A CD rewritable drive used to be the most convenient and affordable option for a rewritable optical drive. That has changed. Interest in DVD writers is soaring, and little wonder - the average price of a drive has dropped by more than half in the past 18 months, and prices are destined to fall further. The rewritable DVD has some way to go before it approaches the popularity of the CD-RW because competing, incompatible formats remain a serious issue. However, the DVD is clearly the way of the future. Its ability to put 4.7 gigabytes - nearly seven times as much data - on a CD-size disc is a powerful consumer proposition. Multiple generations of DVD burners are available now, unlike a year ago, giving consumers the choice of a wide range of speeds and prices. Today, a top-of-the-line 52X/24X CD-RW drive can cost as little as HK$700, depending on the brand and your ability to bargain, at the Golden Arcade shopping mall in Shamshuipo. But for another HK$300 to HK$500 you can buy a fast, new rewritable DVD drive such as the Pioneer DVR-A05. The older Pioneer DVR-A03 is about HK$1,000. CD media is still cheaper than DVD media but both 2x DVD-recordable and 1x DVD-RWs have dropped well below HK$15 each, making them about the same price as CD-R/CD-RW in cost per megabytes. Though 4x DVD-R/+RW/+R media costs a lot more, prices are falling and will get to CD media levels very soon. High-end CD-RW drives are faster with CD media than DVD-RW drives, which max out at 24x for CD-R and 10x for CD-RW with typical speeds of 16x/10x. Remember, speeds for DVD- and CD-burning are not equivalent. For DVDs, 1x means 1.385 megabytes per second throughput, while 1x for CDs means 150 kilobytes per second. If you burn lots of music CDs, a fast CD-RW drive might be the best option. However, burning DVDs at 4x is as fast as 52x maximum CD-R recording, which varies from 16x to 52x, depending on the laser's position on the disc. Though the DVD format war is still in progress, you can buy a DVD burner without worrying too much about compatibility. Any recent DVD film player will play the four most common formats and many will even play DVD-Ram discs. However, to be on the safe side, you could pay a bit more for the Sony DRU-500A, which is a multi-format DVD burner. Priced at HK$2,750 in official Sony shops, the drive can record using DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs, so you do not have to worry about which one will eventually triumph. If you are not ready to spend up on a DVD burner, the CD-RW drive you have can probably tide you over until DVD prices fall further. Almost every CD-burning package includes an option to burn video CDs that will play in most DVD players. CD-mastering software such as Nero's DVD-Rom burning give you a VCD option. Other popular titles are Roxio's Easy CD Creator and CeQuadrat's WinOnCD 5 Power Edition. However, VCDs do not look as good as DVDs. A VCD stores video at half the resolution of DVDs and uses Mpeg-1 encoding. Got a gadget idea? Drop Carolyn a line at email@example.com .