iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI DR4-A DVD±RW/DVD±R Drive Review

The number of companies producing DVD recorders as well as the number of such drives is growing up, and DVD media have already outweighed CD-R. The tight competition on the market resulted in pricecuts regarding multiformat drives. Today we will review a multiformat DVD recorder DR4-A from MSI - the company that goes with Sanyo's technologies and hardware which are rarely used today. 



  • Write speeds. 
    • DVD-R: 4 X CLV
    • DVD-RW: 2 X CLV
    • DVD+R: 4X 
    • DVD+RW: 2.4 X 
    • CD-R: 24 X 
    • HD-Burn CD-R: 24 X 
    • CD-RW: 10 X 

  • Write methods: 
    • CD: Disc at Once, Session at Once, Track at Once, Packet Writing (Multi Session Support)
    • DVD+R: Incremental Write (Multi Session Support) 
    • DVD-R: Disc at Once, Incremental Recording (Multi-Border Support) 
    • DVD+RW: Random Write 
    • DVD-RW: Rigid Restricted Overwriting, Incremental Write 

  • Read speeds (max). 
    • DVD-ROM: 12 X 
    • CD-ROM/R: 40 X 

  • Access time (Random Seek) 
    • DVD: 130 Msec 
    • CD: 100 Msec 

  • Interface: Enhanced IDE/ATAPI PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2 and UDMA Mode 2
  • Data buffer: 8 Mbytes
  • MTBF: 30,000 POH (duty 20%) 
  • Installation: horizontal or vertical. 
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 146 x 41.7 x 183.3 mm 
  • Weight: < 1 kg. 



    The front panel integrates Audio CD buttons which can be rarely found on drives today. Besides, there's a two-color status LED, volume control, headphones out and an emergency ejection hole. The filler in the tray reduces noise and protects it from dust. On the back is an operable digital audio-out.

    The drive comes with two software CDs, an analog audio cable, screws and a couple of leaflets. 

    Software supplied: 

    • Sonic MyDVD - video editing and DVD creation software. 
    • NERO 6 - software for CD and DVD recorders.
    • Power DVD 4 - software DVD-Video player which also supports playback of Video CD and multimedia files. 

    The label on top provides information on the location and time of production.

    The drive features some technologies typical of optical drives based on Sanyo's chipsets.

    • BURN-Proof - buffer underrun error prevention technology.
    • HD-BURN - the utility allows recording up to 1.4GB on a standard 700Mb CD-R.
    • ABS - Anti-Bumping System.

    This is the drive's base:

    As you can see, it uses Sanyo's pickup and chipset. Below are its insides.

    The installation caused no problems. A user is offered a standard procedure, like that for an ordinary CD-ROM drive. The drive needs no special drivers. You can do just with the NeroBurning Rom; as for me, I used the latest version  - 

    Nero Infotool tells what formats and disc types the drive supports:

    As you can see from the screenshot, this sample is RPC-1, however, according to the official site it's still the RPC-2 drive and you can't turn it into RPC-1 according to www.rpc1.com. But you can solve this problem with the DVD Region free which provides the full regional protection. 

    EAC (EAC Configuration Wizard) tells us about Audio CDs. 

    Test results

    DVD recording

    The first media type to be tested is DVD-R as they are produced by much more companies and it often results in problems of recording. But first of all let's check drive's compatibility with discs from non-brand companies. Well, no such problems were revealed, and the drive successfully detects and burns most of them, in particular, 4x DVD-R from Princo. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Digitex's discs yet.

    Below is the burn time for the DVD-R/RW.

    DVD-R burning
    Drive burning at 1x, min. burning at 2x, min. burning at 4x, min.
    MSI DR4-A 59:42 29:12 14:59
    TEAC DV-W50D 57:43 24:23 14:48

    DVD-RW burning
    Drive fast cleaning, min. burning at 1x, min. burning at 2x, min.
    MSI DR4-A 00:32 59:32 28:42
    TEAC DV-W50D 00:30 57:28 27:46

    DVD+R/RW media was taken both from brand-name companies and from less famous ones.

    DVD+R burning
    Drive burning at 2.4x, min. burning at 4x, min.
    MSI DR4-A 25:15 15:10
    TEAC DV-W50D 23:14 14:02

    DVD+RW burning
    Drive fast cleaning, min. burning at 2.4x, min. burning at 4x, min.
    MSI DR4-A 00:28 25:14 --:--
    TEAC DV-W50D 00:21 23:12 14:48

    All DVDs recorded passed the control reading test on two reference DVD-ROM drives - Toshiba SD-M1712 and Pioneer DVD-117LJ. The tests on the home DVD player BBK 916 revealed no problems with reading. 

    Below you can see how the Lite-On drive handles the discs recorded. The KProbe utility estimates a level of PI/PO errors (identical to C1/C2 for CD). 

