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CD Freaks @ CeBit 2004

Posted 21 March 2004 20:58 CET by G@M3FR3@K

Just like last year CD Freaks has visited the CeBit event, held in Hannover Germany. This large technology exhibition is a great opportunity to meet the people we're writing about. Almost all important companies from the Optical Storage Industry are displaying their new products during this event and thus it's a great opportunity to ask the companies some questions. Because the CeBit is so huge, it's impossible to visit every company but we of course tried to visit as many companies as we could. In this article you can read our report. We apologize to our visitors who are using a slow Internet connection!

Visited companies, day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 1, March 18th


BenQ:

BenQ announced that it will launch S-ATA (Serial-ATA) versions of their optical drives in the last quarter of this year. Drives supporting dual layer recording are expected to be released in June but it depends on media development. BenQ thinks that dual layered DVD discs will also be released in June but they're not certain and thus they couldn't provide us with a launch data of their dual layer DVD recorders.

According to BenQ the maximum recording speed for dual layered DVD discs will probably be 4x. The initial speed will be 2.4x. The maximum recording speed for single layered DVD discs will be 16x, using the CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) recording method. BenQ said that they think that the DVD+R recording speeds will jump from 8x to 16x and thus 12x drives will not be released, or if they do, they won't stay on the market very long. Multispeed drives supporting recording speeds of 8x~16x will probably become the standard.


Nero CD/DVD Speed results writing 16x DVD+R media using the BenQ DW1600. The spike in the recording speed you see is normal (read: required). When writing DVDs at high speeds the laser needs to be re-calibrated during the recording process.

BitSetting for DVD+R/RW media is officially supported by the company and so is the Mount Rainier format.

Interesting products that BenQ showed at CeBit were the DW1600 (IDE) and the DW1650 drive with S-ATA interface. The dual format drives will support dual layer recording, 8x DVD-R and 16x DVD+R recording speeds. Another interesting product was the dual format DW822A drive which will also support DVD9 (dual layer).


Overview of new BenQ products.

Plextor:

As most of our readers will know, Plextor will introduce the PX-712A DVD recorder. The drive will support 12x P-CAV DVD+R and 8x DVD-R recording speed. Dual layer will not be supported for this drive but Plextor did say that dual layer was interesting. A while back we posted some information about the Sanyo chipset that the Plextor PX-712A will use. The specifications of this chipset are 'better' (read: supports higher recording speeds) than what the PX-712A will support. Plextor said that this was because they cannot guarantee quality at recording speeds that are too high and thus they choose to support lower speeds, for which they can guarantee the write quality.

Plextor showed us a new version of the PlexTools Professional software which will support DVD error measurement testing using the PX-712A drive. Unfortunately the older Plextor PX-708A drive will not support PI/PO error measurements. The FE/TE and Beta/Jitter tests will also be supported for DVD media. The PlexTools software will have an option with which you can control the drive DVD read speeds. Normally the read speed for DVDs is locked but via the software this can be unlocked. The so-called SpeedRead DVD option will may also be introduced for the PX-708A drive.


PlexTools Professional DVD error measurement test (PI/PO). Notice the PX-712SA (S-ATA) drive in the list of devices.


PlexTools Professional DVD recording transfer rate test. Notice the spikes in the recording speed. Here is where the laser is re-callibrated.

The new PlexTools software can now also give you information on the supported recording speeds for the inserted media. So, when you insert a DVDR disc into your Plextor recorder the PlexTools software will show you at which speeds the media can be written. This information is reported by the recorder itself.


Plextor PX-712A and PX-712SA drives. You can also see the S-ATA cables.

BTC:

BTC announced to us that next week or the week after that they will release a BitSetting utility with which you can turn your DVD+R/RW discs into DVD-ROM discs. They have also launches a new website, drvupdate.com, via which you can check and update your firmware online. BTC may perhaps also release a DVD error measurement program but initially this will only be available to hardware testers.

BTC expects that 12x DVD recorders will not be produced and instead they will jump straight to 16x burners instead. S-ATA drives are expected to be released in the fourth quarter of this year.

Interesting products that BTC showed us were the DRW1108IM and DRW1108IB drives, both 8x dual format DVD recorders. The difference between the drives is that the DRW1108IB drive will have a built-in media reader (as will many of the other BTC drives). The media reader can read 7 types of flash media and on the front of the BTC drive you will also find an USB 2.0 port for easy access. BTC said that they were also working on coloured front bezels (black, silver, etc.) for their drives in retail packages. In the package you will find the different fronts and you can pick a colour that matches your case.


