11.14 Our Picks
Here are the CD writers and related products we recommend:
- ATAPI CD-RW drive
Plextor ATAPI PlexWriter. In the past, we preferred SCSI burners for their greater performance and reliability, and recommended ATAPI burners only when cost was the top priority. That changed when Plextor introduced the ATAPI 8/4/32A in early 2000, and followed it in July 2000 with the 12/10/32A. That drive was the first we'd used that had BURN-Proof technology. We found it impossible to burn coasters with that drive, even when we tried hard to do so. All recent Plextor ATAPI PlexWriters include BURN-Proof, and all are excellent products. If you want a reliable CD burner that will run for years, buy a mid- to high-end PlexWriter. Plextor PlexWriters are inexpensive, fast, robust, and work flawlessly under Windows 98/98SE/Me, 2000/XP, and NT. You simply can't buy a better CD writer. (http://www.plextor.com)
- SCSI CD-RW drive
Plextor PX-W1210TS PlexWriter 12/10/32S. We still have several Plextor SCSI burners around here, but we haven't installed a new one recently. Plextor ATAPI burners are simply so good that there's no longer any point to installing a SCSI unit. Although the 12X SCSI unit will remain available for the foreseeable future, Plextor announced in 2001 that they would no longer develop new SCSI models. The sole remaining bastion of SCSI CD burners is CD-R duplicators, who burn many identical CDs simultaneously. In that environment SCSI is a must-have, but for routine CD burning an ATAPI PlexWriter is actually a better solution. Faster SCSI burners are available from other makers, but if we needed a SCSI burner, this is what we'd buy. (http://www.plextor.com)
- USB CD-RW drive
Plextor USB 2.0 PlexWriter. If you need a portable CD burner to carry between machines or use with a notebook computer, USB is generally a better choice than SCSI or FireWire, both because it costs less and because computers are more likely to have a USB port than a SCSI or FireWire port. The USB 2.0 PlexWriter model is the best USB burner on the market. In effect, it repackages the well-regarded ATAPI PlexWriter in an external enclosure. USB 2.0 PlexWriters 24/10/40U require a USB 2.0 interface to achieve their rated performance. They also work properly with the ubiquitous USB 1.1 interface, although the slower interface limits writing and rewriting to 4X and reading to 6X. If you need a portable CD writer, the PlexWriter is the one to get. (http://www.plextor.com)
- FireWire CD-RW drive
Yamaha FireWire CD-RW drive. Yes, we know, it's not a Plextor. Plextor doesn't make a FireWire CD writer. Still, Yamaha CD burners have an excellent reputation, and we've never had a bad experience with one. At $300 or so, this is an expensive burner, but it's the best option we know of if you need a FireWire CD writer. If your system has FireWire but not USB 2.0, a FireWire burner may be the easiest and cheapest way to add external CD burning capability. However, note that you may be able to buy a Plextor USB 2.0 burner and a USB 2.0 expansion card for less than the cost of the Yamaha FireWire burner alone. (http://www.yamaha.com)
- Mastering software
Ahead Software Nero Burning ROM. Roxio Easy CD Creator is bundled with most CD writers, including the Plextors, but just because it comes with a drive doesn't mean it's the best product to use. We and many others have experienced numerous problems using Easy CD under Windows 2000 and Windows XP, particularly when we also had DirectCD (Roxio's packet-writing program) loaded. Looking for better mastering software, we tried many competing products. The best we found was Nero, which is so much better than Easy CD that it's worth paying for separately. After burning a boatload of CDs with Nero on different systems with different CD writers under Windows 98, NT, and 2000, we've found that Nero is faster than Easy CD, much less likely to burn coasters when using a marginal configuration, and able to copy source discs that Easy CD chokes on. (http://www.nero.com).
- Packet-writing software
Ahead Software InCD. Packet-writing software provides drive letter access to a CD burner, and allows you to move or copy files using drag-and-drop. For a long time, Adaptec/Roxio DirectCD was the dominant packet-writing software, but we had so many problems with it that we'd about given up on packet writing entirely. Ahead's InCD is a competing packet-writing program that actually works. Although we still don't use packet writing much we prefer to burn CDs in batch mode with Nero InCD is the product to use if you want packet-writing software.
- CD-R discs
Taiyo Yuden. We recognize that despite all we've said, many people want a simple answer to the complex question of which CD-R discs to buy. If you don't have the time or patience to do your own testing, 24X or 40X CD-R discs made by Taiyo Yuden are the best choice. They are sold under the Taiyo Yuden name and are relabeled by others, including Plextor.
- CD-RW discs
Ricoh. There are three distinct types of CD-RW disc, and you should choose the type your CD-RW drive is designed to accept. Older writers use discs that support 1X to 4X rewrites. More recent CD-RW drives are designed to use 10X discs. The latest CD-RW drives use 12X discs. In any case, Ricoh manufactures the most reliable CD-RW media we know of. Ricoh discs are available with the Ricoh brand name, and are relabeled by Plextor and others.
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