    MSI DR4-A, DVD+R 2.4x (Philips)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD+R 2.4x (Digitex)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD+R 4x (TDK)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD+RW 2.4x (Philips)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-R 1x (Princo)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-R 2x (Princo)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-R 4x (Princo)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-R 2x (TDK)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-R 4x (Verbatim)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-RW 2x (Princo)

      MSI DR4-A, DVD-RW 2x (TDK)

    DVD media reading

    NERO DVD Speed

    Test DVD reading

    MSI DR4-A 1-layer DVD (stamped DVD-Data)

      TEAC DV-W50D MSI DR4-A
    Average speed  9.41x CAV 8.73x CAV
    Random Seek 142 ms 111 ms
    Full Seek 319 ms 185 ms
    CPU usage (Max Speed) 3 % 2 %
    SpinUp Time 0.01 sec 2.33 sec
    SpinDown Time 4.32 sec 4.23 sec
    Disc Recognition Time 9.23 sec 21.14 sec

    MSI DR4-A 2-layer DVD (stamped DVD-Video)

      TEAC DV-W50D MSI DR4-A
    Average speed  2.06x CAV 4.30x CAV
    Random Seek 147 ms 118 ms
    Full Seek 323 ms 232 ms
    CPU usage (Max Speed) 1 % 3 %
    SpinUp Time 0.01 sec 0.74 sec
    SpinDown Time 2.51 sec 4.15 sec
    Disc Recognition Time 12.18 sec 10.86 sec
    Layer Change Time 24 ms 84 ms

    The speed of reading of DVD-Video seems to be forcedly reduced.

    Reading of recordable DVD


    MSI DR4-A

    The drive successfully reads all types of recordable discs at the forcedly reduced speed. That is why all of them are read in a similar manner. Also note that it successfully works with multiborder DVD media. 

    DVD Video copying with Smart Ripper

    CD-RW drive Average speed
    TEAC DV-W50D 1.9 X
    MSI DR4-A 4.1 X

    CD media tests

    CD burning time 

    Traditionally, we used two types of media, with cyanine and phthalocyanine coating. The number of the trade marks were lift up to 4, 2 of each type, to provide more information of how the drive treats discs of different trade marks. Below is the ATIP for the discs tested. 

    Mirex 48x
    Disc Type = CDR (B-)
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 74f/LBA:359849)
    Manufacturer = Plasmon Data Systems Ltd.

    Disc Type = CDR
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 74f/LBA:359849)
    Manufacturer = SKC Co., Ltd.

    Philips 32x
    Disc Type = CDR (A-) 
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 73f/LBA:359848)
    Manufacturer = RiTEK Corporation

    Verbatim 48x
    Disc Type = CDR (A+) 
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 74f/LBA:359849)
    Manufacturer = Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation

    The burning results will be partially represented in the graphical form.

    Recording on the MSI DR4-A (Philips 32x, phthalocyanine)

    The screenshot above looks the same for all trade marks of CD-R discs. 

    We also tested ability of the drive to record cyanine discs at the minimal speed, the mode usually used by audiophiles to get the highest quality sound. 

    Philips 32x 5:32 4:08
    Verbatim 48x 5:30 4:08
    Mirex 48x 5:31 4:07
    SKC 4x 21:24 21:36

    The drive detects and operates with CD-Rs which are longer than 90 min. 

    To extend the picture, I added the results of the Verbatim CD-RW 10x. 

    Verbatim 10x
    Disc Type = HIGH SPEED CD-RW 
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 74f/LBA:359849)
    Manufacturer = Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation

    Recording on the MSI DR4-A (Verbatim 10x CD-RW)

    CD-R burning in HD-BURN mode

    The drive equipped with Sanyo's HD-Burn technology can record twice as much data on a standard CD-R disc. Read more about this technology here

    But there are some disadvantages. First of all, such disc can be read only on a drive that supports this technology (actually, only drives based on some Sanyo chipsets) though they promised that soon all DVD-ROM drives will be able to read such discs after correcting the firmware. Secondly, this technology requires high-quality CD-R media, and you should use either certified discs or try to record others at the lowest speed. The HD-Burn offers the same range of speeds as with a standard CD-R. I managed to record only Verbatim's discs at the maximum possible speed and then read the contents without problems. For recording discs by this technology you can use, for example, the Nero Burning ROM.

    Recording according to the HD-Burn takes more time compared to standard CD-Rs.

    Such discs read well on this drive though the Nero CD Speed shows pretty queer diagrams for the HD-Burn discs.

    Generally, the HD-Burn technology is a pleasant, useful and free addition to the MSI drive. 

    Time of CD-RW full formatting in UDF with InCD 4.0.17

    CD-RW recording in UDF format, 530 Mb test packet in 3000 files. 

    Verbatim CD-RW 10x. 

    CD-RW drive Burn time (min.) Formatting time (min.)
    MSI DR4-A 14:32 12:10
    TEAC DV-W50D 10:15 12:48

    The driver burned the test packet very slowly, and it looks the same for all CD-RW discs from different companies which I used to verify the results. 

    Operation with 80mm CDs (tested with a CD-RW disc), formatting and recording in UDF

    Formatting and recording of the 80mm CD-RW disc in UDF, 4x write speed. 