BTC DRW1108 8x DVD±R recorder.


BTC DRW1108 8x DVD±R recorder with card reader and USB 2.0.

When it came to dual layered DVD recording BTC didn't release much information. They haven't planned any drives and they expect that it will take some time before we'll see the first DVD recorders support dual layer. Even though companies such as Philips have already announced dual layer DVD recorder, they don't think we'll see these drive in store any time soon.

Waitec:

Unfortunately we were unable to contact someone from Waitec but luckily we did spot some of their new products:


Waitec Action 16 supports 16x DVD+R and 8x DVD-R recording speeds.


Waitec Action 16 EX external model.


Waitec Action 8 supports 8x DVD+R and 8x DVD-R recording speeds.

Day 2, March 19th


Philips:

The most interesting thing we saw today, and probably of the complete CeBit event, was Philips' demonstration of the dual layer (DL) DVD+R discs. During the demonstration we could see a real time DL recording session, using the Nero Burning Rom 6 software. The Nero software is the first software to support DL recording because Ahead, creators of the Nero software, simply reacted immediately when Philips announced DL recording. According to Philips DL recording is actually not that hard to implement into software. This is because the drive handles the technical details whilst the software only tells the drive that a DL DVD+R disc will be recorded and informs the drive when it should insert a layer break.


Philips dual layer disc and recorder.


Philips dual layer presentation setup.

The DL recording methods will be very similar to single layer (SL) recording for the end user. When a dual layer disc is used, the amount of data that has to be written will be divided in two (roughly). Between the two data parts a layer break will be inserted. So, for example, when you want to record 4GB of data to a DL disc, 2GB of data will be written to both layers.


Double layer recording session with Nero 6. Nothing has changed, except for the size of the compilation bar: 9000MB.

According to Philips it will not be possible to upgrade existing 8x DVD recorders to DL layer recorders, contrary to what some rumours are saying. In theory the laser power of an 8x drive is strong enough to handle DL but the problem is, is that the OPU (Optical Pickup Unit) of the drive is often not good enough. This will lead to quality problems. However, some drives with good OPUs could, in theory, be upgraded although they'd have to be handpicked.

Another interesting thing that Philips told us is that the layer break can be delayed. This means that the recorder can determine when it should insert a layer break because it is preferred to do this between two cells instead of in the middle of a cell. This is very useful for standalone DVD+R recorders (DVD+VR).


Written dual layer DVD+R disc.

A spokesperson for Philips also gave us some insights into the differences between DVD-R and DVD+R. A while back we already posted an article on this which explained the technical differences so we won't go into details. However, we of course did hear some more interesting information. In The Netherlands for example, there is a levy on DVDR media but the levy is higher for DVD-R media than it is for DVD+R media. This is because the DVD+R format uses a different method of copy protection than DVD-R. DVD-R discs have pre-recorded bits which cannot be overwritten. These bits are simply zeros but they prevent the user from copying the keys from original DVD-Video discs. The DVD+R discs don't have pre-recorded bits and protection is done via the firmware of a DVD recorder. Every DVD+R video drive will also refuse to play any disc that has encryption keys on it. One thing that everyone will wonder of course is, why would we even want to copy the keys of a DVD-Video disc when we can simply remove them with software like DVD Decrypter or AnyDVD? The answer is simple, you wouldn't…

The last thing we asked Philips was of course, when can we expect the drive to hit the market? Philips expects that it will be around May for a price of 169 EURO's. Their 16x drive will also be available soon. 16x will also be the highest recording speed for a DVDR disc although you can never be absolutely sure. For instance, one company (BenQ) mentioned to us that 4x would be the maximum recording speed for DL discs but the spokesperson for Philips said that it will probably go faster than that.

The last thing that Philips mentioned to us was that they expect that high speed DVD+R media like 16x will work better at higher recording speeds. According to Philips it's actually not that hard to handle 16x DVD+R burning because the DVD+R discs use a recording wobble which is very robust, far more robust than the pre-bits that DVD-R uses.

