LaCie U&I FireWire &
USB 24x10x40 CD-RW Drive
Price: $239.00 (US)
Requires Mac OS 8.6 – 9.2.1 (with some OS X compatibility; see below), plus 800 MB hard disk space
TOASTY, TOASTED, AND TOAST
Today before breakfast I was reading the MacAddict magazine review of a CD-RW burner while waiting for some toast to heat up. I thought to myself, “Hey, Nemo, I wonder if LaCie will be providing this 24x model for our evaluation any time soon.” At that moment my electric toaster made an awful ratcheting noise as two slices of whole wheat bread burst into flames. All the power went out in my house, and I knew it was time to replace the toaster.
One hour later…
Yes! A large box from LaCie awaited me after I returned from buying a new toaster at Target. With careful excitement I removed the inner LaCie carton, containing both FireWire and USB cables, power cord, User’s Guide with registration card, three blank 700 MB Verbatim CDs, an installer CD, and the handsome 24x10x40 CD-RW drive. It is a very substantial and stylish piece of hardware, with brushed silver body and attractive blue front panel.
The comprehensive User’s Guide begins with many precautions, which should be read and followed! Ditto for copyright law info. This manual explains LaCie’s trademarked “U&I” snappy shorthand for both USB and FireWire (IEEE 1394) capabilities of this burner.
I studied the installer CD’s useful ReadMe document, then installed Roxio’s Toast Lite v5.0.2, which is offered in English, French, German, and Japanese. Another helpful ReadMe was part of the Toast Lite installation process, which placed application, extensions, help, and audio extraction items onto the hard disk of my iMac DV, and relocated a couple of existing Apple extensions. Restart.
FIRST RUN, FIRST BURN
I plugged in FireWire and power cables, then turned on the power switch located at the rear of the unit. A tiny green light started glowing above the CD drawer, and the moderately quiet fan began to purr.
The disk drawer opened when I pressed its round blue button, bottom center. To test the LaCie, I inserted a commercial audio CD and gently pushed the drawer to shut it. With additional fan noise the music disc worked without incident, as did a data CD full of archived applications. You can drag a disk’s icon to the trash to eject it, or press COMMAND-Y to “put it away,” in Macintosh terminology. (I use “disk” to describe the physical media and data storage media, and “disc” for a music CD.)
Time to burn my first audio disc!
I wasted over an hour attempting unsuccessfully to use iTunes 2 to burn a music CD. I was repeatedly told “authoring support not found,” which is either due to a bug in Toast, in iTunes, or because LaCie’s U&I FireWire & USB 24x10x40 CD-RW Drive is too new for even the updated Apple OS 9.2.1 extension called Authoring Support 1.1.3.
I finally got it into my thick skull to use the included Toast Lite for authoring software. It works perfectly!
In fairness to LaCie, the User’s Guide advises that if “the CD-RW Drive Is Not Recognized: use the Extensions Manager to verify that the drivers have been installed. Is there a conflict with other device drivers or extensions? Remove the conflicting driver or extension. If you are not familiar with the procedure for this, contact LaCie Technical Support.”
After launching Toast Lite I dragged a large folder full of .mp3 music files into Toast’s Audio window and clicked “Record.” Bingo! A few of the songs needed to be converted, which happened automatically, before I elected to burn my first CD at 24x speed. I made note of the time, and came back in a few minutes to find the burn stalled by a “buffer underrun error,” whatever that means. I was advised to “please try again with a slower write speed.”
No dice, Mr. Toast. What’s the point of having a 24x unit if it can’t handle the advertised speed? I tested the partially-burned CD, and its three complete songs sounded great. I decided to think different, and make a 700 MB data disk at 12x for insurance. My drive breezed through the process in under seven minutes. (This is why you often read that a 24x CD-RW can burn an entire disk in three minutes.)
Feeling reassured, I prepared to make another Toast Lite CD of those .mp3s, and this time I checked the “buffer underrun protection” box before commencing. Hooray! It worked, requiring thirteen minutes to cook over 58 minutes of music.
I had used my three complimentary blank CDs, and needed more. At the local CompUSA, I purchased 25 blanks of their 24x speed house brand in five different colors for $9.99. Back home, and grinning from ear to ear, I used Toast Lite’s Copy feature to dupe a 62:17 minute commercial music CD in twelve minutes.
