Two DVD±RW Dual Layer Burners Reviewed: Pioneer DVR-110D and Toshiba SD-R5472

As new DVD media types emerge, the DVD burners become more and more affordable in price. Today we are looking at the solutions from two well-known optical drives makers: Toshiba and Pioneer. Which one is going to become the best buy for the buck?

by Andrey Kuznetcov
10/17/2005 | 01:15 PM

I am offering you a review of two drives capable to burn DVD media. Such devices have got quite affordable nowadays not only due to fierce competition among the manufacturers but also due to the imminent arrival of next-generation optical drives that will work with new DVD media types. It is possible that the price factor will become a reason for you to buy one of the devices I’m about to discuss, to replace your older and less functional optical drive.

Closer Look AT Testing Participants

Pioneer DVR-110D

 

This DVD-burner from Pioneer doesn’t try to entice you with original design solutions. There is just a bare minimum of details on the front panel – a rectangular Eject button and a LED indicator on the front panel. The rear panel carries power and interface connectors, an analog audio output and a jumper with pins (another jumper is meant for factory testing purposes). The drive’s speed formula looks like that:

The drive can be positioned vertically as well as horizontally. Its average retail price is $59.

Toshiba SD-R5472

The SD-R5472 model from Toshiba has a standard plain design of the front panel, too. The faceplate on our sample is black, but white-colored models are also available. An Eject button and a LED indicator are the only things you find on the front panel. On the rear panel of the drive there are interface and power connectors, a jumper with pins to set the device’s status on an IDE channel, and analog and digital audio outputs. The drive’s specification follows below:

The average retail price of this model is $47.

Testbed and Methods

We used the following programs and utilities to explore the operational parameters of the drives:

The testbed was configured like follows:

I tested the drives in the same state as I had received them (or as you would have them right after the purchase).

Nero Info Tool and DVDINFOPro

These utilities can report more information about the capabilities of the drives to us.

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

You may note that besides the difference in CD read and write speeds the drives differ in the ability of the Pioneer DVR-110D to process DVD-RAM media and of the Toshiba SD-R5472 to work with CD+G discs.

Performance

CD WinBench 99

As usual, I tested the drives in WinBench 99 using a molded CD-ROM and two its copies made on CD-R and CD-RW discs.

CD-ROM

CD-R

CD-RW

Pioneer DVR-110D

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Toshiba SD-R5472

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The read speed graphs show that the drives met no problems as they were reading the discs. The data-transfer graphs of the Toshiba SD-R5472 have an almost ideal shape even.

The Toshiba SD-R5472 has a better CD WinMark score: having higher declared read speeds, it is really faster than the Pioneer DVR-110D in practice. Moreover, the Toshiba SD-R5472 has a much better access time as measured by WinBench.

Nero CD-DVD Speed: Basic CD Tests

I used five CD media to perform these tests: a molded CD-ROM enclosed with a computer magazine, 700MB data CD-R and CD-RW discs recorded by Nero CD-DVD Speed itself, a likewise prepared 800MB CD-R, and an Audio CD.

CD-ROM

CD-R

CD-R 800MB

CD-RW

CD-DA

Pioneer DVR-110D

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Toshiba SD-R5472

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You may note the strange behavior of the Pioneer DVR-110D with the 800MB CD-R – there are three stretches with a constant rotational speed on the diagram, and the speeds on these stretches decline towards the outermost tracks of the disc.

The Toshiba SD-R5472 could achieve its declared maximum speed on the CD-ROM only. With the other test discs the drive’s read speed was around 42x. As for the remaining parameters, the Toshiba SD-R5472 has a much better access time and disc recognition time. The Pioneer DVR-110D, in its turn, has an advantage in the Spin Up, Spin Down and Eject subtests.

Nero CD-DVD Speed: Basic DVD Tests

The second group of tests is concerned with DVD formats. I used six discs to get a full picture of performance of the drives: a DVD-ROM with a video movie and its copies made on DVD-R (Digitex), DVD-RW (TDK), DVD+R (Fujifilm), and DVD+RW (Verbatim) discs. I also used a dual-layer DVD+R from RIDATA with MPEG-4 movie files.

DVD-ROM

DVD-R

DVD-RW

DVD+R

DVD+RW

DVD+R DL

Pioneer DVR-110D

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Toshiba SD-R5472

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The Pioneer DVR-110D couldn’t read the DVD+R DL disc and was somewhat unconfident at processing the DVD-R and DVD-RW discs, as indicated by the data-transfer rates on the appropriate graphs above. Contrary to its opponent, the Toshiba SD-R5472 performed successfully with each media type.

The Toshiba SD-R5472 is a little better in the Read speed, Access time and Load + recognize subtests. The Pioneer DVR-110D, however, wins the Spin Up, Spin Down and Disc Eject subtests.

