We're used to seeing lots of OEM drives here at PC Advisor. These are the ones that come without software, installation kits, instructions and so on. So the Sony DRU-810A, which comes in a full retail package, makes a nice change – and will come as a relief to those of you not previously well-acquainted with the world of DVD writers.

For a start, the instructions are expansive. From the whistle-stop tour of the software suite to the quick-start installation guide, it's very in-depth. Indeed, there's even a leaflet explaining how to replace the front panel, which will prove particularly useful should you have a black PC case.

You also get a decent software bundle. Although Ahead Software's Nero Suite is fairly commonplace now, it's still a very nice package, with a battery of options and facilities.

But now for the grumbles. With so many DVD writers hitting the shops now, the Sony needs some interesting specifications to stand out, but it doesn't quite achieve this. It supports most of the main standards, but DVD-RAM is conspicuous by its absence. We've almost come to be disappointed by not seeing full support for this user-friendly and incredibly convenient mode. The +R speeds are fairly good, but aren't matched by the equivalents for -R, the 4x -R DL facility in particular.

The Sony wrote 3GB of data to DVD+Rs in less than five minutes, and DVD-Rs were only a few seconds shy of this mark. We've had some drives setting a fierce standard on the DVD-RW and DVD+RW tests, and the Sony's times were decent but not outstanding, while 8x DVD+R DL capabilities were good, if not quite up to the current highest standards. The 4x DVD-R DL is obviously a non-starter.

Sony DRU-810A: Specs

  • 48x/48x/32x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) 16x/16x/16x/4x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW) drive
  • EIDE interface
  • max DVD storage capacity 8.5GB
  • 2MB drive buffer
  • average access time (DVD) 135ms
  • Ahead Nero Suite
  • 2-year warranty
  • 48x/48x/32x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) 16x/16x/16x/4x/8x/6x/8x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW) drive
  • EIDE interface
  • max DVD storage capacity 8.5GB
  • 2MB drive buffer
  • average access time (DVD) 135ms
  • Ahead Nero Suite
  • 2-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

It's nice to see a DVD writer with a proper retail pack. Otherwise, though, the Sony DRU-810A doesn't really stand out. Some of its speeds are rather ordinary, and overall performance is reasonable without being compelling. This is a safe bet, but for searing performance you might want to look elsewhere.

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