Disc authoring isn't what it used to be. You only need look at the latest versions of Nero and Creator to see that burning data to discs has been largely eclipsed by shuffling media onto different platforms directly, backing up across networks or using USB sticks.
Even so, there are still times when disc authoring is essential: how else are you going to try the Windows Vista Beta, or store your emails, not to mention the creation of music compilations and sharing your own videos.
One thing that has changed is that the releases of DVD writers are no longer greeted with excitement. This Sony drive is intriguing enough, as it claims the fastest authoring speed of any drive out there, by offering 18x burning when authoring DVD±R discs. This may only be twice as fast as the previous generation of drives, but interestingly this drive is born out of the relationship between Sony and NEC.
Burning a full disc using 16x media (limited to 16x writing) will have you sitting around for a reasonable five minutes and 55 seconds. This is pretty much on a par with any drive that you can buy these days. Up the burning speed to 18x, and you're looking at five minutes and 43 seconds. It's not reason enough to rush out and buy the drive, but saving the odd ten seconds doesn't hurt either.
The drive can be rather noisy in operation - particularly when performing its breakneck disc writing. It's not annoying per se, but it's definitely noticeable, and if you're looking to burn discs while performing more audio sensitive work, then you may need to settle for slower burning times.
If all of this seems rather unremarkable, prepare yourself for an about-face. While the drive may not represent a phenomenal leap forward in terms of performance, it is available in its OEM form at the low offering of £24.
Admittedly this price doesn't include any authoring software, but when you're looking at hardware that is this low priced, any software is going to have a significant impact on the final price tag. Your current software will probably work just fine anyway.