RISC World

Buyers Guide: DVD Media

Just added a DVD writer to your RISC OS computer? You'll need some good quality media for it. David Bradforth takes you through some of the options.

Gone are the days when a floppy disk could meet our data storage needs on the family computer. With families investing in gadgets such as video cameras, and much being said in favour of music over the Internet, our data storage requirements are rapidly rising to the point where even a CD-R can barely hold enough data.

Recognising this RISC OS Adjust includes support for DVD ROM drives. Not only can you now read DVD discs (and hopefully you’ll soon be able to play movies) you can write them using Stefan Huber’s new version of CD Burn (aptly named CDVD Burn).

However when you first look to purchase media for the home computer it’s a daunting prospect. Over a hundred different brands are available (some with established names such as TDK and Sony; others more generic) with prices ranging from under 50p a disc to over £2 a disc. Then we have three different standards to consider as well.

Over the course of this article we’ll talk you through identifying the type of media you need, explain some of the terminology you may come across and make some recommendations as to media types to buy and places to go for a good deal.

Identifying the media you need

When in the market for DVD media, the first thing you need to do is find out which type of drive you have installed in your machine.

Look initially at the front fascia of the drive. Located usually towards the bottom right of the case will be a ‘DVD’ logo, underneath which some text will appear stating either ‘R’ (for wRitable), ‘R/RW’ (for Re-Writable) or ‘RAM’ (for DVD-RAM drives).

With a DVD writer installed in your computer, you’ll only be able to use media that has been designed for one-write use. There are major advantages to supplying data to friends and relatives on one-write medium, the obvious being that they cannot save any changes they make to it back to the original medium.

DVD re-writers allow, when the appropriate media is used, for data to be stored on disc and removed as and when your needs demand. The media is slightly more expensive, but in the long run you can use it many times over allowing for significant cost savings.

A DVD-RAM drive treats its discs as a separate hard disc within a computer. The first DVD-RAM discs were installed into a caddy, which was then inserted into a caddy slot drive within a PC. Mainly used for backups at the time, you’ll find DVD-RAM discs used within video cameras and computer systems requiring intensive read-write operations to the disc. In comparison to media designed for the other two drive types, DVD-RAM discs are very expensive; but can be reused for up to 100,000 disc writes whereas the standard rewritable discs will survive around a thousand.

At the moment I’ve been unable to discover if CDVD Burn will support DVD-RAM drives, or even RISC OS itself.

Different standards

While there are universal standards in place for reading DVD discs, to date there are two different standards (not including DVD-RAM) for writing to them. You hence need to make sure you buy the correct media for your drive.

Located near the DVD symbol you should find further text – this will either state DVD-Rewriter or DVD+Rewriter. The DVD-/+ element needs to be noted, as this is the only type of media you’ll be able to write to with the drive installed in your computer.

A quick indicator as to the status of your drive is the presence of the ‘RW’ logo. If this is on your DVD writer, your drive makes use of the ‘+’ standard so you should keep your eye out for this logo on media within the retail marketplace.

Some drives can now support both standards. This is indicated on the front of the drive; and frequently stated within any printed documentation that accompanies it.

Buying quality media

When it comes to buying quality media, you need to remember that the brand means nothing. Irrespective of the name on the label, whether it's TDK, Sony, Verbatim, Emtec or an unbranded alternative, it's going to have been made by one of 40 companies located predominantly within Asia.

To a certain extent, the price you pay will reflect the quality of the product. However this is no longer a benchmark as with the economies of scale now present manufacturers have been able to bring prices right down. There are two ways of identifying whether or not you have a high quality media product.

The first, simply enough, is logic. Major brands, such as TDK and Sony, place their reputation on providing high-quality products and will often have two lines within the same market. If you wish to ensure a quality media, make a point of buying the line that's slightly more expensive.

The second is to look for the media code of the disc. A table is provided below with some of the most popular brands; in order of good to poor quality. If buying for backup, your primary concern has to be the data integrity. Buying good quality media is a step in the right direction; and you should always remember that a 'Lifetime media guarantee' while nice does nothing to replace any corrupted data lost as a result of a disc error.

Where to buy quality media

If you need media in a hurry, the best place to buy will be from a retailer specialising in audio equipment. You'll pay a premium price, and should only buy the 'premium' branded products to be sure of the quality you're getting. If you've got a little more time available, looking towards the Internet will often provide some very good value for money deals.

DVD and Media (
DVD and Media offers a wide range of DVD media products in +, - and RAM formats. Prices are highly competitive, getting cheaper with the greater quantities you buy, but are initially quoted exclusive of VAT. You need to be selective in choice of media, as occasionally some lower grade product will appear on the site but this is indicated by its considerably lower price.

For DVD media purchases in bulk, irrespective of the format you require, consider a look at the DVD and Media website. With bulk purchases, discs are usually supplied on a spindle with the option to buy DVD cases, jewel cases or plastic wallets elsewhere on the site. Many descriptions appear on the site to help prospective purchasers identify their requirements, and with a telephone number provided at the head of the site you can always call for advice.

Burn Media ( specialises in media for CD and DVD writers. Every product they offer states the media code on the website, allowing you to keep an eye on the quality of the product before you’ve bought it. They have some very good deals on bulk product – 600 unbranded discs, for printing, £160 (plus carriage). They also have sample media packs available for under £5, allowing you to experiment with products from their range before committing to a larger purchase.

With the provision of media codes on the website, Burn Media have ensured that those looking for truly high-grade product can buy it quickly and easily. With carriage starting at £6 (for next working day delivery), but the choice available to the purchaser of collection from their warehouse, Burn Media put choice into the hands of the purchaser making them an attractive choice for media purchasing. (
Established online retailer have a huge range of DVD media available, with prices per disc ranging from over £1 to under 40p depending on the quantities purchased. In buying from you’ll not be able to identify the media code, which seems a shame as their online system has full support for such details. Occasionally they have end-of-line deals that can make their prices incredibly competitive.

For buying online, you need look no further than As a long-established company with interests in many fields, they have a technical support service that’s second to very few and are quite prepared to help with any pre-sales queries you may have. Delivery is usually within a timely fashion, and the quality of product they sell cannot be understated.

We’re impressed by, and have had very few problems with the company in dealings with them over the last twenty years. (The company was originally known as Dabs Press, with two partners - David Atherton and Bruce Smith. Both journalists at the time of the creation, they are best known to RISC World readers as writers within Acorn User. A number of very popular books, including ArtWorks Made Easy, happened as a direct result).

Price versus Quality?

At the end of the day, the decision you make on media purchase will come down to one of two factors. The price you’re prepared to pay, and the data integrity you need for the data being written to the discs.

The higher the price you pay for the disc then generally the better quality it will be. Avoid ‘house’ brands for retailers, as they are often low-grade media that will prove to be more hassle than they’re worth particularly when dealing with vital data.

If your needs aren’t so much data integrity as they are making a lot of data available to a lot of people cheaply, then look to an online retailer for a bulk deal. They won’t be the best quality media in the world, but they’ll certainly meet your pricing needs.

David Bradforth