Dual Layer DVD burners in PowerMac G5s

Andy called my “employer” today, and asked us to find out for him what dual layer burners are in PM G5s. So of course the question percolated down to me, without the associated name attached to the question.

Apple ships different burners in different batches of systems, depending on which manufacturer gives Apple a better deal. So new PM G5s can come with either SONY DW-Q28A or Pioneer DVR-A09 (Which is just an Apple branded version of Pioneer DVR-109, and has no functional or firmware differences).

While I can understand why someone might want an Apple Shipped/Apple Supported DVD burner, the benefts of such support are in reality rather slim. Apple will support CD burning on either Apple Shipped or Unsupported DVD burner, as licensing is limited to DVD support. Ditto with booting (Booting is actually something that starts regardless of the OS, as it’s triggered by OpenFirmware. Thus as long as device supports standard ATAPI command set, it can be used for booting). So in reality all one loses is lack of DVD burning from Disk Utility, iTunes and things like iDVD.

What I recommend is buying whatever is the cheapest dual layer burner you can find that has patched firmware available from download from rpc1.org, and then using Patchburn to install a profile, turning the device into “Vendor Supported”, and reenabling burning from iTunes, Disk Utility and iDVD. That coupled with RPC1 firmware and ripping lock removal (That removes the restriction built into most new DVD drives to slow down reading of disks to 2x if a directory VIDEO_TS is detected on disk) makes the drive into a rather useful piece of equipment that OWNER controls.

So you might think that something free, like Patchburn would be slow to release updates for Tiger. You’d be wrong, however, as support for Tiger existed on the day Tiger was released. We will of course see what happens when Leopard comes out.

Patchburn might sound like an inconvinience. One has to go to a germanweb site, download software, click… So let me ask you a question: how often do you burn DVDs using Apple Disk Utility, while waiting for it to create 8.5 gig dmg file? Right. You burn your DVDs using Roxio Toast, aren’t you? And your Roxio Toast supports “Unsupported” drives as well as it does “Apple Shipped”, right? So I don’t see a problem, but please leave a comment and let me know if you don’t agree.

Here is some basic economics: I bought an LG HL-DT-ST GSA-4160b dual layer DVD burner at Best Buy on boxing day 2004 for 120 CAD, with 40 mail in rebate (that I recieved). So in reality after taxes I spent 98 CAD on it. At that time a Pioneer DVR-A09 was selling for 150-170 CAD plus taxes. On the saved money I bought an external enclosure for it, making it mobile.

Don’t get me wrong, Pioneer DVR-109 is a great drive, and I see that Compunation is listing it for just a shade over 100CAD at the time of this writing, but then again, LG burners are ~65CAD now too. Lasers in CD/DVD burners burn out after about the same number of writes, so is paying 40$ extra worth it?

Lastly, I have a DVR-105 at work. I’ve upgraded it to the latest firmware, and tried burning with it. It chokes on cheap silver only DVD-R media (No idea what kind, probably rebranded ritek, or something equally cheap), creating corrupted burns in all tries (I learned the lesson after 3rd attempt to burn). A cheap LG and BenQ burners I have here don’t have an issue with media at all, writing on it at 8x, and passing all the verifications afterwards (Generally it’s a good idea to do verification, just to prevent frustration later). So go figure, cheaper drive reliably burns on cheap media too, so you don’t need to buy expensive Apple branded blanks. I wonder…..

BTW, I am still wondering how to turn MATSHITA CD-RW CW-8123 (Combo drive that shipped with iBook G4) into a region-free drive – I don’t believe that firmware updates for it exist.