NEC:

NEC was showing their HD-DVD (High Definition) recording format at CeBit. According to NEC this new format should not be seen as the follow-up of DVD but more as an improvement. The HD-DVD format will use blue laser technology and it will be backwards compatible with CD and DVD. The HD-DVD discs will become available in the following sizes:

Single Layer/Single Sided: 15GB
Double Layer/Single Sided: 30GB
Single Layer/Double Sided: 30GB
Double Layer/Double Sided: 60GB

NEC expects that the HD-DVD format will introduced in Europe at the end of 2005 or 2006. It depends a little on when HD-TV will be introduced in Europe because that's when there will be a need for mass storage. HD-DVD will be introduced in America at then end of 2005.


HD DVD specifications and pit comparison of read-only discs.

We of course also asked NEC about any new optical drives. NEC will introduce the 8x dual format ND-2500A as many of our readers already know. More interesting is that they will also introduce the ND-2510A drive supporting dual layer DVD+R recording. The ND-2510A drive will basically be the same drive as the ND-2500A but with a different firmware. Before any of you start thinking about upgrading the ND-2500A into a ND-2510A, just upgrading the firmware is not enough. Just as Philips said, the drive has to have a higher quality OPU for it to handle DL properly. The ND-2510A is expected to be released in May.


NEC ND-2500A/ND2510A specifications.

NEC expects to introduce a 16x DVD+R recorder in September of this year. A 12x drive will not be released simply because the lifecycle of the product will be too short. NEC also indicated that DL DVD-R recording will maybe be ready at the end of this year but initially it will only support 1x recording. 16x DVD-R should also be ready at the end of this year. Last but not least, S-ATA drives will be ready this autumn but it will depend on OEM requests mainly.

Lite-On:

Lite-On didn't have that many new optical drives to show us. Lite-On will release a drive supporting 12x DVD+R recording and a 16x drive will, of course, also be released. DL recorders are expected to be ready in April or May but Lite-On was not certain. Lite-On did have a DL DVD recorder on display but no extra information for us. Another new product that Lite-On had on display was their external 'clamshell" 8x dual format DVD recorder. This external drive is the follow-up of Lite-On's external CD-RW recorder.


Lite-On dual layer DVD recorder supporting 8x DVD-R and DVD+R recording.


Lite-On external "clamshall" dual format DVD recorder.

S-ATA drives will be introduced around May for the CD-RW recorders only at first. It will depend on demand if more drives will be fitted with S-ATA.

NU:

NU will release a 16x DVD recorder very soon, either this quarter or quarter three. Double layer drives are also scheduled for release but no definitive date could be given.

The NU DDW-082 8x dual format recorder will be released soon. It will be NU's first 'real' dual format drive since their DDW-081 was only upgradeable to dual format via a firmware upgrade (which wasn't always without problems). The DDW-082 will also become available as an external version (HDW-082T) and NU will also release the HDW-082T. This is the same dual format drive but it can be attached to your TV, working as a standalone DVD recorder and player. The drive will come with a remote control, a TV tuner and encoding software. The drive can record video in MPEG1/2 and the VCD format. Prices are as of yet unknown.


NU HDW-082T external standalone DVD player and recorder.

Another thing that NU mentioned was that it will also release some 6x drives, albeit on a small scale. These are basically 8x drives that don't work very well at 8x and thus have a reduced maximum recording speed for better performance.

Ricoh:

CD and DVD manufacturer Ricoh had some 8x and more interestingly, 16x DVD+R and 2.4x DL DVD+R discs on display. According to a spokesperson these discs have been developed in cooperation with Philips and they will be ready in July. Ricoh's DVD recorders will support dual format but as soon as DL hits the market, the spokesperson said that Ricoh will switch back to DVD+R only support.


Ricoh 16x DVD+R, 8x DVD-R recorder supporting dual layer recorder. Also on display the Ricoh 16x DVD+R media.

TDK:

Our last visit of today was with TDK. TDK has announced that they will support the Blu-Ray format. This is the first time that the company has publicly announced that they will support a certain recording format. TDK will develop Blu-Ray discs without a cartridge. Normally a Blu-Ray disc is extremely sensitive for scratches and smudges but thanks to TDK's own scratch proof hard coating these discs will be protected well enough to be used without a cartridge.

TDK told us that 8x DVD+R media is on its way and 16x DVD+R media is expected to be ready before the end of this year. In the summer TDK will introduce their scratch proof DVD media in Europe. They already announced their scratch proof discs a while ago but due to a too high demand they couldn't deliver the discs to Europe in large quantities. The discs were a big success in Japan.

