What's the Difference Between DVD+R and DVD-R?

Buying blank DVDs or choosing a DVD recorder can be confusing if you're not sure about the difference between the DVD+R and DVD-R formats. Both types of discs can be written to only once but read many times. The difference lies in their formatting and how they read data on the disc.

DVD-R is pronounced "DVD dash R," not "DVD minus R." DVD+R is pronounced "DVD plus R."

Physical Characteristics

Blue tinted image of stacked CD/DVD texture background
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DVD+R and DVD-R discs look the same. They're both 120 mm in diameter and 1.2 mm in thickness, comprising two polycarbonate substrates of 0.6 mm each. The discs are labeled DVD+R or DVD-R.

DVDs, in general, are very data-sturdy and do not wear out with repeated use. Unlike VHS cassettes and floppy diskettes, DVDs are unaffected by magnetic fields.

A DVD movie, even after 10,000 viewings, will offer video reproduction identical to the day you bought it.

On just one side, any DVD media disc, whether DVD+R or DVD-R, can hold up to 13 times the information of a standard CD. A single-sided/single-layer DVD has a storage capacity of 4.7 GB, while a single-sided/dual-layer disc has a storage capacity of 8.5 GB. A double-sided/single-layer disc can store 9.4 GB, while a double-sided/dual-layer DVD has a 17.1 GB storage capacity.

History

The DVD-R format was developed by Pioneer and was released in the second half of 1997. DVD+R was developed by Sony and Philips and was introduced in 2002. Companies that support DVD-R include Pioneer, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Panasonic, while companies that support DVD+R include Sony, Philips, Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh, and Yamaha.

Different industry groups back each format. The DVD-RW format is championed by the DVD Forum, while the DVD+R format is backed by what is now called the DVD+RW Alliance.

Most companies now develop hybrid DVD drives that support both DVD-R and DVD+R formats, so the various industry groups that once championed these technologies aren't as necessary as they once were.

Functional Differences

The main difference between the DVD+R and DVD-R formats is the technique used to determine the location of data on the disc. DVD-R discs use “land prepits,” which are little marks on the grooves of the disc, to determine the laser position. DVD+R discs don’t have land prepits; instead, they measure the “wobble frequency” as the laser processes the disc.

Your DVD drive determines which type of media to use, so make sure to match the type of disc you buy with what your DVD drive supports. But as we've mentioned, today most drives are "hybrid drives" that will support either format.

Are DVDs Relevant Anymore?

High-quality DVDs stored correctly can last more than 50 years, but does it even matter anymore? With the advent of internet streaming, some speculate that DVD media and hardware are heading for obsoletion.

While demand for DVDs is clearly diminishing, they are still very much in use. With DVDs, you can watch movies even when the internet is down, and you can keep control over what your children watch. The technology will continue to exists as long as there is a demand.