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A Burning Desire

Got your heart set on upgrading your CD burner? Check out the latest drives before you buy.

Whether you're dealing with one desktop or 100, a CD burner is a desirable piece of hardware capable of tackling many tasks. If you have any earlier generation burners hanging around, now is an affordable time to up-grade to the latest and greatest. Fast burning speeds let your employees spend their time on tasks more important than waiting for a disc to finish recording. We're mostly going to scope out CD burners that also allow you to view DVDs, and we've thrown in a few DVD-burning drives, just for good measure.

The first question you're likely to face is "Internal or external?" Internal drives are cheaper and require some basic computer knowledge to install. External drives can be transferred from computer to computer as needed for backup or presentation use. If you need the portability so one drive can handle the occasional tasks of a group of workers, go external. If not, internal drives cost less, save space and slide easily into any empty 5 1/4-inch drive bay. At $99 (all prices street), the internal CenDyne CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive shows just how affordable an upgrade can be.

Entrepreneurs on the go, looking to expand the capabilities of their laptop computers, can turn to the $279 Addonics drive, otherwise known by its lengthy model number, AEMDVRW48XUM. Just call it the Addonics Mobile DVD/CDRW with USB 2.0 interface. It's also available with a PCMCIA or Firewire interface for a few dollars more. You'll pay for the portability, but DVD viewing and data backup are nice options for hard-traveling mobile warriors.

We took the $129 Samsung SM-348 out for a quick test drive. And we do mean quick--the 48x CD-R smoked the pokey speeds of our old 4x burner. But don't expect things to get too much faster; CD-Rs will pretty much max out at 52x soon.

Faster speeds can mean a greater chance of errors, but high-quality media can reduce the likelihood of mistakes. We burned several different kinds of data files and didn't find any problems. The CD-RW speeds on all the drives in our chart are slower, but CD-RWs are great for automatically backing up data.

DVD recorders are in a funny place right now. Several different formats are duking it out for space in the marketplace, but nobody has really dominated yet. Analysts are expecting a shakeout to take place eventually that will boost one or the other to king-of-the-hill status. Confusingly, the two leading technologies have some very close names: DVD+RW/R and DVD-RW/R. And yet another format geared for backing up your data and not playing on DVD-ROM drives is DVD-RAM. A multiformat drive like the $349 Sony DRU-500AX makes this mess a moot point for the time being, since it handles both DVD-RW/R and DVD+RW/R.

The biggest attraction of burning your own DVDs is the hefty 4.7GB of information that can fit on one disc. This is great for backing up large amounts of data and creating multimedia materials that just about anybody can view. Just keep in mind that older DVD players may have trouble dealing with the rewritable format discs. We tried installing the $249 Toshiba SD-R5002 kit with DVD-R and DVD-RW capabilities. Getting it hooked up and running was straightforward, but getting acquainted with the software takes a little time. Those new to DVD burning will find a bit of a learning curve ahead of them with any drive.

For a quick and inexpensive data solution, today's crop of CD-R/CD-RW drives is hard to beat. The technology is well-established and won't land you in the midst of any format wars. But if that tantalizing amount of DVD disc space and the ability to make training videos or promotional materials is too good to pass up, the outlay of an extra couple hundred dollars is worthwhile.

Shopping List
Can your business get by with a basic CD-R/CD-RW burner, or do you want to go all out? Before you commit, take these models for a test drive.

MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACTCD
SPEED
DVD
SPEED
FEATURESSTREET
PRICE
ADDONICS
Mobile dvd/cdrw
(408) 433-3899
www.addonics.com
48x cd-rom,
48x cd-r,
24x cd-rw
16x dvd-romExternal, usb 2.0
interface, portable
$279
CENDYNE
cd-rw/dvd-rom
combo drive
(714) 556-1020
www.cendyne.com
48x cd-rom,
48x cd-r,
24x cd-rw
16x dvd-romInternal, 2mb buffer$99
SAMSUNG
SM-348
(800) samsung
www.samsungusa.com
48x cd-rom,
48x cd-r,
24x cd-rw
16x dvd-rominternal,
8mb buffer
$129
SONY
DRU-500AX
(800) 352-7669
www.storagebysony.com
32x cd-rom,
24x cd-r,
10x cd-rw
8x dvd-rom,
4x dvd-/+r,
2x dvd-/+rw
Internal, dual rw drives$349
TOSHIBA
SD-R5002
kit
(949) 583-3000
www.sdd.toshiba.com
40x cd-rom, 16x cd-r, 10x cd-rw12x dvd-rom,
2x dvd-r,
1x dvd-rw
internal, includes discs$249

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This article was originally published in the June 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Burning Desire.

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