The $129.99 (list price) Memorex 16X drive uses an ATAPI IDE port and requires internal installation. This means you'll need an available drive bay (unless you're replacing an existing CD/DVD drive), along with a connector on your IDE controller cable. Experienced PC users can configure and install the drive in a matter of minutes--most installations will place the drive as the master device on your secondary IDE controller channel. Fortunately, less experienced folks can refer to the large setup poster or steps detailed in the accompanying printed manual, so you won't need to fish around online or download PDF documents (though CNET has a handy burner installation guide). It took just a few minutes to install the Memorex 16X drive, and Windows XP recognized the unit without a hitch. If you'd rather not delve into the innards of your PC, Memorex also offers an external version of this drive for $229.99.
The drive's attractive charcoal-gray and silver-colored bezel is a match for many popular PC color schemes used by HP, Dell, and others, so the Memorex 16X dual-layer drive will look like original equipment after installation. You get a headphone jack for CD music, though digital sound from DVDs plays through the PC's speaker system. A single LED displays the drive's status during loading, reading, and writing.
The Memorex 16X handles a wide range of disc media and is capable of reading DVD-ROM discs and burning DVD+R discs at 16X (DVD-R discs record a bit slower at 8X) and recording DVD+/-RW discs at speeds up to 4X. CDs are also supported at reading and burning speeds to 48X and rewriting speeds to 24X. The real disappointment here is the DVD+R9 speed of only 2.4X. Although 2.4X is on a par with the rates of other first-generation DVD+R9 writers, it will take about 45 minutes or longer to burn a full double-layer disc. Still, the overall suite of burning/rewriting speeds is very respectable, and the addition of double-layer recording makes the Memorex a one-stop multimedia shop for playback and recording.
Of course, any disc burner is useless without software, and the Memorex 16X dual-layer drive includes a comprehensive suite of Nero 6.0 utilities to handle just about any burning/rewriting task. Nero Vision Express 2.0 records, edits, and burns video projects to DVD. Nero Recode 2.0 (not always included with DVD burners, such as the Lite-On SOHW-832S) copies and records non-copy-protected DVD titles to single-layer DVD discs. Movies are played back with Nero Showtime. Standard DVD player programs such as WinDVD are unnecessary with Showtime. Nero BackItUp lets you back up and restore data from CD or DVD. Rewritable CDs and DVDs are supported with InCD 4.0 (Nero's packet-writing utility). For the budding artist, Nero Cover Designer lets you design and print disc labels and jewel case art, while PhotoShow Deluxe edits and archives digital photos to disc.
The printed documentation is helpful. A setup poster and a 50-page manual take users through the details of drive installation and setup. The illustrated manual also covers basic tasks using Nero's software tools and offers a FAQ for troubleshooting basics. However, the documentation covers only the simplest tasks, such as data disc, audio disc, video disc, and disc copy creation, with no coverage of backup, photo, or cover designer utilities (though there is plenty of help in the software itself). The documentation also fails to cover any specific double-layer issues--for example, it would have been nice to see a specific section on how to burn an 8.5GB DL DVD. Jim Taylor's DVD FAQ is a good place to find this information.
In CNET Labs' testing, the Memorex 16X dual-layer drive easily stands its ground against competitors and returns very speedy single-layer DVD+R (video burning) performance. While not the fastest drive we've seen (the Plextor PX-712A 12X drive is a bit quicker), its 6:46 recording time is certainly notable. However, its DVD-R write performance lagged behind a number of 8X DVD burners', including the LG GSA-4120B. DVD video rip (DVD-to-HDD) performance is acceptable at 8:56--anything less than 10 minutes is good. When working with 4X rewritable DVD media such as +/-RW discs, the Memorex 16X manages some speedy +RW read/write speeds. Its performance with -RW media isn't so good but is still acceptable. The drive is also a very capable CD audio platform, delivering one of the best CD audio burn times to date. It's not quite as fast when ripping audio from CDs, but the performance is adequate.