Beyond the Office [Burning Questions: Picking the Right Media, Part 2 - 05/24/2005]

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Ablang, May 25, 2005.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    May 24th, 2005

    Burning Questions: Picking the Right Media, Part 2

    Sr. Assoc. Ed. Melissa J. Perenson

    Even those in the know admit it: The cacophony of optical media
    options is simply dizzying. Last month, I started with the basics:

    I delve deeper this month, examining who should use printable media,
    exposing the truth behind video and music discs, and giving you the
    scoop about archivable and scratch-resistant media.

    Media Ready for Labeling

    Thermal. Inkjet. LightScribe. All of these terms describe different
    approaches to labeling your optical media. The only reason to buy
    discs in one of these formats--which you'll find from such companies
    as Imation, Memorex, RiData, TDK, and Verbatim--is if you have
    hardware that uses this kind of media. Otherwise, you'll be spending
    more money than you need to; for example, printable media may cost
    about $10 more than inkjet printable media for a 100-disc spindle.
    Thermal media can cost twice as much, and it can be used only with
    pricey thermal printers--although Primera does have an entry-level
    model, the $150 Signature Z-1 CD/DVD Printer, which I reviewed last

    Inkjet-printable discs are a great choice if you have one of Epson's
    printers that print on optical media. These printers have been around
    for a while; read what I said about them in my column on inkjet
    printable media and printers last March:

    Of course, buying such media isn't as simple as saying you want
    "inkjet printable" discs; these days, some vendors offer varieties
    within that category. For example, TDK's PrintOn DVDs come in a slick
    Photo Quality finish ($4 each), a White Matte finish ($2 each), and a
    Color Matte finish ($2 for a five-pack). Verbatim's media comes in
    surface-printable varieties and hub-printable types; the latter let
    you print on the entire disc, from the outermost edge to the innermost
    ring. Either way, the cost for Verbatim's media is $34 for 50-piece

    LightScribe media are best used in to optical drives that incorporate
    LightScribe technology, which uses a drive's laser to etch a label
    into the top side of a disc. In addition to Hewlett-Packard, several
    drive makers are shipping LightScribe drives, or will soon; among them
    are BenQ, LaCie, Lite-On, and Philips. Compatible media from makers
    such as Imation, TDK, and Verbatim command a premium over prices for
    standard discs; for example, Imation's 52X CD-R 30-disc spindle sells
    for $20--more than you'll pay for a 30-disc spindle of ordinary CD-R

    For more on LightScribe, read our review of HP's DVD Writer 640i,
    which uses the technology to good effect:

    Unfortunately, you may have to settle for slower performance if you
    choose a specialty disc. Some, including LightScribe-compatible DVDs
    from Imation, TDK, and Verbatim, and some inkjet-printable media
    (including hub-printable DVDs from Verbatim and RiData, and discs from
    Imation and TDK) max out at 8X write speeds. That's not to say that
    faster 16X media won't ever surface; but it should be a consideration
    if you value maximum performance over advanced labeling capabilities.

    Another consideration: Some of these disc types are available in the
    more popular disc formats only, such as CD-R, DVD+R, and DVD-R.
    Depending upon the format you prefer, you may find yourself forced to
    make a choice between discs in your preferred burning format and discs
    with special features that you like--such as surface-printable vs.

    Tip: If you're concerned about the speed differences, consider this:
    the actual time savings per disc between 8X and 16X media is about 2
    minutes. That's long enough to notice, but not long enough that it
    should affect your buying decision.

    CDs for Music, and DVDs for Movies

    Ah, CDs that look like vinyl records. CDs in packaging that claims
    they're music CD-Rs. DVDs that come in movie-reel tins, and have
    movie-themed designs.

    There's no lack of gimmicks in this "designer" category. And there's
    no lack of caveats for consumers, either. For one thing, most of the
    discs that get this special packaging are slower than standard-looking
    media (8X for DVD+R, for example). Plus, regardless of whether the
    discs are called "video" or "music" discs, or "movie" or "director's
    cut" discs, you can expect to ante up more money at the cash register.
    For example, 8X Memorex media costs $10 for an ordinary ten-disc
    spindle, or $15 for a ten-pack of Director's Cut discs in a tin can.

    Some of the themed packages are cute, no question--but I'd probably
    buy the discs only if they included packaging appropriate to the
    intended recording content. For example, Verbatim sells DVD-R and +R
    media with slimline DVD movie cases that could be useful if you're
    planning to burn movie discs and hand them out as gifts, or store them
    on your shelf. However, it might be just as useful--and more
    economical--to get a 50-spindle pack of media and buy the slimline
    cases separately.

    Discs marketed as being for video or music use are not specially
    optimized for those purposes. In fact, music CDs carry an extra cost
    because the manufacturers pay royalties for special technology on
    those discs. That's because they were intended for use in a CD-burning
    deck that's an audio component, and such components look for a special
    identifier on the disc that designates it as a music CD.

    Tip: If you're buying optical media to use in a living-room DVD
    recorder, pay close attention to speed ratings, especially on the
    rewritable side. If your recorder is an older model, it may have
    difficulties recognizing newer, faster media--let alone recording to
    newer discs.

