16x DVD Burner Only Burns At 4x: Where's The Limit?

I recently purchased a 16x DVD burner for video editing.  I have a Dell Dimension 8300 PC running XP, 2.8 GHz CPU, 2 GB RAM.

Trying various 16x media, I can't get higher than a 4x burning rate from my 16x burner.  My previous 8x burner never got past 4x either.  I'm trying to understand what's limiting the burn to 4x.  Is the limit caused by:

(a) My IDE or system bus?  How do I know if I have enough I/O bandwidth to drive a particular DVD speed?  Could someone explain the relevant bus speeds and DVD speeds to tell me if my system has an upper limit on DVD burning speed?

(b) A software setting?  It there by any chance any setting that says how fast my DVD recorder should record at?  Where would this setting be kept?
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todd_e_bryantAuthor Commented:
I use both Pinnacle Studio and Nero to burn.

When I insert a DVD-R, Nero InfoTool tells me: Write Speed 4.0X.  Then, when I burn, I sure enough get <= 4x for the burn.

Pinnacle Studio doesn't report the burn rate, but it's less than 4x.

I had a Sony 8X burner, and now I have an HP 16x burner, but I have never seen more than 4x for any DVD-R media for any burning application.  Surely one of these burners would have burned at more than 4x?

Which makes me think perhaps there's a system setting somewhere saying "nerver burn at more than 4x"?  Or some other limit?

Its generally a good idea to not burn faster than 4x. If i go above 4x when burning video, i get pixelation and sometimes the disc wont read.
todd_e_bryantAuthor Commented:
Actually, a few more tests and I think the problem IS the media.  I have been using several 16x disks, but my brand new 16x HP drive can't seem to write them anywhere clse to 16x, and HP doesn't have a firmware upgrade.

I bought a big spindle of 16x DVD-R's of RITEKF1 brand, and according to this web page, may drives don't get over 4x on them.  What a suck.

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todd_e_bryantAuthor Commented:

Just curious, what's the point of a 16x DVD drive, if you are supposed to make DVDs at 4x?  That doesn't seem right.
beats me... ive had those problems on many pcs, even a 3.2ghz hyperthreading thingy. with different drives and different media.

For data it seems ok though.

But I agree with you, whats the point...
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
What version of Nero?  Have you updated it appropriately?
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
This is not likely an issue with Nero -- it is MUCH more likely an issue with the specific media you are using and the drive's firmware.   MOST firmware updates for DVD and CD recorders are really just updates to the media parameter tables which tell the drive how to best utilize specific media.   It's not all uncommon for a drive's performance (whether right speed or simply reliability of the recordings) to improve with a specific brand of media after a firmware update.

So one thing you should definitely try is to be sure you have the most current firmware in your DVD recorder.

Another possibility is that Nero analyzed your system and determined you couldn't sustain a sufficient data rate for recordings above 4x.   Note that a 16x DVD recording requires a sustained data rate above 22MB/s => beyond the capabilities of some hard drives, particularly if you're using the system for other things during a burn.  (for comparison purposes, a 48x CD burn only requires 7.2MB/s)   With any reasonably current system this shouldn't be a limiting factor -- but it is possible.   Check in Device Manager for the "Current Transfer Mode" for each of your IDE channels (under IDE/ATA/ATAPI controllers) to confirm you are using DMA transfers ==> if not post back and we'll get that resolved.

The link you provided, however, shows that in this specific case your issue is almost certainly a "mismatch" between your burner and the media -- the burner simply can't use that media above 4x speed.   Note that meritline has a "grading" of media types -- I'd suggest you only buy "professional grade" media and you're much less likely to ever encounter this issue.  I only buy Taiyo-Yuden blanks, and have NEVER burned a coaster (I burn at 8x with a Plextor 16x burner - reasons discussed next).

No matter how good your burner (I use a Plextor -- which IMHO is the absolute best), or how good your media (I use Taiyo-Yuden -- also the best, or certainly among the best) -- I do not recommend burning DVDs above 8x.   This requires an 11MB/s sustained data rate -- easily possible with a good modern system, but still pretty demanding on a continuous basis => and the simple fact is that higher speeds give very little marginal benefit.   A full DVD at 8x takes just over 7 minutes.  At 16x it takes just under 5 minutes (at 12x it takes a bit over 5.5 minutes).   The reason the higher speeds are linearly smaller is simply the overhead in initiating and closing the burn (leadin, leadout, and closing), which is essentially the same no matter what speed is selected.   I've simply found that there is no real advantage to using faster burn speeds -- but a major advantage in quality of the burned media by using slower speeds.   I've burned well over 1,000 DVDs on Taiyo-Yuden blanks at 8x and NEVER had a coaster.

Note also that modern "burn proof" drives will use a different technique to record if the sustained data rate is not fast enough; but that although that may prevent a "coaster", it does result in a less reliable DVD.   bryanford -> the pixellation you're seeing when burning at higher rates could be either the result of this (in which case your system can't sustain the 11MB/s needed for 8x burns), or a media quality issue, or a media/burner mismatch.

To summarize:  the burn rate is based on communication with your burner, which will "tell" your burning software how fast it can write with the specific media you're using.  So there's nothing you can do to change that unless a firmware update helps.   If you buy a better quality media, you'll probably have the option to use faster burns -- but I'd still suggest limiting them to 8x.

... note:  if your system is configured propertly (for DMA transfers on both the hard drives and the optical drives) your current burns should be taking in the neighborhood of 12-14 minutes (I'm not home this week, so can't confirm exactly how long a 4x burn takes -- the system I'm borrowing to do my e-mail doesn't have a DVD burner).  If it's taking longer, something's not set right.

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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... typo alert:  In the 5th paragraph above, "The reason the higher speeds are linearly smaller ..." SHOULD read:  "The reason the higher speeds are NOT linearly smaller ..."
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... more typo alerts (!!):  

1st paragraph:  "... whether right speed or ..." should be "... whether write speed or ..."

last paragraph: "... system is configured propertly..."  should be "... system is configured properly..."
todd_e_bryantAuthor Commented:
garycase, thanks for the detailed response.  I think you're right on.

The drive is brand new, and I tried without success to get firmware updates from HP before I started this discussion thread, so I'm a bit stuck right now.  I few vendors got firmware upgrades from the OEM drive manufacturer, but reported problems doing this, so I think I'll just go on a broader media hunt.

Man, I can't believe how incompatible burning (and reading) still is, so many years after the introduction of these discs.  It's still a Wild West show out there, for consumers to create DVDs for their friends that will play on their DVD players!  How can non-technical consumers possibly navigate all this!  Ouch!

Again, thanks for the detailed response!
todd_e_bryantAuthor Commented:
Now my turn for typos: "I few vendors got firmware upgrades" should say "A few users reported on message boards that they got firmware upgrades"...
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