The Contenders (cont.)
There are a couple of major strikes against DVD-RAM recorders for the home...and the first is price. Home DVD-RAM recorders are available fom Matsushita, Panasonic and Toshiba, but they start around $2500. The other strike against it? DVD-RAM discs cannot be played back on a standard DVD player. DVD-RAM can record up to 4.7 GB of data per disk side, and must be manually turned over to get to the other side.
On the otherhand, DVD-RAM drives for the PC are reasonably priced. They can be purchased for under $400. DVD-RAM drives can record 2.6GB of data per side of a 5.2 GB disc and are backward compatible with DVD-ROM and CD-ROM formats.
With support from Philips, Sony, RCA, Yamaha, Mitsubishi and HP, DVD RW shows considerable strength. DVD RW are compatible with nearly all the existing DVD players in consumer's homes and should play most Audio CD's and CD-R's. DVD RW drives can record up to 4 hours of video (depending on quality) on a 4.7GB disc. DVD RW drives come with a digital video port to connect it directly to a camcorder. The home units are still pricey, however, at about $2,000. Look for the units to be released this Fall.
Ironically, Sony and Yamaha also support Pioneer's format, DVD-RW. It's called "hedging your bet", eh? Early versions of this format required drives that cost $17,000 with $40 blank discs. Fortunately, current drives ONLY cost $2,400. Like the DVD RW drives, the DVD-RW also include a digital video port. Pioneer's last drive, the DVR-2000, includes a TV tuner and timer to act like a VCR. DVD-RW discs are also compatible with most existing DVD players. Using real-time MPEGII compression, up to 6 hours of video can be recorded on one 4.7GB DVD-RW disc. The drives will be also be capable of recording DVD-R and will allow direct rewrites sequentially or on a random, block-by-block basis. There are 41 manufacturers supporting this format.
Well, for consumers it looks like there will might be a winner in the recordable format; DVD-R. It's adoption by both Apple and Compaq will certainly hasten that. However, it's anybody's guess when it comes to the rewritable DVD drives. Until there is a winner declared, consumers should probably sit on the sidelines. But if sitting on the sidelines cramps your style, there are a couple of alternatives (not counting cold showers). Sony will be releasing a RW dual-compatible recorder that records and plays back video in DVD-RW and DVD RW formats. If you can wait a little longer, Pioneer unveiled a prototype last month for their new all-in-one optical disc drive that reads DVD-ROM and CD-ROM and writes to DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R and CD-RW. It should be available early next year at more reasonable consumer level prices.