This has been the first test of a Blu-ray-compliant optical drive performed in our labs, yet I don’t feel much satisfied. Why?
Well, it is never easy to transition from something old to something new and the Pioneer BDR-101A is an example of my point. Lying on the surface is the problem of its incompatibility with classic CD media, so you can’t transition easily from your old optical drive to the new one. Most users still have a lot of CDs with important information they would have to copy to DVDs if they buy this optical drive. This may not work always, however (for example, with copy-protected games). So, the user will probably have to leave his older drive in the system to read CDs. It seems to be simpler for those users who only begin their computer life and haven’t got a large repository of CDs. Still, there is the problem that quite a lot of software and games are supplied on CDs only. By the way, backward compatibility with DVD and CD media is desirable according to the Blu-ray standard, but is not obligatory. Each manufacturer decides this for itself and Pioneer decided not to provide that compatibility.
The second aspect that is hard to pass by is the price factor. The price of the Pioneer BDR-101A doesn’t seem adequate to its consumer value right now. This is expectable, though. High-tech products always begin selling at indecently high prices as their manufacturers want to get maximum profit from them. On the other hand, the high price is a hindrance to increasing the sales volume of fundamentally new devices while the competition isn’t intensive and the pricing doesn’t change quickly. Right now, the Pioneer BDR-101A costs about as much as a full-featured midrange computer.
This drive might be more appealing for the user if there were more Blu-ray discs with HD video, games and software. Such discs are few so far. This situation will surely be changing in favor of the new format, but not too soon. There are also few blank BD media selling, which also cost quite a lot. HDDs or DVDs are yet preferable to them as a means to store large amounts of data in terms of cost per gigabyte.
Besides these two negative aspects, the Pioneer BDR-101A is not very fast with DVDs. Users who have got used to 16x, 18x and 20x modes may not like it at all.
Still, the overall picture is not so gloomy. Everything I’ve written above applies to any device of this new standard. The Pioneer BDR-101A is not a poor device by itself. Most of our test DVD discs were recorded in it with good quality, and the problem with the DVD+RW discs must have been a case of individual incompatibility.
I would have wanted to check out the drive’s Blu-ray capability more, but I just didn’t have enough of Blu-ray media. We’ll solve this problem before our future reviews of such devices.
Summing it up, I guess it’s yet too early for a majority of users to buy a Blu-ray drive. The functionality such a drive can offer is not worth its price. Some Web sources promise a price reduction soon and it’s only after such a reduction that Blu-ray drives will become truly appealing.