Pioneer BDXL BDR-206MBK Review

Written by Harry Butler

February 23, 2011 // 1:40 p.m.

Tags: #bdr-206 #bdxl #bdxl-tested #bluray #blu-ray #pioneer #pioneer-bdxl-bdr-206mbk

Pioneer BDXL BDR-206MBK Review

Manufacturer Pioneer
UK price (as reviewed) £190 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed) $199.00 (ex Tax)

When the Blu-ray standard arrived in 2003, it only supported single-layer 25GB discs. As time has passed, however, the demands of box-set makers and James Cameron have pushed dual-layer Blu-ray discs into arrival, allowing for up to 50GB of data to be stored on a single disc. Even better, the switch to dual-layer didn’t require extra hardware either.

However, 50GB still isn’t enough for some, which is where Blu-ray’s next iteration, BDXL, comes in. With support for triple- and even quad-layer discs thanks to lens and drive accuracy improvements, you can now store up to 128GB on a single Blu-ray disc. The Pioneer BDR-206MBK is the first consumer drive to support the new BDXL technology.

Pioneer BDXL BDR-206MBK Review
Click to enlarge

As a drive it’s pretty unassuming, and uses the standard SATA 3Gbps interface. Pioneer has also made improvements when it comes to drive noise, so Blu-ray movie playback and file browsing was wonderfully quiet, although seek noises were still audible.

The drive comes bundled with Cyberlink’s Media Suite 9 Ultra, which can burn Blu-ray discs via Power2Go and play movies via PowerDVD 9. This is a mandatory inclusion for the BDR-206MBK, as currently only Cyberlink’s Power2Go supports burning to triple- and quad-layer Blu-ray discs.

Pioneer BDXL BDR-206MBK Review
Click to enlarge

Pioneer provided us with a triple-layer 100GB disc for testing, which took one hour and 35 minutes to complete a 95GB burn, at roughly 17MB/sec. That’s a long time by anyone’s reckoning, especially when transferring the same data via USB 2 to an external hard disk took just over 70 minutes, and just 19 minutes via USB 3.

Even worse, the current prices of BDXL 100GB and 128GB Blu-ray discs are exceptionally high, with Pioneer indicating that 100GB discs will launch at around the £40 Inc VAT mark, and quad-layer discs costing even more. We can’t see too many uses for a £40 single-use disc when you can buy a 500GB USB 3 external hard disk for under £60. The fact that the hard disk is quicker to use, compatible with anything with a USB port and can be used more than once really makes us question the appeal of BDXL.

Pioneer BDXL BDR-206MBK Review
100GB BDR discs might be roomy, but they're expensive and slow to write

The BDXL format also faces an uphill struggle to achieve widespread adoption. Unlike the switch to dual-layer Blu-ray discs, which players were built to support from day one, triple- and quad-layer discs can only be read by certified BDXL drives. This means you’ll never be able to play a 100GB BDXL disc on a PS3, or any Blu-ray player bought before 2011. However, BDXL support is starting to creep into new Blu-ray players now.

Conclusion

While the Pioneer BDR-206MBK has the privilege of being the first BDXL drive to market, it also has to cope with the fact that BDXL is still a fledgling technology that’s not widely supported.

As BDXL is a new technology, the initial price is eye-wateringly high; at £190 this drive is more than twice the price of a dual-layer Blu-ray burner. The slightly cheaper OEM version also doesn't come with CyberLink Media Suite, which gives you the BDXL burning and viewing capabilities in the first place. While the novelty of burning 100GB to a single disc may suit some, an external USB 3 hard disk or NAS device is by far the better option in terms of speed, convenience and flexibility.

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