Nero CD-DVD Speed: Advanced DAE Quality Test

Using the Advanced DAE Quality Test we will determine hardware characteristics of the drives pertaining to the process of getting accurate audio copies of CD-DA media. Two CD-R discs prepared by Nero CD-DVD Speed are used in this test. One audio disc is normal; the other has defects of the surface, imitating your trying to make a copy from a long-used, bad-quality audio compact-disc.

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

The first group of screenshots shows the results of the drives with the high-quality disc. Both tested devices successfully got a 100% quality score, but this is the only thing they are identical in. The rest of the parameters differ between the two drives. For example, the Pioneer DVR-110D is much worse than the Toshiba at “on the fly” copying and has a bigger offset, but it can read the CD Text information besides the sub-channel data. The average audio extraction speed is low with the Pioneer, too, but this is expectable, seeing how the drive has performed in the main tests above. Thus, the Toshiba SD-R5472 is preferable of these two drives when it comes to processing normal quality audio discs.

Pioneer DVR-110D

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

And this is how the drives process the bad Audio CD. Well, the Pioneer DVR-110D was found to be unable to read the disc at all. It gave out an error message even at a reduced read speed. The Toshiba SD-R5472, on the contrary, had no troubles whatsoever and achieved a nearly 100% quality score, thus winning this test.

Nero CD-DVD Speed: Advanced DAE Error Correction Test

We ran the Advanced DAE Error Correction test with the bad Audio CD prepared in Nero CD-DVD Speed to check the drives’ ability to process errors that occur during the audio ripping process. The program determines how many C2 errors should be found by the drive and how many errors the drive actually finds and then produces C2 Accuracy and Quality Score parameters which reflect the efficiency of the hardware error-correction logic in the given drive. Unlike the previous test, this one not only tells how many errors occur as the drive is reading an audio CD, but also evaluates the drive’s ability to find such errors.

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

The screenshots show that the efficiency of the hardware error-correction of the Pioneer DVR-110D is rather low. It can only find about two out of each three C2 errors. This is obviously not enough to process a scratched disc normally. The Toshiba SD-R5472, on the contrary, has an almost ideal percentage of found C2 errors. So, you understand what drive wins this test.

Nero CD DAE

Using this rather old, yet very simple utility, we measure the speed of the drives when they extract audio tracks from a normal audio CD and convert them into WAV-files. Each track is read two times to identify errors.

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

The Toshiba SD-R5472 took less time than the Pioneer to complete this test (the difference in speed in quite expectable, considering the results of the previous tests), but has quite a lot of errors.

Exact Audio Copy

The second audio-extraction program we use in our tests differs from Nero CD DAE in allowing the user to enable specific hardware features of the optical drive to achieve the maximum possible quality.

Before extracting audio tracks we used the Drive Options menu to determine the hardware characteristics of the drives. Besides the general report about the drive’s properties, we used the bad Audio CD prepared in Nero CD-DVD Speed to determine the drive’s ability to process C2 errors. Then we switched the most effective Secure Mode on and extracted audio tracks from the same disc as in the Nero CD DAE test, converting them into WAV-files.

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

As you can see on the screenshots, the Pioneer DVR-110D was found incapable of processing C2 errors. But it supports the Accurate Stream mode and caches audio data. The Toshiba SD-R5472 is reported not to do audio data caching, but to support C2 errors and Accurate Stream. The Toshiba SD-R5472 was also much faster at extracting audio tracks, probably because it didn’t have to reread the disc to search for errors since audio data caching was not enabled in the program’s settings.

Nero CD-DVD Speed: Disc Quality Test with Different Media

I took several DVD discs to check how well the drives can burn DVD media. The discs were all recorded with Nero Burning Rom at the maximum possible speeds they were rated for by their manufacturers. The quality check was then performed in the Toshiba SD-R5472 drive at 4x speed.

As for the disc quality criteria, the ECMA standards for DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW media say that the total number of PI errors in 8 subsequent ECC blocks should not exceed 280. This is the first limiting value I will base my judgments upon. Then, an ECC block should not contain more than four irrecoverable PI errors (an irrecoverable PI error is referred to as PI failure by the CD-DVD Speed utility).

DVD discs that have no more than 280 PI errors per eight ECC blocks and 4 PI failures per one ECC block should be considered acceptable-quality media. Besides these criteria, you should also note how the errors are distributed along the surface of the disc. Of course, it is the worst situation when the errors exceed the acceptable limit on the entire surface. Single and short-time spikes of errors are less dangerous.

Digitex DVD+R 8x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

A DVD+R 8x disc from Digitex is going to be tested first. The Toshiba SD-R5472 could only burn it at 4x, however. The screenshots above are indicative of high quality of both discs. The maximums of PI Errors and Failures are always within the acceptable ranges as described by the ECMA recommendations. The total number of errors is low on each disc, too. The quality of the disc recorded by the Pioneer DVR-110D is a little better than of the disc recorded by the Toshiba.

