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8x DVD, 4x Media Does it matter what type of 4x media you use in an 8x DVD+R drive?

8x DVD, 4x Media
Does it matter what type of 4x media you use in an 8x DVD+R drive?


In recent months, 8x dual-format DVD drives have largely driven slower 4x drives from the market. 8x DVD+R media is expensive and difficult to find, 8x DVD-R media is not yet available, and it can be difficult to find 4x DVD-R media. Consequently, at least for awhile, its likely that youll be feeding your 8x DVD drive 4x-rated DVD+R media when you want to make DVDs.

CAV, CLV and the True Speed of Your DVD Drive

Because DVD drives usually detect the characteristics of the media you want to burn and select a maximum speed and burning strategy accordingly, its important to understand the two major methods DVD drives use to write data:

  • constant angular velocity (CAV)
  • constant linear velocity (CLV)

As I have discussed in detail in Chapter 13 of Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 15th Anniversary Edition, most rewritable DVD drives use the CAV (constant angular velocity) method to read and write data. Because DVD (and CD) media is read and written from the spindle to the outside edge, CAV drives read and write more quickly, usually in a series of steps, as the laser moves towards the outside edge of the media.

However, the older CLV (constant linear velocity) method is still used for writing slower-rated media (typically 2.4x and 4x speeds on DVD+R media). In fact, 4x-and faster rated drives typically use CLV to access the inner portions of the media and switch to CAV to read or write the outer portions of the media, typically after the first 900MB or so of data (about 20% of the capacity of a full disc).

As a consequence, a so-called 8x rewritable DVD drive achieves that speed over only a portion of the media, and only if the media itself can be burned at that speed.

DVD Drives, Media and Burning Strategies

Early DVD-R and DVD+R-compatible drives supported only one burning speed: 2x for DVD-R; 2.4x for DVD+R, with 1x equaling a data transfer rate of 1.385MBps. As a consequence, early DVD media was designed to work at that speed only. However, with the speeds of both formats increasing, multi-speed media has become commonplace. To assure accurate burning, its important for a DVD drive to accurately identify the media and the speeds it supports.

When recordable DVD media is produced, information such as the actual manufacturer (usually not the brand on the outside of the package), capacity, and supported burn speeds are encoded at the beginning of the media. This information is read by DVD mastering software and is used to configure the software for the maximum safe burn speed to use with a particular disc of DVD media.

When 4x is Greater than 4x

The TDK 880N is one of several new 8x multi-format DVD rewritable drives which can burn certain types of 4x media at greater than 4x speeds. To determine how it performed with 4x and 8x media, I used the drive with 8x DVD+R media from Verbatim (one of the first vendors to produce 8x media) and 4x DVD+R media from Verbatim, TDK, and Sony.

For the test, I used Roxio Easy CD and DVD Creator version 6, a retail version of the software bundled with the TDK drive. I installed the latest updates available (engine version and drive update file DU20040217). The drive was tested using factory-installed firmware version 1.31. For test data, I used 4,476.7MB of data, leaving only 5.5MB free on the DVD.

Table 1 lists start-to-stop burn times for the media. To clear the file cache which Easy CD and DVD Creator creates when it reads a file list, I restarted the computer after each burn.

Table 1 DVD+R Burn Speeds Compared to Rated Media Speeds


Rated Speed

Maximum Speed Displayed During Burn

Total Time (min:sec)

















As you can see from Table 1, the 4x Sony and TDK media produced results not much slower than the much more expensive Verbatim 8x media because they support 6x burning when used with the TDK drive. However, the Verbatim 4x media supports only 4x burn speeds.

Digging Deeper with DVDInfoPro

The results shown in Table 1 were a major surprise, because many of the reviews of the TDK 880N drive list Verbatim 4x media as a type which supports faster burn rates than the rated speed. To learn more, I used DVDInfoPro version 2.42 to dig deeper into the media and the drives capabilities.

