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Home > Hardware Reviews > Optical Storage > DVD Recorders 1-4x

Sunday, May 11, 2003
Panasonic LF-D521 DVD-RAM

1. Introduction

Panasonic LF-D521 IDE DVD-RAM - Page 1

- Introduction

Panasonic is making a concerted effort to see DVD-RAM take off more widely outside of Japan, where it has enjoyed huge success. DVD-RAM is one of the formats, alongside DVD-R and DVD-RW, that is being officially supported by the 219-member strong DVD Forum.

The latest Panasonic drive is the DVD Burner II, a combination of a DVD/CD drive that supports DVD-RAM and DVD-R/RW recording, reading of all the DVD formats along with CD-R/RW reading and writing.

- DVD-RAM Features

The RAM part of the DVD-RAM name stands for Random Access Memory, which means that the drive works in a similar way to a hard drive: content can be placed anywhere on the disc and is indexed. This means that video editors can cut, splice and edit video straight to DVD-RAM without having to worry about how the data is being laid down. This certainly allows a more flexible way of working with data than other formats.

A main advantage of the DVD-RAM format is the high reliability it offers. In simple words, DVD-RAM detects off-tracking caused by defect during the recording phase, and reduces laser power in order to avoid pre-recorded data destruction. Subsequently, the data writing is going on after the affected addresses have been read and reallocated.

The defect management feature monitors the zones on the disc while writing and when a defect zone is found, the DVD-RAM automatically replaces the sector and completes writing. In addition, data verification and sector management is carried out during the data writing process.

In the following lines we give some more technical information about the DVD-RAM format.

The doubling of the data transfer rate (2X, 22.16 Mbps) enables DVD-RAM to focus on AV recording capability. The track structure common to DVD-RAM is showed in the picture below:

The land track and wobbled groove track are allocated like a single-spiral track to achieve the seamless recording and playback. A DVD-RAM disc has a Zoned Constant Linear Velocity (ZCLV) format to maintain a higher constant data transfer rate over the whole disc surface by changing its rotation speed, zone by zone. The land and groove track structure enables the use of a stable tracking system, essential for achieving an affordable and highly reliable DVD Video Recorder and DVD-RAM drive.

Data is recorded consecutively on the land and groove tracks by units of 16 physical sectors (32 KB). The error correction code (ECC) system is the same as that of the DVD-ROM format. The data encoded by the ECC system is scrambled and is modulated by the same 8-16 RLL modulation code as in the DVD-ROM case. A channel bit is converted to a multiple-pulse signal.

In the case of DVD-RAM, real-time AV recording can be done by reading and writing AV signals in a seamless manner, along with the defect management system suitable both for real-time recording and reliable data storage. Recording of 2X-speed is one of the most important features of the latest DVD-RAM 4.7 GBytes, which ensures successful real-time AV recording. In addition, a flexible defect management method featured both for real-time AV recording and computer usage has been implemented. The fixed spare area of 26 MB (being used for storing the data of other disc parts that have gone defective) is reserved as a Primary Spare Area (PSA) for AV recording.

DVD-RAM disc provides the same capacity as the nominal capacity of DVD-ROM. In the case of defects in a bare disc, a Secondary Spare Area (SSA) can be assigned, up to 200 MB. Thanks to this defect management system, a defect-free DVDRAM disc for professional applications can be assured virtually every time.

One of the most interesting features of DVD-RAM is data reliability and security measures such as rewriting without data-loss, high overwriting cycle, built-in defect management, and a secure copy protection scheme. In addition, random accessibility, ending operation free, and 2X-speed recording are also notable. DVD-RAM provides conceivable copy protection features such as Media-type Identification, Content Scrambling System (CSS) Key suppression, Media Unique ID, and Media Key Block (MKB). These features enable to implement a Copy Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) 5 scheme for the data encryption, which makes DVDRAM disc a secure digital medium.

