Sony Electronics says it will be shipping drives in about two months that accept blank DVDs with two data layers. Philips Electronics will start selling a similar drive in Europe in April, but is not saying when it will be available in the United States.
The write-once discs can store up to 8.5 gigabytes of data, or about 4 hours of DVD-quality movies, twice the capacity of regular blank DVDs. This means capacities for computer-burned DVDs are catching up with prerecorded movie DVDs, many of which are already dual-layer.
The new technology is sure to appeal to those who back up or copy movie DVDs, since they often have to reduce image quality or remove special features to fit a copied movie onto a single-layer disc. With a dual-layer drive, an exact copy on a single disc should be possible.
The two layers of the new discs are accessed from the same side — there is no need to flip the disc over to record to the second layer. Instead, a laser beam shines through the first layer to record on the second.
Sony will sell an internal drive for $230 and an external one for $330. They will be marketed only for Windows PCs, but the external one should work on Macintosh computers with the proper third-party software.
Philips will sell two internal drives with somewhat different features, both for PCs. U.S. prices have not been set.
The drives will be able to burn regular write-once and rewritable DVDs and CDs as well.
The Sony and Philips drives will use somewhat different discs. Sony calls its variant DVD-R DL. The Philips equivalent is DVD+R DL. Both disc types should be readable in standard DVD drives and players.
Sony estimates the blank discs will cost $5 to $6. Philips does not have an estimate yet.
The dual-layer discs will be slower to burn than single-layer discs — the drives will be rated as burning at 2.4 times faster than playback speed, versus eight times for single-layer discs.
A full 8.5 gigabytes will take about 45 minutes to burn.