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Not as good quality as in the past
on February 17, 2010
I've used Verbatim disks a lot over the years and overall they have performed very well. In fact, just recently I tested some DVDs that I burned 3-5 years ago that had some family photos and videos on it, and many of the Memorex and Ritek DVDs were unreadable, but the copies on Verbatims were fine. So I have no personal problem with the Verbatims. Fortunately I had a second backup copy of this material on other media that was still good.
One advantage to Verbatim DVDs is that they pioneered a more stable metal-stabilized azo dye that is said to be even better than Taiyo-Yuden's super-cyanine dye.
However, in doing a lot of online research recently reading various discussions and blogs about what is the best media for long-term storage, there was general agreement from many of the participants in these discussions that Verbatim's once great quality had slipped in recent years. People were saying that Verbatim had licensed its technology to various offshore manufacturers who were producing the disks under their label and those disks were showing high failure rates. If you can find the ones that really are made in Japan, though, it was said those are probably still good.
In fact, I am about to purchase some Verbatim DVD+RW disks to make another copy of my personal files onto these RW type disks. That's because RW's don't use optical dyes, which can age and degrade over time; instead the data is stored by an exotic alloy--often GeSbTe (germanium-antimony-tellurium), but I have also seen InSbTe (indium-antimony-tellurium) mentioned-- which should be more stable. This is possible because the alloy has different reflectance in the crystalline vs. the amorphous, non-crystalline state. The problem is that since these are rewritable disks there is the danger that you could accidently overwrite them, which is why many people prefer the optical dye media which are write-once. For me I don't think that is a problem so I'm willing to try some of these and just see how well they do over the long term. I'll check them again in 5 and 10 years (assuming I live that long :-)) and see how they do compred to the optical media.
But after extensive research on the best optical media I settled on Taiyo Yuden. Their name came up again and again in the forums, and no one complained of any serious problems. Their reliability and consistency was especially held in high regard. Since I went to so much trouble researching this issue, I thought I would report on what I found here.
Be sure that you have real Taiyo Yuden though, as they are often faked. True T-Y media has a noticeable little ring in the dye area near the hub, which stands out and is easily seen. It's said this is more expensive to do and is harder to fake. Also make sure that on the package it really does say made in Japan. T-Y is only made in Japan. They have not diluted their quality by outsourcing to anyone else as has been said in the case of Verbatim. Also, avoid any disks from China and United Arab Emirates. Those consistently came up in the forums as among the worst. Those from India could sometimes be good and Taiwan was usually okay.
Verbatim does have a point in their favor, though, in that their dye technology can be shown to be more resistant to ultraviolet light damage. However, unless you're in the habit of leaving your DVDs on the dashboard of your car or something this isn't as big a deal as has been claimed. And since many people bought the Verbatims in the past for archival purposes they're going to be stored in a dark place anyway so it's not really a factor for most people.
The same thing goes for the previously very well thought of gold/silver (actually aluminum) DVD-R disks from Mitsui. These disks are expensive (over $2 per disk) compared to Taiyo Yuden's which you can get for about 36 cents apiece if you buy a hundred pack. The problem is that Mitsui has since broken up into two subdivisions, Mitsui Advanced Media of America and of Europe, and people were saying the quality just wasn't as good as in the old days.
Also, people were pointing out that the necessity for gold has been over-hyped in recent years. That's because it just isn't necessary to pay the extra cost anymore. Gold was preferred some years back because it doesn't oxidize if there is a defect in the polycarbonate plastic layer covering the thin metal layer, and was thought to be superior because of that. However, it turns out that had more to do with defects back then in the manufacturing process of applying the plastic layer evenly to the disks. That problem was solved years ago and now there's no real reason to go to the extra expense of the gold, although many people still think it's the best archival grade media. There's no doubt it's a good media, the problem is that they can't prove that it's worth spending 6 or 7 times as much for a disk that doesn't last any longer according to these accelerated aging tests that have been done. Nevertheless, you will often find websites advertising the gold types as the only true archival quality grade media.
I did come up with one very interesting find on a gold/silver disk that might be worth it for very critical information. Mitsubishi-Kagaku recently teamed up and have produced a dual layer gold/silver disk similar the earlier Mitsui disks. They're also over $2 per disk but there's a very interesting difference. It turns out that DVDs are typically stamped from a glass master with runs of usually around 500,000 before they replace the master. After the fist couple of hundred thousand, the master isn't that accurate anymore and that can cause problems. Manufacturers typically mix disks from different parts of the runs together when you buy them. It's thought that this is why you can buy a cake box of 50 or 100 disks, have no problems and then run into several failed burns with apparently no reason. Very likely those disks were from the last 100,000 or 200,000 of the run.
However, these Mitsubishi-Kagaku disks are guaranteed to be from runs of less than 25,000 disks, which should be well within the tolerances of the glass master. You pay for it though, and a cake box of 25 disks is around $65. You can find them on the web by looking up "Century disk." The dye is a metal stabilized azo dye which is said to be possibly the best dye, too. I bought a small number of these disks for some very critical data as well as the Taiyo-Yuden and have been very happy with the results. No "coasters" at all.
By the way, there are several reasons to prefer the DVD+R media to the -R. Unfortunately, although Taiyo Yuden makes +R's, Century disks only come in -R format. There are several reasons for this superiority. One is that +R's have better bit error checking and correction algorithms than -R's, which could prevent lost data. The second is better wobble detection (all disks have this and it has to be corrected for during recording and playback). The third is that +R's have more than one burn profile for the laser power, whereas -Rs only have one. This makes it more likely to get a better burn since the dye is sensitive to the laser power.
Whichever way you decide to go, good luck with your archiving and optical storage!