In the endless parade of "me too" products, it’s always a joy to encounter something different and even more satisfying when that something scratches a nagging itch. Such is the case with the latest Blu-ray Disc (BD) offering from DIGISTOR (a division of Sunland International).
Most notably, DIGISTOR’s new 5.25" Slot Load Blu-ray Writer (SLBW) is the only half-height (HH) Blu-ray burning solution to employ a slot disc-loading mechanism. It’s also, by far, the physically smallest 5.25" unit I’ve ever seen. Combine these with its respectable performance, the $375 DIGISTOR SBLW should be a good fit for everything from standalone kiosks and video surveillance systems to SMB servers and compact home theater PCs (HTPC).
No manufacturer has, so far, produced a true half-height (HH) slot load Blu-ray recorder. DIGISTOR met the challenge by taking matters into its own hands to create this unit by pairing a standard 12.7 mm laptop burner with a custom fabricated mounting sled and front bezel to bulk it to full size. One possible complication, however, was that all such laptop burners employ the slimline version of the Serial ATA (SATA) interface, which integrate data and power connections into a single compact plug in place of having separate connections. Fortunately, DIGISTOR handled this problem as well by including the necessary adapter. Installation proved to be a snap and I was up and running in just a few minutes.
Physically speaking, the DIGISTOR SLBW is proportioned such that it should mount inside even the most cramped PC or server case, including pesky custom builds. At a mere 5.71" (W) x 5.71" (D) x 1.69" (H) the unit is nearly 1.5" shallower than a typical recorder, thus allowing for tighter fits, better airflow and overall ventilation. Also, as a slot-loading recorder, the DIGISTOR SLBW offers both a sleek appearance for home use and functional simplicity for commercial applications where an extending disc tray can often be a liability such as in medical, industrial, commercial, mobile, and other demanding settings.
At the heart of the unit is a Panasonic UJ-235A, a workhorse from the laptop world that reads, writes and rewrites all BD, DVD and CD disc formats including burning BD-R (SL) at 4x max, DVD-R (SL) at 8x max, and CD-R at 24x max speeds. On the downside, it doesn’t support 8 cm discs and, as with most slimlines, is somewhat less physically robust than bona fide 5.25" devices (MTBF, duty cycle, etc.).
In terms of reading and writing speeds the Panasonic UJ-235A is perfectly suitable for a wide variety of tasks and state-of-the-art for a slimline. Using Nero’s DiscSpeed benchmarking software, I was able to record full single and dual-layer BD-Rs in roughly 31 minutes and 90 minutes respectively, single and dual-layer DVD±Rs in eleven and 30 minutes and CD-Rs in six minutes (see Table 1, below). In absolute terms, however, the UJ-235A can’t keep up with the current generation of 8x desktop recorders, such as Pioneer’s BDR-203 or upcoming BDR-205, which promises 12x BD-R (SL/DL), 16x DVD±R and 40x CD-R writing speeds.
Table 1: Panasonic UJ-235A Test Results
(Nero DiscSpeed with Moser Baer, Verbatim, TDK discs)
|Time (min:sec)||Rotation (ID-OD)||Time (min:sec)||Rotation (ID-OD)|
|BD-R SL||22.56GB||30:49||2X-4X ZCLV||30:09||2X-4X ZCLV|
|BD-R DL||45.11GB||90:02||2X CLV||89:47||2X CLV|
|BD-RE SL||22.99GB||45:13||2X CLV||44:53||2X CLV|
|BD-RE DL||45.11GB||90:16||2X CLV||89:54||2X CLV|
|BD-ROM SL (AV)||22.99GB||--||--||32:28||2X-4X CAV|
|BD-ROM DL (AV)||46.61GB||--||--||65:46||2X-4X CAV|
|DVD-R||4.7GB||10:45||3X-8X CAV||9:43||3X-8X CAV|
|DVD-R DL||8.5GB||32:35||2X-4X ZCLV||23:22||3X-6X CAV|
|DVD+R||4.7GB||10:33||3X-8X CAV||9:42||3X-8X CAV|
|DVD+R DL||8.5GB||30:09||2X-4X ZCLV||23:19||3X-6X CAV|
|DVD-RW||4.7GB||14:47||2X-6X ZCLV||9:43||3X-8X CAV|
|DVD+RW||4.7GB||14:21||4X-8X ZCLV||9:42||3X-8X CAV|
|DVD-RAM||4.7GB||12:11||3X-5X PCAV||12:09||3X-5X PCAV|
|DVD-ROM SL||4.7GB||--||--||9:38||3X-8X CAV|
|CD-R||80 min||5:58||8X-24X ZCLV||4:25||11X-25X CAV|
|CD-RW||74 min||not tested||not tested||4:10||11X-25X CAV|
|CD-ROM||74 min||--||--||4:03||11X-25X CAV|
In my experience Panasonic engineers tend to be conservative in interpreting technical specifications. Thus, generally speaking, Panasonic doesn’t build recorders that write slower speed-rated media at higher velocities. This was again confirmed when I checked the UJ-235A’s compatibility against a range of blank discs from a variety of manufacturers. For example, to write BD-Rs at the unit’s full 4x speed required me to use 4x or higher 6x-rated discs (Moser Baer, Verbatim, and TDK in my evaluation).
Since the DIGISTOR SLBW will appeal to an assortment of specialized audiences, each employing it for unrelated tasks, it makes perfect sense that the unit does not come bundled with any software. Needless to say, however, it’s compatible with the universe of available BD data burning programs and video players. For example, using Corel’s just-released WinDVD Pro 2010, I was able to flawlessly view a number of older Blu-ray Disc BONUSVIEW movies, such as Sunshine (Fox) and 3:10 to Yuma (Lionsgate), as well as brand new BD-Live titles including X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Fox).
All things considered, DIGISTOR’s new 5.25" Slot Load Blu-ray Writer may not be the fastest, prettiest, most feature-packed, or even the least expensive option out there but should have its own audience and charms nonetheless.
For more information: DIGISTOR: www.digistor.com
Hugh Bennett (hugh_bennett at compuserve.com), an EMedialive and EventDV contributing editor, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems (www.forgetmenot.ca), a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is the author of The Authoritative Blu-ray Disc (BD) FAQ and The Authoritative HD DVD FAQ, available on EMedialive.com as well as Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).