TDK's line of optical products (CDs, DVDs, etc.) will have a makeover. The TDK optical products will contain more information and will look more like actual TDK products. So, for example, this means that the TDK Speed-X or Metallic CD-R's will disappear and will be replaced with standard CD-R80 discs. On the front of each jewel case you will find the most important information and on the back of the jewel case you will find the extra information, using simple icons. This design change will begin in about six weeks time.

Day 3, March 20th


Pioneer:

On our third day at the CeBit event we of course visited several more companies. From the companies we visited, the most interesting one was Pioneer. On the Pioneer stand we could see a standalone dual layer DVD-R recorder, working at 2x. The spokesperson from Pioneer showed us the dual layered disc and its capacity. According to him the dual layer DVD-R disc will be fully compatible with standalone DVD players.


Pioneer 2x dual layer DVD-R disc in standalone player.


Written Pioneer 2x dual layer DVD-R disc.


Pioneer dual layer disc properties, 7.67GB has been written.

Pioneer expects that the dual layer DVD-R discs will be ready by the end of this year. Pioneer also expects that by the end of this year it will have 16x DVD-R media. But before that, Pioneer will first release another drive, the DVR-A07. This dual format drive will support 8x recording to DVD-R and DVD+R media. The DVR-A07 drive will come in two flavours: the bulk version, which will look like a standard drive, and the retail version, which will have a more interesting design. Pioneer said that they are also planning a DVD recorder that supports DL DVD+R recording but they couldn't give us a date.


Pioneer DVR-A07 dual format DVD recorder.

Elby:

During our meeting with Elby we got a demonstration of the new CloneDVD software, CloneDVD 2. This new version will have an improved transcoding engine which will especially benefit long movies, with more than 30% compression. The new transcoding engine will also be 15% faster than the old one.

CloneDVD 2 will of course also have some new features. You can now use variable compression for each movie title and you can also trim movie titles. The software can be used to split a DVD over several DVDs and it will provide the (experienced) user with advanced logs of what's going on. Other new things include new animations while transcoding (you can choose an image of your own).

Elby will also release the Virtual CloneDrive again for free. Changes in the latest version are an auto-mount option and the possibility to automatically load images by dual clicking on them. As said, this software will be available for free from the Elby website (www.elby.ch).

MSI:

During the CeBit event MSI unveiled a couple of new optical storage products. On display they had a dual format DVD recorder, the DR12-A, which will support 8x DVD-R and 12x DVD+R recording. The drive will support Anti-Bumping System which will absorb shocks and reduce vibrations to make the reading and writing of a disc more accurate. The MSI DR12-A will also support HD-Burn with which you can burn 1400MB to a standard 700MB disc.

On display MSI also had their first S-ATA writer. The XA52P is a combo drive supporting 52x CD-R recording speeds, 24x re-writing speeds and up to 16x DVD-ROM reading speeds. The MSI XA52P will feature several unique technologies such as ActivePanel, Live Update, Anti-Bumping System, SoftBurn and HyperGuard. The MSI DR-12A and XA52P are expected to be available from April.


Overview of the new MSI optical storage products.

MSI also announced another dual format drive, the DR8T. The drive will support 8x recording to DVD-R and DVD+R media. The cool thing about this drive is that it will support a new feature called DupRay. This is basically a large LED on the front of the drive which displays the recording progress.

MSI could not give us any information on dual layer support.

Other products that MSI launched were the MEGA Player 515 and the MEGA Cache15. The MEGA Player 515 is an MP3/WMA player which will feature upgradeable firmware, FM tuner (with record function), voice recorder and a language learning function. The MEGA Player will become available in 128MB, 256MB and 512MB versions. For people who need more storage MSI also has the Cache15. This is a mobile storage device with 1.5GB storage space. The Cache15 device will be shipped with utilities like Flash Mail (send/receive e-mails from another PC), FD Backup (back-up and synchronise data to PC) and Secure Lock (set a password to all or part of the USB Flash Disk).

Sony:

We only visited a small Sony demonstration booth in which we could see the Sony dual layer DVD recorder, the DRU-700A. The new Sony drive will support 8x DVD-R and DVD+R recording and 2.4x DL DVD+R recording. The Sony DRU-700A will become available from May.


Sony DRU-700A DL DVD recorder.

