Sporting a contemporary front bezel, the Sony BWU-100A certainly lives up to Sony's design reputation. The tweak to the front bezel may be rather subtle and minor, but it does make this Sony Blu-ray drive look like the cutting edge, futuristic product that it represents. At the very least, it will stand out among the present generation of DVD burners based on its looks alone.
It's not just about the aesthetics. Sony has not ignored the practical aspects of a burner. The tray door has noise dampening foam lining and they do help to keep this Blu-ray drive quiet even while writing. Besides a low vibration during burning, we did find the BWU-100A to be one of the quieter drives encountered.
Based on its specifications alone, the Sony BWU-100A is a jack-of-all-trades, supporting virtually all existing DVD and BD formats. Even most of the older CD formats are covered, though this compatibility inevitably comes at the price of write speed. The Sony drive is rated at 8x for most DVD media and 6x for the less popular DVD-RAM. CD write speeds are also capped at 24x for normal CD-R discs while CD-RW tops out at 16x. This is hardly unusual as the LG GBW-H10N Blu-ray writer also suffers from the same deficiencies, though it caps out at a slightly faster 12x for common DVD media formats. However, the Sony BWU-100A does have an advantage over the LG drive in that it supports writing to dual layer Blu-ray media (50GB). Unfortunately, at the moment the scarcity and cost of such media means that this advantage remains mostly on paper, but the option is available if the need arises.
Just like the LG Blu-ray drive that we had previously reviewed, the software state of Blu-ray is less than ideal at the moment. While CyberLink seems to have updated its comprehensive suite of utilities for Blu-ray, it's not perfect. Playback of commercially pressed BD-ROMs (like your typical off the shelf Blu-ray movie), arguably one of the more essential features of a Blu-ray drive, is not supported out of the box. Instead, you will have to go to Sony's website , download and install the CyberLink PowerDVD BD upgrade before you can start playing your BD movies. Get ready your CD key too or else you won't be able to upgrade.
Besides this inconvenience, the CyberLink BD Solution is actually quite a decent collection of applications, with authoring, editing, burning and other content creation components. For those with a HD video camcorder, you should find the software invaluable for creating your own Blu-ray movies, though of course you would probably want to do the editing with more professional tools if you already have them. The list of utilities in the suite is as follows: