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At a Glance
  • LaCie DVD-RAM

DVD-RAM drives, with their ability to read DVD media and write to special DVD-RAM discs, are certain to gain substantial ground against other removable-media devices. Macintosh users can now get their first taste of the technology with the $799 LaCie DVD-RAM, an external SCSI drive based on a mechanism developed by Matsushita. The drive reads DVD-ROM, DVD-R, CD-ROM, CD-R, and CD-RW media and writes to single-sided, 2.6GB DVD-RAM media ($30) or double-sided, 5.2GB discs ($40). You can't use DVD-RAM discs with current DVD-ROM drives, but Toshiba, Hitachi, Pioneer, and Matsushita say they are developing a new generation of DVD-ROM drives that will read DVD-RAM media.

The LaCie drive connects to a standard Mac SCSI port and ships with Software Architects' DVD-RAM TuneUp application, which lets you format the DVD media. Unlike with CD-R, the DVD-RAM volume appears on the Mac desktop. And unlike both CD-R and CD-RW, DVD-RAM lets you erase individual files.

The drive performed well when backing up data with Dantz Development's Retrospect 4.1Ai software. Backing up to the DVD-RAM drive was nearly twice as fast as archiving to tape and nearly 25 percent faster than copying to CD-R media. However, it was about 20 percent slower than backing up to magnetic media. Performance suffers when you use the Finder to copy files, since the cartridges are formatted into 2K sectors instead of the 512K sectors the Mac OS prefers. (See "{imagelink ("LaCie DVD-RAM Beats CD-R")

You can play DVD movies on the drive, but you'll need an MPEG board, such as E4's CoolDVD Mac DVD Playback Card, to decompress the encoded video.

The discs themselves are housed in protective cases that resemble CD caddies. Some of the 2.6GB discs come in cases you can open, but the double-sided, 5.2GB media all use permanent cases.

The promise of DVD-RAM is that someday all DVD-ROM drives might read DVD-RAM media. However, Hewlett-Packard, Philips, and Sony have announced a competing format, DVD+RW, with features similar to those of DVD-RAM. Vendors backing DVD+RW will not include DVD-RAM read compatibility in their forthcoming DVD-ROM drives.

February 1999 page: 51

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • High capacity
    • Adequate speed


    • Not yet compatible with DVD-ROM drives
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