Blu-ray DVD players: DVD formats explained
- The differences between the seven formats of DVD recordable discs
- DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD Ram and Blu-ray discs (BD-R and BD-RE) explained
- Not all DVD formats are as equally versatile
- Find the best DVD recordable disc for you
What's the difference between recordable DVD disc formats?
There are seven formats of DVD recordable disc available. They offer different features and not all are compatible with all recorders. We'll steer you through the maze and help you select the right disc for your DVD recorder.
See our guide to buying a DVD recorder.
Standard single-layer recordable DVD discs can store an hour of footage at their highest quality setting. Picture and sound quality are still very good if you extend this to two hours - compatible with the quality of standard definition broadcast TV. Some recorders can record at variable speed (VBR) when recording from digital TV. This matches the broadcast TV programme quality (data rate) to the DVD recording data rate and so offers the most efficient use of the available disc space.
You can push disc capacity further to record three, four or even eight hours of footage on a disc but picture quality becomes increasingly poor. Dual layer discs have double the recording capacity of single layer discs.
DVD+R and DVD-R
These discs are cheap, write-once-only discs which you cannot re-record on. However, new recordings can be added later to the remaining blank section. Recordings cannot be erased though you can hide them by deleting their titles from the contents listing that’s shown when you first play a disc.
To play the disc in machines other than the one you recorded with, the disc has to be ‘finalised’ meaning that no further recordings can be made to that disc. Dual-layer versions of these discs have twice the recording capacity – most modern DVD recorders can use them.
DVD+RW and DVD-RW
These are re-recordable versions of DVD-R and DVD+R discs – you can overwrite existing recordings with new ones.
DVD-RW has two different recording modes.
In ‘video’ mode, recordings are made in order you make them, with new ones added to the remaining blank section. Recordings can be deleted but if you re-record in the blank space you must ensure the recording will fit or it’ll copy over the next recording.
In ‘VR mode’ it avoids this by jumping over subsequent recordings to the next available space. You can also start watching a programme before it's finished recording and it also allows more editing features to be used, such as joining or cropping recordings. However, not as many DVD players are compatible with discs recorded in VR mode.
On DVD-Ram discs, programmes aren’t saved in the order you record them but any available blank space is used. Recording may start off in one part of the disc and, when that’s full, it will skip to the next available blank space rather than needing a single space on the disc big enough to store the whole of the recording.
They offer various title-erase and edit facilities and are the most versatile type of disc in this respect. You can also start watching a programme before it’s finished recording. They sometimes come in a protective caddy to prevent damage to the disc surface, which is more delicate than other types of disc.
DVD-RAM disc compatibility is less-common than with the other formats.
Blu-ray discs (BD-R and BD-RE)
There are two formats of Blu-ray disc capable of recording high-definition programming when used in a Blu-ray recorder. BD-R discs are write-once-only discs whereas BD-RE discs can be recorded on over and over again. These offer typically 6.5 hours of high-definition (HD) quality and between 10 and 13 hours of standard definition (SD) quality. However, both types are also available in dual-layer (DL) formats that offer twice these recording times.
Which? Best Buy Reviews
For the latest independent Which? product reviews and to track down a Best Buy player or recorder follow these links:
Should I buy a DVD recorder? - is a DVD recorder the right option for you?
Should I buy a DVD player? - DVD player or Blu-ray, what's the best option?
Which? Blu-ray reviews - the best Blu-ray players at the best prices