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Beginners Guide To DVD Burners

Updated on July 15, 2008

For some computer users DVD Burners are the greatest thing since Captain Picard's bald head and for others (like me) it's just an expensive coffee cup holder. There are many movie addicts who spend a large part of their lives downloading (hopefully legal) movies and burning them onto DVDs, while the rest likely have never burned anything but their fingers on the stove.

Here are the basics so any computer user can master the lingo:

Format: Any DVD burner currently on the market will be multiformat which means that they can write and rewrite all sorts of data to DVD-R/DVD-RW and DVD+R/DVD+RW formats a thousand times or more. DVD-R and DVD+R (Why can't nerd engineers come up with names that actually make sense?) can only be written to one time, but they tend to be more compatible with the less expensive or older DVD players in Home Theatre setups. Fortunately these DVD burners will also work their magic on CD-ROMs so that they can be used to create music discs to play in your car or other CD player. Burners for Blu-ray and its competitor HD-DVD are extremely expensive and meant only for the truly elite video enthusiast who simply must burn 50 GB onto one disk. There are some units available which allow you to burn DVDs and just play Blu-rays, and they will be much cheaper and more practical than the high priced full burners.

Interface: By all means go for the SATA burners if you can. Not only is it faster than the older IDE standard, but there really is no place in a modern PC system for those airflow-blocking IDE ribbon cables and those bulky power connectors from hell that you often have to use pliers to pull out and bust up your drive in the process.

Speed: This is essentially a non-issue since most DVD burners on the market now are 16 X and that is more than fast enough for anyone. You can pay a lot more money for 18 X and 20 X without really seeing any tangible benefit.

Double-Layer: It's troublesome, incompatible with almost everything and generally a pain, especially when you try to figure out the difference between DVD+R and DVD-R double layer. Double layer supposedly increases your total data on a single DVD disc from 4.7 GB to 8.5 GB. It's a lot easier to just use a second disc if you have that much data.

Labelflash & Lightscribe: If you really have to be fancy, you'll find that many DVD burners allow you to print your own label or images on the non-data side of the DVD. It's pointless bling in most cases, but some people just can't be happy unless they have placed a photo of their own puppy on their pirated torrent DVD collection of The Greatest American Dog.

Since DVD burners are becoming standard equipment on almost all new PC systems, you might as well know what you're paying for. To the minority of computer users who give their burners a good workout every day, they are well worth the price. To people like me who only use them to load up new software from a CD-ROM, they are fairly useless.

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