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In the last year, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) won various legal injunctions in the U.S. against software firm 321 Studios, putting the company out of business. In light of these events, companies like Roxio and DVD2one have good reason for playing it safe when releasing their DVD-copying software. Legal questions aside, the result is high-quality software, although Roxio’s Popcorn is easier to use.

Legal Ins and Outs

It’s impossible to copy a commercial DVD directly with either company’s software, because neither product has the ability to remove a DVD’s CSS encryption (one of the major issues in the 321 Studios lawsuit) nor strip away Macrovision copy protection. But copying commercial DVDs—for backup purposes of course—is still the intended use for these two programs.

Both Roxio’s Popcorn and DVD2oneX compress the information stored on 9GB, dual-layer DVDs so that they can be recorded onto standard 4.7GB DVD-Rs. If you have a dual-layer DVD burner, you don’t need Popcorn or DVD2OneX to compress the video, but considering that dual-layer DVD burners are relatively new, the likelihood that average consumers have one of these drives is quite low.

The companies’ stated reason for using DVD-copying software is to duplicate personally owned DVDs to protect them from damage that might make them unplayable. As the father of a two-year-old, I can see the need for this first-hand.

Convenient, Fast, and Good

Both programs offer a few ways to whittle down the total data size of a DVD, and let you pick and choose what features—audio tracks, subtitles, and special features—to record to the DVD copy. The fewer options and special features you choose, the better the resulting video quality. If you want to copy an entire DVD, including all the audio, subtitles, and supplemental material, these programs will recompress all the video at a lower data rate. While this diminishes the video quality slightly, our test DVDs were practically indistinguishable from the originals on typical movie titles. However, the longer the total video run-time you compress, the worse the quality gets, with more MPEG-2 artifacts in the video. In general, both programs handled 90- to 120-minute movies very well, but if a movie was more than 120 minutes long, video quality was adversely affected.

When it comes to recompression quality, there is hardly a difference between Popcorn and DVD2oneX, but there are differences in speed. DVD2oneX recompressed material much faster than Popcorn. In compressing the same 7.5GB of DVD material to a 4.7GB DVD (a 41 percent reduction in size), DVD2oneX finished almost 19 minutes earlier than Popcorn, at 48 minutes.

Popcorn has a clear advantage over DVD2oneX because of its built-in DVD-burning software, Roxio’s Toast engine. As a result, to recompress and burn a DVD with Popcorn requires pressing only one button. DVD2oneX requires Toast or OS X’s Disk Utility to burn the DVD.

Special Bonus

Users of Elgato Systems’ EyeTV line of products may find either program useful. Since EyeTV records TV programs at a fixed data rate in MPEG-2 format, recordings can often be larger than 4.7GB—especially when using the High Quality setting. At times, I’ve been unable to burn a DVD with Toast because there wasn’t sufficient room on the DVD disc for the program material. With Popcorn or DVD2oneX, it’s possible to create a DVD image of the larger file with Toast and then recompress it to fit on a normal DVD.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

Due to the rising exchange rate of the U.S. dollar versus the Euro, DVD2one’s DVD2oneX is now significantly more expensive than Roxio’s Popcorn. Considering that Popcorn also includes some of Toast’s DVD-burning abilities, it definitely has a leg-up on its European counterpart.

DVD2oneX has been on the scene for Macs for a few years and works very well, but Roxio’s newcomer, though slower in compression, brings more to the table. Until the Euro falls again, Popcorn is the better deal.

Popcorn 1.0DVD2oneX 1.4.1
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