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DVD-R or DVD+R? - why it doesn't matter.

Let's start with a little explanation on what I am talking about. Most of people that are familiar with CDs know that you can either burn a CD-R or a CD-RW. CD-R can be burned once, while CD-RW can be burned and then erased to be re-burned.

DVDs are another matter. There are three different formats competing for the ultimate domination: DVD-R, DVD+R and DVD-RAM. Being versed in the video, I will talk only about DVD-R and DVD+R, as DVD-RAMs cannot be read in a set-top DVD player. Note that both formats exists in RW version.

Most of my friends or relatives that bought a set-top DVD burner did fall for it: They bought DVD+ media, when their DVD burner would accept only DVD-. They didn't even know there was a difference. And of course, nobody told them.

So whether you buy a PC burner or a living-room version, a DVD burned will be format dependant. To the question: Should I burn DVD- or DVD+? Most people will tell you: Don't be stupid, buy a combo. A combo is a burner that burns both formats. This is common for PCs or Macs, but rarer in set-top boxes.

While this is most likely a good advice, I have two problems with this statement:

  • Is it true? is being able to burn both formats anything of an advantage?
  • It does not answer the question, just pushes it further. You still don't know if you should burn DVD+ or DVD-.
In any case, if you are buying a drive for your PC, you will most likely have to buy a combo, because that's all you can find nowadays.

Before answering the question, let me first make a point. This choice of technology is very different from the choice that some people have made between VHS, Betamax and V2000. There, a few years later, people were left with tons of tapes that were basically unreadable on any other machine in the world. This will not happen with DVD- or DVD+, because all current DVD players (maybe except a few) can read a DVD-R or a DVD+R. This is true for Video DVD players as well as DVD-ROM players. So whatever technology you choose and commit to right now, all your burned data will still be readable, even long after your technology will become obsolete.

That said, what is left? Except for the pure technical merit of the media, nothing else should be a factor of choice. So, which media is the best?

  • DVD- has one advantage: It is more compatible with old players.
  • DVD+ used to be cheaper, and burners used to be faster. Both trends have now disappeared.
So if you are planning to burn a lot of videos, just buy DVD-. Otherwise, just choose random.
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