DVD+R and DVD-R 101: an Explanation For Beginners

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Buying blank DVDs or choosing a DVD recorder can be confusing if you're not sure how DVD+R and DVD-R are similar and different.

In short, the only differences between DVD+R and DVD-R is in their formatting. That is, the laser in a DVD recorder that's made specifically for DVD+R or DVD-R discs uses a different technique to determine the location of data on the disc.

They Look Identical

Superficially, DVD+R and DVD-R discs look identical. They're both 120 mm in diameter and 1.2 mm in thickness, comprised of two polycarbonate substrates, 0.6 mm each.

However, a DVD+R will, of course, have "DVD+R" written on the disc, and the same with DVD-R discs.

Technical Differences in Formatting

While there aren't any physical difference between a DVD-R disc and a DVD+R disc. there are a series of technical differences between the formats.

The Standards Differences

The DVD-R and -RW media formats are officially approved by the standards group DVD Forum. The DVD Forum was founded by Mitsubishi, Sony, Hitachi, and Time Warner, so it has tremendous industry support for its technical standards.

DVD+R and +RW formats are not approved by the DVD Forum standards group but are instead supported by the DVD+RW Alliance. The DVD+RW Alliance is supported by Sony, Yamaha, Philips, Dell, and JP, so it also has tremendous industry support for its technical standards.

The Functional Differences

The main functional differences between DVD-R and DVD+R are the DVD recorder's built-in defects management, the way the recorders format and rewrite DVDs, and the price.

With DVD-R, little marks are positioned in the grooves of the disc that determines how the DVD reader processes the information on the disc. DVD+R, however, does not have these "land prepits," but instead measures the wobble frequency as the laser processes the disc.

Even though these two formats were developed by different companies and can only be used on certain devices, some DVD drives are hybrid and support both DVD-R and DVD+R discs. They're sometimes called DVD?R or DVD?RW drives.

So, whether you have DVD-R or DVD+R discs, make sure the DVD drive says that they're supported. Similarly, if you already have a DVD+R drive, for example, and it's not a hybrid DVD drive, make sure to buy DVD+R discs.

They Store the Same Type of Data

On just one side, any DVD media disc, no matter if DVD+R or DVD-R, can hold up to 13 times the information of a standard CD (13 x 700 megabytes).

Here are some common DVD storage capacities:

  • 4.7 GB (single sided/single layer)
  • 9.4 GB (double sided/1 layer)
  • 8.5 GB (single sided/dual layer)
  • 17.1 GB (double sided/dual layer)

DVD Media and Recording Differences

According to the claims of the DVD Alliance, using a DVD+R recorder will let you do the following:

  • Instantly eject without having to wait for finalized formatting.
  • Ability to record one DVD disc partially on PC and partially on television.
  • Background formatting. While the disc is being formatted, you can simultaneously record on already-formatted portions of the same disc.
  • Enhanced ability to edit filenames, movie and song titles, and playlists.
  • 100% compatibility with all other DVD players, while still enjoying these extra recording features.

Other Facts About DVDs

DVD discs are very data-sturdy and do not wear out through repeated use. Unlike VHS cassettes and floppy diskettes, DVD discs are unaffected by magnetic fields. A DVD movie, even after 10,000 playings, will have video reproduction identical to the day you bought it.

DVD RAM is a late 1990's format that has lost popularity and is effectively a non-choice for consumers today since most movies will not play on DVD RAM.