The Nemo Memo: CD-RW Media

On January 9, 2002, in Nemo Memo, by John Nemerovski

Which blank CD media should you use with your new 24x CD-RW burner?

I just came back from an exploratory shopping expedition to Sam’s Club. (Sam’s web site doesn’t reflect what I found at the physical warehouse store.)

CD-R

Doing a comparison pricing of CD-R blank disks was easy at Sam’s because only one brand is carried. Verbatim has a vast empire of recordable media, with inventory listed in profusion on their web pages.

I had forgotten about the Verbatim brand until three blank CD-R disks arrived with my LaCie 24x review burner. Later that day I purchased some 24x CompUSA brand CD-R’s, which appeared to perform as well as the Verbatims. Several days later David Weeks loaned me a short stack of cheapo 16x Prime Peripherals blanks, giving me a sample of three brands to compare. (Verbatim has subsequently provided several different types of disks to add depth to this evaluation.)

Here’s what I found:

  • 24x CD-R’s consistently burn at their designated speed.
  • 16x CD-R’s can burn at 24x if you are in a real hurry, but you may have occasional duds.
  • Brand name disks are somewhat higher (difficult to quantify) quality than generic brands when transferring and accessing your valuable data, music, and multimedia files.
  • You can save a lot of $$$ by keeping your eyes and ears open for sales, rebates, and promo offers.
  • You can waste a lot of time attempting to locate and purchase bargain blanks.
  • Conventional jewel cases are still the best way to store and protect your precious CDs, but they take more space and use more plastic than the alternatives.
  • Slim packs and stack packs may save you $$$ at first, but beware of their reduced disk safety.How Much?

    In the United States, the following retail targets will help you obtain brand name 16x or 24x CD-R blanks in quantity for the lowest possible cost, based on Sam’s Club warehouse pricing:

  • 60¢ and below per disk in standard jewel cases
  • 50¢ and below per disk in slim cases
  • 30¢ and below per disk in spindle stack packs.(You often don’t save much $$$ when you purchase blank media in bulk spindle packs, then buy empty jewel or slim cases afterward.)

    Most people tell me they prefer a certain brand name, but they are willing to try different premium or generic brands when CD-R prices are lower and purchase is convenient. Comparison URLs such as http://www.salescircular.com and http://www.ask.com can really help (or drive you crazy) in your search for retail and online bargains. Watch your local Sunday print newspaper ads too.

    For casual music and file archive purposes, cheapo disks are probably fine most of the time, but don’t use them for mission critical work. In this small consumer-use sampling, CompUSA and Verbatim 24x CD-R media appear to record and playback with comparable results. My local Sam’s Club happens to be next door to CompUSA, so I would typically choose Verbatim over CompUSA brand because Sam’s normal warehouse price is much less than next door. (I didn’t have a chance to visit Costco across town, but their prices are usually very close to Sam’s.)

    CD-RW

    Verbatim sent me some CD-RW ÒHigh SpeedÓ 10x disks. You can use them over and over, justifying their higher initial price, and keeping our environment less cluttered with discarded plastic detritus.

    Using ToastLite 5.0.2 and the aforementioned LaCie drive (which — sob — is going back to LaCie next week) I created a WRITE SESSION archive of over 3,000 items, more than 500 MB, in under six minutes at 10x on CD-RW (not bad!), all while running AOL, Internet Explorer, and AppleWorks.

    Verdict: for CD-RW, use the best quality disks and packaging you can find, and they should last for many rewrites.

    Important: store your precious archives in a different physical building than your computer, for extra free insurance from fire, theft, flooding, and gooey pizzas.

    P.S. Roxio’s Toast is a great application! I love it. Roxio has invited me to a special Macworld preview of their new products, so I’ll have more on this software in a few weeks. Keep your browser aimed to MyMac.com, friends.


    John Nemerovski

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