If backing up data to an external hard drive does not quite feel enough, but optical media such as a DVD-R don't offer enough data capacity, then you want a Bluray writer. There's simply far too much content being created and/or shared over the Internet today for even Dual-Layer DVDs to be sufficient. Writing data out to Blu-ray discs though, demands less data-organizing across multiple discs and less time from you.
There also is the benefit of popping in a single disc and accessing 25GB of photos/home-movies/backups at once (BD-R) compared to just 4.7 GB for DVD-R media. Desktop PC hard drives are bearing the brunt of P2P downloads and when the data to be cleared out numbers in the Terabytes, the old faithful CD/DVD discs feel honestly tiny in comparison.
The Sony Optiarc BD-5300S drive reviewed here is a Bluray Writer for desktop PCs. Accordingly it follows the same form-factor as desktop optical (CD/DVD) drives before it. Its form-factor is thus 5.25-inch, half-height. SATA connectors are present for data and power cables. The ubiquitous standard tray-loading design is used, perhaps because desktop users do not actively seek out slot-loading drives.
The front is matte textured and black colored, a good choice for correspondingly colored PC cabinets. Notably, the front facia has no Sony logo/branding, although logos for CD, DVD and BD are prominently displayed.
The package I received was an OEM unit packed neatly in anti-static wrapping, so there were none of the extras present in retail box units. The drive cables, manual, software CD, mounting screws and the box packaging were not really missed though. I expect the audience of this product will be conversant with how to hook the drive up, and have the necessary cables/screws/software already, so this OEM unit at its lower price would be welcome.
The Nero InfoTool screenshot below shows the supported disc types for read and write. To view rated read/write speed supported by this drive for each type of disc, visit the manufacturer's product page.
A newer firmware (version 1.04) was available, so I updated that first before any tests. No drivers were required to install the drive or read Bluray discs on Windows 7, as the drive uses a standard native driver, and BD-R discs use the standard UDF filesystem. Windows 7 was able to even write to blank CDs and DVDs, but a blank BD will need specialized software to write, such as Nero Burning ROM.
The BD-5300S obviously supports reading Blu-ray discs (BD-ROM). Besides that, it can read and write to 25GB (Single Layer) and 50GB (Dual Layer) variants of BD-R (single write) and BD-RE (rewritable discs). While it does claim support for 3D Blu-ray discs, I am not sure if it supports BD-XL which is a newer type of disc with 100GB capacity.
This drive can also read/write to CD and DVD at 48x and 16x respectively. These two optical discs are on the "red" side of the spectrum. The speeds could have been better - a plain CD Writer can do 52x (versus 48x) and a plain DVD Writer can do 22x (versus 16x). The consolation is that optical discs are not read/written at maximum speed until the outer tracks in any case, so we're glad this drive belongs to the newer Blu-ray writer generation that includes CD/DVD support.
When looking at the multiplicity of "x" numbers bandied about between different types of optical media, it is worth keeping in mind that 1x speed for a Blu-Ray disc is 4.5 MBytes/sec, much more than DVD (1.35 MB/s) and CD (0.15 MB/s). While a write-once single-layer blank Bluray disc known as a BD-R is marked as offering a capacity of 25GB, in practice you'll see a capacity of only 22.5 GB, or 23098 MB to be precise. This is normal, just as a DVD-R of 4.7 GB gives an actual capacity of 4.38 GB; and a DL-DVD (dual-layer) of 8.5 GB offers 7.96 GB of actual space. An interesting thing is that a data Bluray disc is not composed using a new format, it just uses the standard UDF file-system already in use on DVDs.
We tested this drive on a high-end PC to prevent bottlenecks to the extent possible. Still, quirks creep in. For instance, the drive's theoretical Bluray read speed of 8x is actually slower than write speed of 12x. Also, blank Bluray media supporting write speeds higher than 4x, and BD-DL (dual layer) 50GB discs are not available at Indian retailers even if you're willing to pay extra.
Blu-ray movie playback was just fine on this drive, even when skipping multiple minutes forward or backward. Located on the drive tray, the green LED that denotes drive activity stayed persistently on - unlike most DVD Writer drives that blink to denote activity. The 8MB buffer size is sufficient while reading, although if your HDD is bogged down while writing a Bluray, you may see the buffer running low frequently.
Mentioned here is only the performance seen while using Nero Burning ROM software with Memorex BD-R discs rated for 4x speed. Writing 22.5 GB of data to disc took 48.5 minutes to burn and 15.5 minutes for disc-write verification. This means a resulting average write speed of 7.92 MB/s (1.76x speed) and read speed of 24.8 MB/s (5.5x speed).
Writing 22.5 GB to a BD-R at 4x speed.
When using a BD-R rated for 6x speed, write speed improved to 9.8 MB/s (2.18x speed). Other disc formats such as CD/DVD/DL-DVD read and wrote as expected in all forms (-ROM/-R/-RW). The speeds recorded above were as expected, and don't differ much from the Lite-On iHBS212 Bluray Writer we tested previously.
The Sony Optiarc BD-5300S Internal Bluray Writer for desktops is a good option if you want to keep up with the times. From high-end movie-watching to being able to backup PS3 game discs, you cannot go wrong with getting a Bluray Writer. If you are one of those who have humongous hard drives, being able to push data out to BD-R is an appealing proposition as more Gigabytes can be stored per disc, and time spent nannying disc writes can be used more productively.
Price is not much of a sticking point, considering that it's much lower now than earlier and is expected to keep falling as more people wake up to Blu-ray and volumes rise. However, it is a fair bet that you'd want at least one other form of external storage, such as today's fast USB 3.0 portable hard drives.
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