Burn, DVD Baby, Burn

They say you can't please all of the people all of the time, but Sony's newest DVD burner aims to do just that. Sony's new DVDirect (which Sony asks that you pronounce as "DVD Direct" even though they left out a "D" and a space) is "the first in the world capable of stand-alone, real-time DVD recording, as well as computer-attached burning." As such, Sony hopes it will appeal to those camcorder owners with poor or negligible computer skills who still want to be able to archive precious (and typically quite boring) family memories on DVD while at the same time fulfilling the needs of more computer-savvy members of the household.

For the computer-inhibited, the slender, upright DVDirect device (6.5 inches tall, 2.6 inches wide, and 9.2 inches deep) can connect directly to your camcorder or VCR (via S-video or composite) thanks to built-in real-time video capturing and hardware MPEG-2 encoding. Sony gleefully points out that this all-in-one approach potentially saves money (that could be spent, say, on a better Sony camcorder) since no external capture or encoding devices need to be purchased with the DVDirect burner. In stand-alone mode, the DVDirect device can use either double-layer DVD+R DL discs (for up to 12 hours of MPEG-2 video recording in SLP mode) or single-layer DVD+R or DVD+RW discs (for up to six hours of recording). Five, 10, and 15 minute chaptering can be automatically inserted on DVD+RW discs using DVD+Video Recording (+VR) format technology allowing users to "jump to specific parts of a DVD during playback and edit video footage on the fly." The DVD+VR format is compatible with home DVD players that support DVD+RW playback. Recording is made even easier with the auto-start/stop recording feature that's compatible with most camcorders and VCRs.

Sony's Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for branded storage products in Sony Electronics' IT Products Division (try fitting all that on a tiny business card), waxed lyrically about the how easy it is for non-computer users to benefit from the device. "Users can simply connect their camcorder to the recorder, hit the record button, and out comes a DVD disc that they can pop into their home DVD player. Meanwhile, computer-savvy users can attach the DVDirect device to a PC to perform all of the common tasks characteristic of computer-attached burners."

Sony's DVDirect burner takes on added features when attached to a Windows 2000 or Windows XP PC with a USB 2.0 connection. Feeling snug and safe in the shadow of your PC, the DVDirect burner will support dual-format, double-layer burning (DVD±R and DVD±RW) and 16X maximum recording speeds for DVD+R discs (resulting in the ability to rapidly burn a full write-once disc in approximately six minutes). The DVDirect burner also supports 4X DVD±RW, 48X CD-R, and 24X CD-RW recording speeds. Included in the burner is an 8 MB buffer memory and Sony Power-Burn conformed buffer under-run error protection technology.

To help out those brave enough to make the USB 2.0 connection to their PC, Sony bundles "an award-winning Nero software suite from Ahead". The bundled software suite contains enough features to keep you sitting in front of your computer for days including DVD video authoring software, DVD/CD burning software, as well as packet-writing software that lets you record files and folders by dragging them to the icon of the DVD±RW/CD-RW disc. In case you thought that wasn't enough free software, there's more, including DVD-video playing software, backup software, virtual disc drive software, management/jukebox software, disc label creation software, and drive tool software. The included Nero StartSmart launcher provides one-click access to all the programs included in the package.

Sony's DVDirect burner is expected to ship in November with an estimated street price of $300. Sony will also provide something they are calling "worry-free" installation which doesn't involve pharmaceuticals but instead relies on toll-free customer and technical service, Mondays through Saturdays, from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Central Time.