Table of Contents
Experiences with the Panasonic SW-9574C
Note: The Panasonic SW-9574C is no longer in production since october 2007. But there is a successor, the SW-9576C, which as currently available (beginning of 2008) at some dealers in Germany for about 110 EUR. The main difference to the SW-9574C is an improved support for dual layer media, the other technical data is generelly identical.
If you look for a solution to archive and backup your data, there is a little number of choices: streamers in different variants (Travan, SLR, LTO etc.), CD/DVD, magneto-optical drives (MOD) and since a couple of years DVD-RAM as well.
DVD-RAM is an ancestor of DVD±RW. But in fact this format is way more reliable as the “modern” RW variants, which are cheaper but do not provide the typical characteristics of DVD-RAM:
- fixed sector boundaries, which allows fast access to single sectors
- up to 100000 write cycles (on 3x DVD-RAM)
- defect management, similar to harddiscs – every write operation will be automatically verified by the drive and in case of a damaged sector, the data will moved to spare sectors
- optionally – protection of the media against direct touch, scratches and dust by cartridges, which also makes the use of double sided media possible in the first place
- as stated by the manufactures durable up to 30 years at optimal conditions (which has to be proven by practice – at least i don't know of any reports of nonreadable DVD-RAMs due to alteration after prolonged storage)
Even if you already get DVD recorders with DVD-RAM support in Germany not only by LG, the support of cartridges is just found in drives by Panasonic – like the SW-9475C (the C does not stand for “cartridge” – there are other “C” models without cartridge support!). After this model was first not available at all in Germany, some online shops have it in their lists meanwhile.
Compared to earlier models the SW-9474C supports any current CD and DVD formats including dual layer (”+” and ”-”). On the other hand, some features where left out: a “dust test” for DVD-RAM media is not possible any longer and the drive also does not check, if a cartridge was already opened once (which means, you have removed two bolts in the cartridge to open it). In fact you can write DVD-RAM media without a cartridge as well.
This drive is of course best suitable for DVD-RAM media. Due to the use of cartridges the media are a very reliable solution, but the use of a driver for UDF is very recommendable.
Theoratically, you can write DVD±R at 16x speed with the SW-9475C. Practically it failed with the tested media due to the high vibrations, which are caused by the high rotational speeds – too much to write reliable. Just a reduction to 8x speed produced reliable results. But other recorders are also often overstrained at these speeds and only work reliable with selected media. Since there where no abnormalities at lower speeds, this recorder is quite useful for casual usage. However, if you want to record CD/DVD often an additional CD/DVD recorder may be better of course.
Pictures and handling
At a first glance, the drive looks like any other recorder – you notice, that this is an OEM version – company or model name are missing completely.
On the next picture you can see the tray opened. The black part at the end is pushed forward by a spring and holds the cartridges, if you want to use the drive edgewise. The black latches in front are also loaded by springs and will be pushed down by a cartridge. For CDs/DVDs they are used to support the media in case of edgewise position, so they don't fall out. 80 mm media are also useable through the cavity, but without “falling out protection”.
To insert in a cartridge, you push it with gently against the black pastic part at the end and then put it completely into the tray. To get it out, press it gently at the front and pick it up – therefore there is a notch in the tray for this.
Inserting media without cartridge is a bit tricky – as with cartridges as well, you have to push the rear plastic retainer gently with the medium in your hand, so you can get it under the two latches in the front. In standalone recorders with cartridge support this is a bit more elegant – but they are not suitable for edgewise operation.
Conventional CD/DVD recorders are commodity, and are already availble for 30 EUR (or even less). Unfortunatly, therefore many models are not very durable. In the time, since i use the SW-9574C, i already had to exchange two DVD recorders, after they started having problems with DVD media first and then even did not handle CDs properly. The DVD-RAM drive still works after many years of use (beginning of 2008). This relativises the higher purchase costs.
Update end of 2010
After many years of regular utilisation i don't use the drive any longer. For backups i use RDX and the existing DVD-RAM-media in the archive are also useable in a current DVD-recorder by LG when handled carefully. After i've changed my computer completely to SATA and current mainboards either don't support PATA at all or just through a separate controller, the time for DVD-RAM-cartidges is propably over.
Update beginning of 2013
Another word about “durability”: Meanwhile i use a BD recorder by LG (in particular the BH16NS40). A test with one of the older DVD-RAM archive media from the year 2007 did not show any problem – this means even after five years the data is still readable flawlessly.