DVDInfoPro is available in a free adware (but not spyware) version or as a $20 download. It provides an immense level of detail about DVD drives installed in your computer (Figure 1) and media (Figure 2).

Figure 1 shows information about the TDK 880N drive, including firmware revision (1), buffer size (2), media types supported (3 and 4), and drive features (5). Click the Help button at the bottom of the display for more information about listed items.

Figure 1
(Click to Enlarge)

Insert blank or recorded media into the drive and select the Media button at the top of the display to determine the actual manufacturer (1), revision number (2), media type (3), vendor-rated speed (4), and available write speeds (5). The media shown in Figure 2 is DVD+R media; the information displayed is somewhat different for DVD-R or for rewritable DVD media types.

Figure 2
(Click to Enlarge)

Note that although the media being viewed in Figure 2 is labeled TDK, it is actually manufactured by Ricoh, and the drive supports writing to this media at speeds up to 5.9x using CAV. The Roxio software used this information to select 6x maximum write speed as shown in Table 1.

Comparing Different Brands of Media with DVDINFOPro

Because DVDINFOPro displays the true manufacturer of DVD media, you can use it to learn if DVD media with different brand labels is actually identical or similar. As Table 1 lists, the writing results with Sony and TDK media were almost identical. Table 2 lists the values detected by DVDINFOPro for each type of DVD media tested.

Table 2 DVD Media Information Revealed by DVDINFOPro

Media Brand

Mfr ID (1)

Rev. No. (2)

Rated Speed (4)

Max Write Speed (5)


MCC 003





MCC 002














As Table 2 shows, the Sony and TDK media are actually both made by Ricoh and have the same revision number. They produced essentially identical write performance because they are essentially the same media.

The packaging for the Verbatim 4x media used in this article has a 2002 copyright date and was sold in a jewel case. Newer types 4x-rated media from Verbatim are likely support faster burn speeds as reported elsewhere. Both types of Verbatim-brand media used in this test were made by Mitsubishi Chemical Company (MCC).


When you evaluate DVD media, especially if you buy it in bulk, keep in mind that the vendor code information stored on the media is only part of the story. In the media we tested for this article, both the Sony and TDK media were cosmetically flawless and backed by vendor warranties. However, media produced by a particular supplier which does not meet the original vendors quality-control standards might be sold under various private labels or as no-name bulk media. Although such media might be marked with the same vendor code as name-brand media, such media might have problems with the reflective layer, warpage, or other problems which can cause unreliable burns or lead to long-term reliability problems.

Even if you prefer a particular brand and speed of media, keep in mind that name-brand vendors might switch suppliers. Its a good idea to use DVD-identification software to get the inside story whenever you open a new package of media. You might discover that its not the same type of media as what youve previously purchased.


Depending upon the 4x DVD media you use and the 8x drive you use, you might be able to achieve write speeds fairly close to 8x-rated media without the expense of using 8x media. Firmware updates can improve your results with older media and help your drive cope with media types not yet available when the drive was released.

For Further Research

DVD Media Identification

Download the latest version of DVDINFOPro from http://www.dvdinfopro.com. A similar freeware program, DVD Identifier, can be downloaded from http://dvd.identifier.cdfreaks.com.

Compare the media identification information with the vendor codes and ratings available at DVDRHelps DVD Media list database http://www.dvdrhelp.com/dvdmedia.

DVD Rewritable Drive Vendors

For information about drive features, firmware updates, and recommended media types, see the drive vendors websites.

Major vendors of 8x DVD rewritable drives include:

BUSLink http://www.buslink.com

Digital Research http://www.dr-tech.com

Hewlett-Packard http://www.hp.com

Iomega http://www.iomega.com

Lite-On http://www.liteon.com (also used by many secondary vendors)

Memorex http://www.memorex.com

Pacific Digital http://www.pacificdigital.com

Pioneer http://www.pioneerelectronics.com

Plextor http://www.plextor.com (now also makes a 12x SATA DVD rewritable drive)

Sony http://www.sonystyle.com

TDK http://www.tdk.com

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