Pioneer BD-203 Blu-ray Disc Burner
At a Glance
Pioneer Electronics BD-203
The least-expensive 8X Blu-ray burner available holds its own on the performance side.
When Blu-ray burners first appeared, the sticker shock was jarring. That's changing: The Pioneer 8X BD-203BKX sells for a mere $209. When you consider that Blu-ray offers five times (or more) the capacity of DVD with a commensurate reduction in discs used, the price is tempting--even considering that media prices are still high ($10 for a 25GB disc with 4X speed, the fastest thus far).
Of course, cheap is meaningless if the performance is weak, but the BD-203 wrote 22GB of data to Verbatim BD-R media in just 16 minutes, 31 seconds--about 4 minutes faster than the times turned in by some 6X drives we've seen.
The Pioneer drive's rated maximum write speeds make it competitive with stand-alone DVD burners, too: 16X DVD+/-R, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 5X DVD-RAM, 40X CD-ROM, 32X CD-R, and 24X-CD-RW. This drive will handle most types of consumer optical media. Alas, BD-RE rewritable performance (and media rating) is mired at 2X--so it took about 1 hour, 55 minutes to write 22GB in our tests. That's not fast enough for a quick one-off backup, but it's fine for overnight backups. I didn't run into any write errors, even during rather heavy multitasking operations, so backing up while you work on other things seems feasible.
The BD-203 ships with CyberLink's BD Solution software which includes PowerDVD for movie playback (including Blu-ray movies), PowerDirector for creating and editing video discs, and Power2Go for more mundane data and copying tasks. It's a good, solid suite that can easily handle most users' needs.
At a price slightly below that of the LG Electronics BH08LS20--the only other 8X BD-R writer on the market at this writing--the BD-203 is a bargain for archiving and other chores. Media may remain pricey, but the convenience of reducing the number of discs you have to swap and store by a factor of five will be worth it to many businesses and indiciduals. In addition, you can play Blu-ray movies on your computer, making this write-and-play combo a better deal than combination DVD burner/Blu-ray players, such as the Pioneer BDC-202BK (which sells for half the BD-203's price).