A Burst-Cutting Area (BCA) signal can be burned in the innermost area of a DVD-RAM disc as Media Unique ID. BCA can number each DVD-RAM disc with a Media Unique serial number for local encryption. The data format of DVD-RAM is different from that of DVD-ROM. It has a Header called Complementary Allocated Pit Address (CAPA), a wobbling, and a land and groove track. Even if the control data, including CSS key information, is shift-recorded in a next data recording area, any drive or player could not read it normally and the shift-recording can be detected by checking the Header or the wobbling. It can be concluded that a DVD-RAM disc requires a smaller effort for read compatibility, and is a reliable, secure, and random access recorder system.

- Specifications

Panasonic DVD Burner II supports DVD-R and 4.7GB DVD-RAM writing at 2x CLV. Writing on 2.6GB DVD-RAM media can be achieved at 1x. For the DVD-RW format, the supported writing speed is the 1x CLV. The maximum reading speed for DVD-ROM and DVD Video is 12x CAV for single layer and 6x CAV for dual layer discs. Last, DVD-R/RW media are read at 6x CAV.

As for the CD-R media, you can select among the 4x, 8x and 12x CLV writing speeds, and 4x, 8x CLV writing for CD-RW format. The CD-ROM/-R/-RW reading speed is 32x CAV.

The drive is equipped with a 2MB of buffer, and special technology protects the DVD’s and CD’s against “buffer underrun errors” during the writing process. At the same time the temperature of the medium is measured in order to adapt the laser intensity accordingly and to ensure an optimal recording result.

The supported RPCII region control allows the user to change the region code 5 times.

The supported disc formats are: 4.7GB / 2.6GB DVD-RAM, DVD-ROM (single layer/dual layer), DVD-R (For General v2,0), DVD-RW (Ver 1.0 & 1.1), CD-ROM Mode 1, CD-ROM XA Mode 2, Photo CD, CD-DA, CD-Extra, CD-R.

- The package

The retail package includes one 4.7GB DVD-R disc, one 4.7GB DVD-RAM disc, an instruction manual and a driver and application software disc.

This includes the “DVD Movie Album SE 3” software that offers increased recording and editing functionality for DVD RAM’s and videos from DV cameras as well as videos from DVD RAM video recorders. It generates three-dimensional titles with animation and prepares slide shows from still frame photos. Additional functions such as editing playback sequences (play lists) or indexing selected scenes (marker function) are also included.

The “MyDVD™ 3.5” works in co-operation with the ”DVD Movie Album SE 3”, and thus simplifies the preparation of video DVD’s thanks to well-arranged user guidance. Authoring video DVD’s/CD’s from AVI data in DV format or from DV cameras is very easy.

“WinDVD™ 4” is also attached, allowing playback of all DVD and CD formats. The basic CD/DVD recording software is the “B’s Recorder GOLD5 BASIC”.

The “FileSafe” application is included for data back-up purposes. An automatic back-up of defined files in optionally selectable time intervals is available to the user.

In addition, the package includes the usual internal audio cable, mounting screws, and a forced eject pin.

On the disc loading tray you can see "DVD Multi" and the "HSRW" logos. The eject button is placed below the tray, on the right side of the front panel, as usual. The indication LED is active when a disc is loaded or the drive performs a read/write task.

On the rear panel there exist the usual connectors, such as the power input, the ATAPI interface, the device configuration jumper, and the analog audio output.

After removing the screws on the bottom we can see the drive's internal design. Panasonic uses its own chipsets as the following picture shows.

- Installation

Panasonic LF-D521 was identified as "MATSHITA LF-D521" under WinXP. The drive was installed to the secondary IDE channel of our test PC as a "Master". The January 2003 model came with firmware version vA111 installed, which was used for all the tests.

In order to have a better idea of the performance of the drive, we include the results of a different drive in the basic result charts, the Pioneer DVR-A05.

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