    CD-RW drive Formatting time (min.) Burn time (min.)
    MSI DR4-A 9:12 7:05
    TEAC DV-W50D 9:05 5:54

    The drive flawlessly reads and burns 80mm discs. 

    Reading of the recorded discs on the Lite-On drive with KProbe

    Reading of Philips CD-R recorded on the MSI DR4-A 

    Reading of Verbatim CD-R recorded on the MSI DR4-A 

    Reading of Mirex CD-R recorded on the MSI DR4-A

    Reading of SKC CD-R recorded on the MSI DR4-A

    Reading of Verbatim 10x CD-RW recorded on the MSI DR4-A

    A bit later we will carry out tests with the professional equipment CDCATS SA3. 


    The discs used have the following ATIP. 

    Verbatim 48x
    Disc Type = CDR (A+) 
    Lead In = 97:34:23
    Lead Out = 79:59:74
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 74f/LBA:359849)
    Manufacturer = Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation

    Intenso 99 min
    Disc Type = CDR (A-)
    Lead In = 96:43:37
    Lead Out = 79:59:74
    Nominal = 702.83MB (79m 59s 74f/LBA:359849)
    Manufacturer = RiTEK Corporation

    CD-RW drive 80 min CD-R 99 min CD-R
    MSI DR4-A 81:48.34 93:31.73
    TEAC DV-W50D 81:22.45 81:25.05

    CD reading parameters

    CDWinBench 99

      MSI DR4-A TEAC DV-W50D
    Winmark 912 1210
    Inside transfer 824 Kb/s 2420 Kb/s
    Outside transfer 1590 Kb/s 4670 Kb/s
    CPU Utilization  0.24 % 1.56 %
    Access Time 133 ms 116 ms

    NERO CD Speed

    Test CD reading

    MSI DR4-A

      TEAC DV-W50D MSI DR4-A
    Average speed  25.29 CAV 30.80 CAV
    Random Seek 128 ms 90 ms
    Full Seek 297 ms 193 ms
    CPU Usage 8X  5 %  6 % 
    SpinUp Time 0.01 1.18
    SpinDown Time 1.20 4.92
    Disc Recognition Time 1.14 sec 10.43 sec
    Accurate stream Yes Yes

    CD-ROM Drive Analyzer

    CD-R reading

    MSI DR4-A

    CD-RW reading

    MSI DR4-A

    Low-quality CD reading

    MSI DR4-A

    It takes quite a lot of time for the drive to identify multisession CD-RW, and it even fails to read some of them. 

    CD audio track extraction (CDDAE 99, EAC)

    MSI DR4-A
      CDDAE  EAC 
    Average extraction speed 18.6x  12.1x 
    Total errors  0.00% 0.00%


    Advanced DAE Quality(Nero CD-Speed)

    MSI DR4-A

    The detailed information on the tested parameters is given in the help file to the Nero CD Speed test program. If you don't want to download the utility, then here you can find the HTMl help file. 

    DAE Quality (EAC)

    This test was made by the developer of the EAC, and it's called DAE Quality (here's its description). In short, it measures quality of audio data extraction and quality of C2 error processing with a special test disc. In this case it's impossible to measure C2 processing quality, just look at the general data on quality of audiotrack extraction. 

    MSI DR4-A 

      MSI DR4-A
    • Errors total Num : 17387922
    • Errors (Loudness) Num : 74503 - Avg : -25.8 dB(A) - Max : -5.3 dB(A)
    • Error Muting Num : 9359 - Avg : 1.0 Samples - Max : 2 Samples
    • Skips Num : 4 - Avg : 306.0 Samples - Max : 588 Samples
    • Total Test Result : 62.2 points (of 100.0 maximum)

    Direct copying of information from 780MB (90 min) CD-R to HDD

    The drive successfully copied the contents of the 780MB drive without any errors. 

    MSI DR4-A

    Copy time:

    • TEAC DV-W50D - 6 min. 12 sec.
    • MSI DR4-A - 12 min. 46 sec.

    Drive's physical characteristics 


    CD-RW drive Tray CD-Seek CD total DVD-Seek DVD total
    MSI DR4-A 8/10 9/10 8/10 9/10 8/10

    There isn't much noise in case of properly balanced CDs or when it works at low speeds. 

    Thermal conditions

    CD-RW drive T inside PC case, C T of the upper surface, C T of the lower surface, C
    MSI DR4-A 36 49 50

    The drive gets pretty  hot when used a lot. But be careful when placing other devices close to it as they can burn.

    Vibration in case of unbalanced CDs

    The drive vibrated when it worked with such disc but it managed to finish its reading without errors and at high speed. 


    This MSI drive looks pretty curious and functional. It's not the most advanced model, rather a middle-level one. The HD-Burn is the salt of this drive but it can be made advantage of only by owners of few drives certified by Sanyo. There are also some downsides. In particular, there are few CD-R which can be recorded by the HD-Burn technology. Besides, the drive has problems with identification and reading of CD-RW media, and it takes quite a while to burn them in UDF. But such problems can be solved in firmware. 

    Roman Shelepov (srl@ixbt.com)

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