Review: Pioneer DVR-A08XL ($149)
Posted Feb 4, 2005

In less than a year DVD recorder speeds have shot through the roof. Meanwhile prices have dropped through the floor. Pioneer, fortunately, has met the challenge with its powerful yet affordable DVR-A08XL.

Physically, one recorder looks pretty well like the next but still the DVR-A08 stands out with its attractively sculpted beige, black or silver front bezel. And more than just a pretty face, the unit boasts solid writing credentials including 16x DVD±R, 4x DVD±RW, 32x CD-R, and 24x CD-RW operation. Most noteworthy, the DVR-A08 is the first recorder to write DVD+R Double Layer (DL) discs at 4x speed thus leaving its competitors in the dust. During testing 4x cut the time it took to write a full 8.5GB disc from a mind-numbing 44 minutes (typical of 2.4x units) to a more reasonable 27 minutes. And it's worth noting that to improve the playback compatibility of DL discs the unit writes using the prerecorded media code. On the downside, 4x is currently supported only by Verbatim media.

Some competing units write "plus" faster than "dash" discs but the DVR-A08 handles both expertly at 16x. During testing this translated to 6:32 to write a full DVD-R and 6:48 for a DVD+R. These results are roughly a minute slower than those from the fastest 16x recorders I've tested but the difference doesn't amount to much unless dozens of discs are being written at a sitting. The same can be said for CD-R and CD-RW taking 4:00, DVD+RW 14:10 and DVD-RW 15:05 each.

Delightfully, the DVR-A08 writes many popular brands of 8x-rated discs at 12x and 16x speeds. Out of seven DVD-R and DVD+R disc manufacturers tested, three of each type wrote at 12x speed and two at 16x. Surprisingly, using proper 16x-rated media proved to be a waste of time with but one disc out of six testing at 12x and the remaining five brands at 4x speed. Also setting the DVR-A08 apart is its ability to read DVD-RAM discs (bare), a handy feature for importing material captured with DVD-RAM camcorders or set-top units. Convenience aside, the unit disappointed during testing by reading all DVD-RAM discs (including the latest high speed varieties) at only 2x speed. In concrete terms it took 28 minutes to read a 5x-rated disc so DVD-RAM users will be better off looking at a full blown DVD Multi Recorder such as LG's latest GSA-4160B which can do the same in 12 minutes flat.

Rounding out Pioneer's bundle are the rudimentary, yet functional, DVD MovieFactory 3.5 SE, VideoStudio 8 SE DVD, Photo Explorer 8.5 SE, Burn.Now 1.5 and DVD Player from Ulead System and NovaBACKUP 7.1 from NovaStor.

Quibbles aside, Pioneer's DVR-A08 is a superior unit packing practical features with winning double layer writing performance to make it an excellent choice for use in any video authoring or production environment.