Many people will already be familiar with Blu-ray as the next-generation media format to be used next year in Sony's PlayStation 3. Less obviously perhaps is that Blu-ray will also be coming to a PC near you, and this is the first PC drive we have seen: the Pioneer BRD-101A.
From the outside, the drive looks little different from Pioneer's popular range of existing DVD burners; the only addition is the Blu-ray Disc logo on the drive tray that is set to be as common as familiar DVD logo is.
At the rear, this model sports a regular EIDE connector and molex power plug. Several optical drive manufacturers are slowly introducing models with the SATA interface, and we're sure this trend will continue into the Blu-ray era.
Pioneer have asked us to remove the raw numbers that were leaked recently by a Taiwanese website, and since this drive is still in development, it would be unfair to judge it on unannounced specs.
What we can
say is that the Blu-ray Disc v1.0 specification dictates that 1x mode will require a 36.5Mbps data transfer rate or approx 4.5MB/sec. At this speed, it would take 90 minutes to burn a full 25GB.
The specification, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association
, for 2x mode doubles this data rate to over 70Mbps, halving the burn time to 45 minutes. As the format matures, burners are expected to reach 8x speed or more, writing the full 25GB in well under 15 minutes. To achieve this, drives will be nudging 300Mbps or over 35 megabytes per second sustained transfer rate. For reference, a 16x DVD burner reaches 22MB/sec.
By then, we will see Dual Layer media, just as we have for DVD media, which will double disc capacity to 50GB, and the Blu-ray specification allows for several more layers, yielding 100GB per disc or more.
Since this product is unannounced, pricing was not available at the time of press. However, the first Pioneer 4x DVD writers launched around £200 but within a year had fallen to the present £35 mark, now superceded by 16x drives at that throwaway price. We expect a similar pattern for Blu-ray as the likes of Sony, LG, Pioneer and Samsung ramp up production. Japanese manufacturing giant Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic, are also likely to build drives under contract with several other brands, as they currently do for DVD models.
Support for the Blu-ray has gathered momentum in recent weeks, with both Twentieth Century Fox
and Universal Music
signing their back catalogues to the new format.