TiBOOK TO THE RESCUE
David Weeks dropped in to have a look at the LaCie, bringing his Titanium PowerBook running OS X. He was perplexed by my inability to use iTunes 2 as authoring software, and decided to do some troubleshooting.
David’s TiBook succeeded immediately, using OS X (10.1.1) to make music CDs from a load of .mp3s both with iTunes 2 and his preview OS X version of Toast Titanium. But the 24x LaCie drive was supported only at 12x by iTunes. Roxio’s web site will have current info on the status of X-compatible Toast software as it becomes available.
Still in troubleshooting mode, poking around my OS 9.2.1 System Folder and comparing it to his, David activated these extensions: Authoring Support 1.1.3, Disk Burner Extension 1.0.2, and FireWire Authoring Support 1.1.2. Bravo, because iTunes 2 now worked as authoring software on my iMac.
Something clicked in my brain, and I remembered a message that appeared during the installation of Toast Lite, many hours earlier:
Now everything makes sense:
1. If you require a totally silent CD-RW unit, purchase a different brand. This fan’s white noise is not a concern in my home office, and you probably don’t want to use the LaCie as your primary CD player unless you play music at a loud level. A rough equivalent of the fan noise for reference purposes is with an early tray-loading “Rev” model of iMac. Many people will run the LaCie only when doing a CD burn, making its noise factor mostly irrelevant.
Our source at LaCie tells Mymac.com that “The purpose of the fan is to extend the life of the unit, and to cool it since we use an internal power supply. A lot of reviewers don’t seem to realize that the fan is a GOOD thing!” Or, as David Weeks likes to say, “It’s not a bug, John, it’s a feature!”
2. I repeat that the design and durability of this U&I FireWire & USB 24x10x40 CD-RW Drive are impressive, giving me confidence the unit will crank out thousands of successful CDs during many years of reliable service. Hiding behind its blue front panel are additional controls for intrepid users: audio out, volume, eject, and read/write light.
3. Toast Lite is a versatile, powerful authoring application, complete with comprehensive Help files. “If it ain’t broke” applies to my attitude regarding Toast Lite versus iTunes 2 at this point. Full-featured Toast Titanium is for sale, with info at the Roxio web site, and also found in Toast Lite’s main burning window.
4. I neither made a CD-RW or tried the much slower USB capability of this “U&I” drive. Both should work fine, I expect.
5. MyMac.com is beginning the process of comparing as many CD-RW drives as we can obtain. Stay tuned for our subsequent coverage.
6. An exceptionally thorough review of this drive (using Windows, but mentioning the Mac) is linked from the LaCie web site.
Here is Nemo’s MyMac.com “Q/D/S/V Standard” for all product reviews:
Q = QUALITY, including ease of installation, performance, stability, and general happy relationship with everything on my system;
D = DOCUMENTATION, both printed and electronic, plus appropriate website material;
S = SUPPORT, in the form of email, phone, and web updates;
V = VALUE, which includes both original cost and subsequent expenses.
The LaCie U&I FireWire & USB 24x10x40 CD-RW Drive has excellent Quality, very good Documentation, unnecessary Support so far (with plenty of contact options listed in the User’s Guide), and comparable Value to other current 24x “U&I” burners.
Accepting the moderate fan noise and Toast/iTunes 2 confusion, Nemo rates this RECOMMENDED drive:
MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5
Fantastic product! Well worth your money and investment. The best of its kind.
DAVID WEEKS GETS THE LAST WORD:
LaCie should make it clearer to the user that there is currently an incompatibility between Toast and iTunes.
Given the fact that Apple ships iTunes with all Macs, the average user will be befuddled by the fact that a normal installation of Toast Lite will disable iTunes in OS9 (not OS X). While LaCie is not directly responsible for the problem (Roxio sells Toast) LaCie should address the issue in their ReadMe documentation, as LaCie will be getting the calls from the end user when their burner does not work with iTunes.
A simple mention of the issue in LaCie’s documentation will eliminate user confusion.
Until this documentation is addressed, I would rate this otherwise fine unit:
MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5
A very decent product. Worth the time and investment, but look for competing products.