AOpen:

AOpen announced an 8x dual format DVD recorder, the DRW880 and the company plans to release a DL DVD recorder in July of this year. AOpen also announced another dual format DVD recorder, the DUW1608. This drive will also support 16x DVD+R recording speeds. There is no information available on S-ATA drives but the company did tell us that they're working on 'chameleon' drives; drives with different coloured front bezels. AOpen also plans to produce snap-on coloured covers for their external drives.


AOpen DUW1608 16x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 8x DVD-R, 4x DVD-RW recorder.


AOpen combo drive with media card reader.


AOpen coloured front bezels.

Other interesting products AOpen mentioned to us was the ESV-388U super slim line multi drive and an MVP player. The ESV-388U slim drive will support 2.4x DVD+R/RW, 4x DVD-R, 2x DVD-RW and 2x DVD-RAM recording speeds. Last but not least AOpen showed us the MVP player. This small device can be used as card reader but it also has an option to attach a slim line hard disk to it and connect the device to a TV. So, you can watch your DivX and XViD movies stored on the slim line hard disk on your TV, using the MVP player.

Ahead:

Ahead didn't have a lot of news for us since we already posted many of their press releases before the start of the CeBit. The main news from Ahead is that Nero 6 is the first software to support dual layer DVD+R recording. The Nero 6 software has special algorithms to make sure that the layer break of a DL disc is inserted on a good position, for example in case of DVD-Video it will be inserted in between a scene change. Ahead DVD playing software ShowTime can of course playback DL DVD+R discs and it will show which layer is being read.

Ahead is working hard on pushing their MPEG4 codec Nero Digital. When DL DVD+R discs become available it will be possible to record, for instance, 10 movies on a DL DVD+R disc, all with 5.1 channel sound. The Nero Recode 2 software, which uses the Nero Digital codec, will be able to a lot more than just DVD9 to DVD5 conversion. The software will become a file converter for a lot of file types (AVI, MPEG, etc.) and will feature batch processing; convert, for example, 100 files to another format at once.

Another thing that Ahead mentioned to us is that a new InCD version will be released, version 4.2, which will support UDF writing from version 1.0 up to version 2.5. InCD v4.2 will now also support DVD-RAM, DVD+MRW and DRT-DM. Last but not least Ahead mentioned to us that they're working on some new projects.

OptoRite:

When we visited OptoRite there was unfortunately no one available for us to interview. However we did see some interesting new products on display:


OptoRite 16x DVD+R, 8x DVD-R and 2.4x DL DVD+R recorder.


OptoRite 8x DVD+R, 8x DVD-R and 2.4x DL DVD+R recorder.

KiSS:

KiSS is a manufacturer of DVD players that can also playback MPEG4 formats such as DivX and XViD. On our forum there were some questions for KiSS which we asked to the company. According to KiSS their new players will be running on Linux and will have more and more powerful chips and RAM. The current Sigma chips support up to 64MB of RAM and this is also the amount that will be used in the new KiSS players. Because of the powerful chips there is no need to add other chips, so only the Sigma chips are enough. The main benefit of the new chips is that they have a low CPU load. More and more is done by the hardware instead of the software. This means that higher and higher framerates are possible.

In a new chip the company will support as many audio and video formats as possible. These include Ogg Vorbis, DivX Audio/WMA2, all Microsoft codecs (probably also the old ASF format). RealMedia support has not been decided yet while MP4 support is being evaluated. Multilanguage and subtitles will be supported. DVI output will be supported and HighMat will be supported "out-of-the-box". Analogue audio 5.1 output will also be supported as well as an option to bypass the Scart output.


KiSS on-the-fly MPEG4 decoder.

Some KiSS players already support SaCD but according to the company Sony is working on a new chip that will be ready in Q4 of this year. When the time comes the company will implement support. The same also applies to DVD-Audio support. Basically, what is comes down to is that KiSS intends to supports as many audio and video formats as possible. People will in the future be able to play everything they want to on their KiSS players.

The last thing that KiSS mentioned to us is that they will implement presentation layers into their players. These are small JPEG image that give more information about the files on the inserted media or that are located on the player's hard disk. The KiSS players will support streaming media, including weather reports, video on demand, etc, etc. You name it and KiSS will support it. Well, at least that's the intention.

Day 4, March 21th


Well today we didn't visit any companies and just concentrated on getting back home. This is not that easy when you've only slept for a few hours ;) Anyway, we hope you enjoyed our report and that we provided you with the information you were looking for.

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