In our informal tests, the performance of the Sony was comparable to that of the HP: In the PC World Test Center's evaluations, the drive took 5 minutes, 20 seconds to back up 500MB of data to a 4.7GB DVD+RW disc, not counting format times.
One caveat: Currently, manufacturers' pricing on DVD+RW and DVD+R media is about the same as that for DVD-RW and DVD-R media. However, +RW and +R media is not typically sold in bulk, so your costs may be substantially more if you use lots of discs with this drive.
Unlike DVD-RW drives, DVD+RW units manage formatting of rewritable media themselves, rather than relying on software on your computer. That saves CPU cycles and makes writing to a DVD+RW disc a breeze.
Drive installation went smoothly, even though the documentation didn't provide as much help as we would have liked. Sony includes only a thin, pamphlet-like user guide and a basics-only installation poster. The ample bundled software comes on two separate application discs, and each app must be installed separately, with a system reboot after each installation (by contrast, the software installation routine for HP's DVD Writer Dvd200i requires less user intervention).
Sony ships the drive with B's Recorder Gold and B's Clip for mastering and packet-writing; Dantz's Retrospect Express for backup; MedioStream's NeoDVD standard for DVD-video authoring; MusicMatch Jukebox; and CyberLink's PowerDVD software DVD player.
UPSHOT: Speedy DVD+R and DVD+RW writing and a good software bundle separate this drive from the rest of the pack.