RIDATA DVD+R 16x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

The drives couldn’t provide the same superb burn quality with the RIDATA discs as in the previous test. By the way, the Toshiba SD-R5472 could only burn this disc at 12x, and the Pioneer DVR-110D at 4x speed. Formally speaking, the quality of the disc recorded by the Pioneer DVR-110D is poor due to the unacceptably high level of PI Failures. Yet there are only two such spikes here, and the PI Failure rate is normal on the rest of the disc’s surface.

The RIDATA disc was better recorded by the Toshiba SD-R5472: the maximums of the errors of both types are much lower, just like their total number. The burn quality is also uniform throughout the entire disc.

TDK DVD+R 8x ScratchProof

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

This is how the drives processed the scratchproof medium from TDK. I can see no problems here. Both recorded discs have “uniform” burn quality throughout their surface and have much lower rates of PI Errors and Failures than it is required by the ECMA standards. Yet I must note that there are fewer errors on the disc recorded by the Toshiba SD-R5472 than on the Pioneer disc.

TDK DVD+R 16x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

Both drives perform well with the high-speed media from TDK. The number of errors of both types is much lower than the maximum acceptable levels set by ECMA, but once again there are fewer errors on the disc recorded by the Toshiba SD-R5472, especially as concerns PI Failures.

Verbatim DVD+R 16x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

A Verbatim medium is the last representative of the DVD+R format, and both optical drives burn it very well. There are few errors on the discs – they are both far on the safe side of the ECMA requirements. Yet if we compare the discs between each other, the Toshiba SD-R5472 drive should be considered the winner of this test – there are much less errors in total on the blank it recorded.

Digitex DVD-R 8x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

Now we can switch to the DVD-R format, represented by a Digitex medium. This time the quality of the two discs is very different, unlike in the previous tests. The Toshiba SD-R5472 fails this test completely, having much more PI Errors and PI Failures than allowed by the ECMA standards. The quality is downright bad at the end of the disc. The disc recorded by the Pioneer DVR-110D is, on the contrary, fully compliant with the quality standards. The only thing you can cavil at is that the burn quality is not quite uniform throughout the disc (there’s a noticeable surge of PI Errors at the beginning of the graph).

TDK DVD-R 8x ScratchProof

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

Pioneer is in fact one of the developers of the “minus” format, so the company’s DVR-110D drive processes DVD-R discs just superbly. The scratchproof DVD-R disc from TDK recorded by this drive at 8x speed has an acceptable number of errors. The only thing that spoils the overall picture somewhat is the worsening of the burn quality towards the end of the medium. The disc recorded by the Toshiba SD-R5472 is a little worse, with a few surges of PI Failures above the acceptable maximum. The total number of errors of both types is bigger on the disc from Toshiba, too.

Fujifilm DVD+RW 4x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

We’ve got to rewritable media at last, and first comes a DVD+RW disc from Fujifilm. The screenshots above do not differ much, with the maximum of PI Failures being a little above the norm in both cases. The disc from the Toshiba SD-R5472 looks somewhat better, though. It has a smaller total of errors and more uniform write quality throughout the disc.

TDK DVD+RW 4x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

Both drives perform worse with the rewritable medium from TDK. The maximum level of PI Failures is exceeded on both recorded discs. The errors are distributed on both discs in a similar manner.

Digitex DVD-RW 4x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

Neither of the drives could produce an acceptable-quality disc in this test, too. The level of PI Failures is too high on both Digitex DVD-RW discs recorded at 4x speed. You can also see that the errors on the disc recorded by the Toshiba SD-R5472 are mostly concentrated in a single spot.

Verbatim DVD-RW 4x

Pioneer DVR-110D

Toshiba SD-R5472

The last medium to be tested, a DVD-RW disc from Verbatim, provoked no troubles with either of the drives. The errors are all within acceptable ranges. The disc recorded by the Pioneer DVR-110D is especially good: the PI Errors and PI Failures graphs are indicative of stable burn quality throughout the entire disc and of a small total number of errors.

Conclusion

It’s now time to sum up the results of the tests and come to some conclusions. I will try to put down the pros and cons of each drive and compare them against each other. And I should say right away that the Toshiba SD-R5472 wins this comparison. It offers more useful functions and these functions are also better implemented. I mean the hardware C2 error correction in the first place. The Toshiba is also preferable as a device to making accurate copies of Audio CDs with and it was just faster on the discs I tested. The burn quality provided by the Toshiba SD-R5472 is overall high (except for DVD-R and the rewritable formats) This drive also seems to be better in terms of compatibility with discs recorded in other optical drives and in processing damaged, scratched media.

The Pioneer DVR-110D, on its part, produces high-quality DVD-R discs (probably because this format is native for the company) and works better with rewritable media.

Considering that the Toshiba SD-R5472 is cheaper than the Pioneer ($47 against $59), I think the Toshiba model is preferable of these two optical drives. There’s no difference between these devices in design, and you can select the color of the front panel to your taste.

As a final remark I want to say that I only base my conclusion on the results of my tests, with the current firmware versions. A firmware update may improve the behavior of a drive and its performance will be quite different.