini DVD’s are a niche product, but have uses for projects that exceed the capacity of a CDR.
Strengths & Weaknesses
– attractive styling
– good burn quality
– discs played on stand alone DVD players with no issues
– plenty of room for labeling the discs with Sharpies
– useless for Samsung WriteMaster drive owners
– 8x speeds are not fastest speeds currently available
The plus, minus and mini varieties of Playo’s discs performed quite well in testing. Both the LiteOn and Plextor drives were able to complete their write on both discs at the 8x speed, with a quality scan that was within specs. The Plextor was able to write to the mini DVD-R with a reasonable scan. Users looking to choose a routine disc for their DVDRW drive would do well to choose these discs for their burning tasks. Hopefully, Samsung will include support for these discs in their next firmware update. These discs are “LD Approved” for all digital tasks. Look for them to be included in further optical drive testing.
Special thanks to Abcron Corporation for providing their product for review.