Although competition drives a consumer market with more choices and lower prices, competing standards in technology can be difficult for manufacturers and confusing to consumers. This might be especially true when it comes to choosing the correct discs for a standard DVD player.
Many people today enjoy the convenience of burning data, audio or video to media discs that can be played on the home DVD player. Fortunately or not, depending on your point of view, there is a plethora of choices when it comes to DVD discs. Some DVD players can only read specific disc formats. Furthermore, the same DVD player might be able to read some disc formats that it cannot write to.
Buying the correct media is important because once blank media has been opened many vendors will not accept it back. Consult the manual that came with your DVD player for a listing of compatible media. If the manual has been misplaced, the information is likely available online by visiting the manufacturer’s website.
Media: A DVD player can utilize compact discs made for CD players. Among the formats available are CD–R (write once) and CD–RW (rewriteable) discs. These discs are typically used to hold data, digital pictures, short clips or music, with a capacity of about 700 megabytes (MB). While a movie can be compressed to fit on a CD using software, a better choice for movies is the DVD disc.
Among DVD media there is the DVD–R, the DVD–RW, and counterparts DVD+R and DVD+RW. The (+) plus sign designates a newer, competing format. A DVD player might support both the (-) and (+) formats, but this shouldn’t be assumed. Older players might only support the original standard.
DVD discs are more expensive than CDs but have a far greater capacity at about 4.7 gigabytes (GB). Rewriteable DVDs are a good choice for recording in standard definition to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) — a type of DVD player that can record broadcast television for later viewing.
Some DVD players support discs that have two layers of data rather than one, doubling capacity to 8.5 GB. These are called dual layer (DL) discs in the (-) minus format, and double layer (DL) in the (+) plus format. This media will have a “DL” following the normal designation. As an example: DVD+R DL.
A DVD player that supports the (+) DL format might not support the (-) DL format, or visa versa, so again check your manual. DL discs are more expensive but are best for backing up high-definition movies because the entire feature can be recorded to a single disc, usually without compression.
A DVD player might also support double-sided discs. These discs have a single layer of data on each side, matching the 8.5 GB capacity mentioned above. However, the disc must be removed from the DVD player and flipped over to record to both sides. It must also be turned over when playing, making it less ideal for movies. Double-sided DVD media is available in write once (+/-R), and rewriteable (+/-RW) formats.
Write Speed: Another consideration is write speed. Blank discs are rated for the speed at which a CD or DVD burner can write to the disc. Generally, people want to buy discs that will allow the burner to write at its maximum speed, but buying media rated at 24x is pointless if the DVD player has a maximum write speed of 8x. Moreover, if the 24x media is not backward compatible to 8x, the player won’t support the media at all. In the reverse, if your DVD player can support higher write speeds than the media you buy, you will be sitting longer than you have to waiting for that burn.
One possible exception to this rule is when burning a movie in DL format. Some enthusiasts believe the slower speed of 2.4x produces fewer “coasters” – the term given to an unusable disc resulting from a failed burn. Your mileage may vary.
Write speeds appear on blank media packaging, so look for it before tossing the media into your basket. To avoid failed burns in general it’s a good idea to use quality media. If you buy compatible media that nevertheless results in too many coasters, try another brand. Manuals for DVD players sometimes list brands that have been tested.
If in the habit of writing with a marker on a CD or DVD, you might opt for the printable discs. These discs have an ink absorption layer, designed to protect the writeable surface beneath.
HD DVDs and Blu-ray™ discs are made for HD DVD players and Blu-ray players respectively. These discs have even higher capacities but are not supported by standard DVD players.