One box, all DVD formats

You don't have to agonize over DVD burner formats any longer. LG Electronics 's Super-Multi DVD Drive GSA-4040B supports all five rewritable and write-once DVD formats, at a very low price of US$200. Competing dual-format +RW and -RW models cost about $50 more.

The GSA-4040B's specs are not the fastest across all formats, but they comes close: The drive supports 4X DVD-R and DVD+R, 2X DVD-RW, 2.4X DVD+RW, and 3X DVD-RAM, as well as 24X CD-R and 12X CD-RW. In PC World tests, this shipping drive excelled on DVD-R burns (taking just 4 minutes, 44 seconds to master 1.8GB of data to a DVD-R disc; that's a scant 4 seconds longer than the time turned in by the fastest drive we have tested to date), but it performed closer to the middle of the pack on DVD+R and +RW. Despite its 3X DVD-RAM rating, it took more than 4 minutes longer to burn 1.18GB of data using packet writing with DVD-RAM than with DVD+RW or DVD-RW.

Though it is the least compatible of the five DVD formats, DVD-RAM is a good option for data archiving due to the media's strong record for error correction. And because some DVD set-top recorders support DVD-RAM, the format's inclusion here may enable you to use discs that you created on your living-room recorder with your PC.

I had practically no trouble switching among all five media types, though the included BHA software sometimes performed sluggishly--especially when I used DVD+RW and DVD-RW media.

If you feel the need for more hand-holding or a better software bundle, you might consider Iomega's $279 Super DVD Writer All-Format Drive, which uses the same drive mechanism as the LG but adds a DVD Wizard to help you select your media based on the task you want to perform.

The product's minor quirks notwithstanding, I recommend LG's Super-Multi DVD Drive GSA-4040B. It's agile, it can handle various formats, and it's relatively cheap, too.

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