    Scratch-Resistant and Archivable Media

    Handle your discs with care: This should be your maxim no matter what
    kind of disc you buy. But let's face it--stuff happens, whether it's
    because the plastic teeth in a jewel case break, or your toddler
    decides to see what happens when she scratches a DVD.

    For these reasons alone that I think buying discs billed as
    scratch-resistant or archivable is a good idea. Granted, in talking
    with experts, I've heard conflicting opinions about disc dyes, disc
    longevity, and the real-world benefits of using a gold substrate vs. a
    silver substrate. But ultimately, if a disc is well-made and properly
    cared for, it should last a long time--anywhere from 30 years to 60
    years or more, according to industry experts.

    That said, I'm not a gambler: I prefer to maximize the chances that my
    discs will last by taking measures at the outset to protect my data.
    That's why I'm glad that the National Institute of Standards and
    Technologies and the Optical Storage Technology Association are
    exploring the possibility of industry-wide labels to certify discs as
    archivable. After all, once you've bought a digital camera and
    captured irreplaceable images, don't you want to preserve them as best
    you can? Yup, that's my line of thinking, too.

    And in the meantime, I find intriguing the two approaches that disc
    makers are now taking to extend media life and protect the data on
    discs. They're long overdue steps in the right direction.

    Long-Lived CDs: On the CD-R side, we have the resurgence of interest
    in gold CD-Rs. I say resurgence, because way back in the early days of
    recordable CD, about a decade or so ago, Kodak offered a line of gold
    CD-Rs that were actually made out of a gold-and-silver alloy. Now you
    can find two companies marketing gold CD-Rs: MAM-A, which has quietly
    sold gold discs for years, using Mitsui Chemical's phthalocyanine dye;
    and Delkin, a company that has focused on digital photography supplies
    and is marketing the discs to photo hounds.

    MAM-A offers two varieties of 640MB gold CD-Rs, standard and archive.
    The discs are all made the same, but the archival media is held to a
    higher quality assurance standard. Both discs include a 24-caret gold
    substrate. The company says that since gold is not a corrosive metal,
    the discs will not degrade as quickly as discs made of other
    materials--like silver, for example. In theory, though, if a silver
    disc is sealed properly and the substrate is not exposed to the
    elements, that disc shouldn't degrade, either.

    MAM-A's standard and archival discs both use phthalocyanine dye, which
    the company says is UV resistant--a boon just in case you
    inadvertently leave your discs in direct sunlight. The discs also have
    a scratch-resistant coating. They're more costly than standard CD-Rs,
    but then again, these discs are not designed to compete with
    free-after-rebates CD spindles.

    Sadly, MAM-A's technology is limited to CD-Rs at this time. The
    company says it's looking into the viability of creating archivable
    gold DVDs, and it expects to have the results of longevity testing in
    the next few months. But even if MAM-A produces archival-quality DVD
    media, the company says the burn speeds will be slower than the max
    16X of DVD media. This is due to gold's low reflectivity, which slows
    down a disc's burn.

    Scratch-Resistant DVDs: The other big trend in media is the evolution
    of scratch-resistant coatings offered by TDK on its Armor Plated
    discs, which are billed as being up to 100 times more
    scratch-resistant than ordinary discs); by Verbatim, on discs using
    VideoGard (in spite of its name, these scratch-resistance discs are
    not limited to protecting video); and by Imation, on discs using
    ForceField Scratch-Resistant Coating. These discs typically burn more
    slowly than those you'll find in a standard spindle--and, of course,
    they carry premium price tags. But they're worth using for important

    Scratch-resistant coatings won't completely prevent scratches or other
    damage, but they do provide better protection for your data than an
    ordinary disc can. I've tried the Armor Plated discs, and doing so
    gave me peace of mind: I found them easier to clean and resistant to
    the casual scratches I tried to inflict with my fingernails, the
    plastic teeth of a broken case, and a pen. Unfortunately, TDK's discs
    are available in DVD-R format only, and they're $4 a pop. Imation's
    ForceField DVD-R and +R media are available on spindles: a 30-disc
    spindle costs $40. And Verbatim's discs--available in DVDR and
    DVDR/RW--are not much more costly than standard media when bought in
    a multi-disc spindle.

    Tip: Buy a spindle of standard discs for everyday use, but back up
    precious images or make special recordings on hard-coat,
    scratch-resistant media.

    Confused by all these media options? If it makes you feel any better,
    we in the United States have it easy. Typically, our local stores have
    only a handful of shelves of various optical media types. In contrast,
    on a recent visit to Tokyo I saw entire store walls stocked with
    shelves full of a confusing array of DVD and CD media.

    For the latest news on optical media, plus DVD drive reviews, go to
    our new DVD Drives and Recorders Info Center:

    Have a question or comment? Write to Melissa Perenson:
    burningquestions at

    Read Melissa J. Perenson's regularly published "Burning Questions"

    "Until last October, Christ had a very limited involvement in my life. I believed in God; I just never had to prove I believed. Belief is an absence of proof."
    -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling
    Ablang, May 25, 2005
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