It is all too common that the customer is not aware what DVD recordable media he is actually buying. The brand printed on the disc or the packaging may tell nothing about the manufacturer. Every recordable DVD has a media identifier code, but even that doesn't give you certainty of the product you have purchased. Too often trial and error is needed in order to find good and compatible media.
This article covers a few products currently found on the market. It is possible that the quality of the products vary a lot. The method used for analysis is not scientifically accurate. Most of the discs were burned with a LiteON SOHW-1653S, and some with a NEC ND-1300. The LiteON was used for error rate analysis, with the KProbe v2.4.2. Note that is not a 100% accurate method for analyzing quality, but it usually gives a pretty good idea. Some playback tests with DVD players and game consoles were also done.
Fake Taiyo Yuden
The Japanese Taiyo Yuden has been a premium quality optical media manufacturer for years. Unfortunately, some manufacturers are now exploiting the Taiyo Yuden media codes on their lesser quality products. Fake discs identified as TYG02 can been seen under various brands. These include, but are not limited to: Hyundai, Budget, BulkPaq, DataWrite, and many others. We spoke to OC-Freak of NorwayDisc.no, and according to him the fake discs are likely to be manufactured by Infosmart, Anwell, UME Disc, Vanguard or 3A Media.
UPDATE 14.02.2005: The 3A Media sent us a stament that they have never manufactured discs with fake media identifiers. READ MORE.
The example scan is of Hyundai 8x DVD-R, bought from Nierle.de. It's surprising to see such a huge corporation delivering low quality and harming their well known brand. These discs have some playback problems in DVD players, but not always. Sony PlayStation 2 is unable to read this disc properly. Also some PC DVD drives show reduced read speed.
Something odd at the middle section of the disc, even thouhg the disc was recorded with constant velocity (4x).
This is the DVD+R counterpart of the previous example - A Hyundai 8x DVD+R, also from nierle.de. XBox console refused to play this disc, and occasional playback problems with DVD players as well.
The error rate is very high to begin with, and raises constantly towards the end. A very bad results, that suggests poor quality dye that is laid out unevenly.
RITEK having quality issues?
RITEK is one of the largest optical media manufacturers. In the early days of CD-R recording, RITEK got a notorious reputation by shipping some extremely low quality 1-4x CD-R media. But RITEK picked up, and they have shipped very good quality ever since. Transition to DVD production was smooth, and they stayed as a trustworthy manufacturer.
But recently there has been some questioning about RITEK quality around the WWW discussion forums. It seems that the quality has slipped a notch. RITEK media is sold under various brands, including but not limited to: RITEK, RiDisc, RiData, Maxell, Traxdata and many others. Especially the RiDisc and RiData branded media is often considered as lower quality brands, but recently the discs carrying the RITEK name haven't been too great either.
Here is a printable 4x Ridata, identified as a RITEKG04 disc, and bought from nierle.de. Consoles and players have a hard time with this. The 25 disc spindle where this disc was found really demonstrated some quality control problems. Some of the discs were fine, or even excellent, while the worst ones were totally unusable. There were clear visible defects in the dye towards the end of the disc, which is clearly seen from the graph as well. So the dye itself is decent, it is just poorly laid on the disc.
This kind of disc should have never passed Q&A testing, or be sold as "A-grade" media.
What to buy then?
So how to be on the safe side of things? Naturally we haven't tried every single brand on the market, so it is hard to list all the recommended ones. At least it seems that Verbatim DataLifePlus, and Verbatim Pastel products are pretty much a 100% safe choice. The pastel series is (currently) manufactured by the Taiyo Yuden. The manufacturer of DataLifePlus AdvancedAzo varies, but can be identified by looking were is the product made at. India should refer to Moser Baer, Singapore to Mitsubishi Kagaku, and China to Mitsubishi or CMC Magnetics. Even though the manufacturer varies, they all have the AdvancedAzo dye and are manufactured by Mitsubishi/Verbatim standards.
On the right you can see an example of a CMC manufactured DataLifePlus(MCC_02RG20). Notice the scale of the graph - the PI-error rate remains below 15, in comparison to the hundreds or even a 1000+ result on the RITEK.
But then again...
...cheap is not always bad. Even though I have sworn not to buy cheap media ever again, I couldn't deny from this BulkPaq re-printed offer, which promised A-grade media for a B-grade price. But it has been a pleasant surprise! The discs are mostly genuine Verbatim's, TDK's, and CMC's. The error rates are not top notch, but still very good and the compatibility has been great. A lot of bang for the buck.
Special thanks to OC-Freak of NorwayDisc.no for clarifying some of the backgrounds needed for this article.
Written by: Lasse Penttinen