52x CD-RW Burners

LaCie “d2” 52x24x52 CD-RW FireWire Drive
Company: LaCie
Price: Currently $169.00, $149.00 in April, 2003


Other World Computing “Mercury” 52x24x52 CD-RW FireWire Drive
Company: Other World Computing

Price: $149.99

Both of these high-speed FireWire CD-RW burners arrived on the same day three weeks ago, so I had ample opportunity to compare them under optimum evaluation conditions. The cross-platform physical drive mechanisms are identical, manufactured by a company called LiteOnIt. If you are interested, they have a thorough FAQ on this line of products at their web site.

Speed and operation are excellent, with much improvement over earlier CD-RW drives we reviewed. If the Other World Computing (OWC) burner costs the same for less software than its competitor, you should purchase the LaCie, correct? Not so fast. Keep reading.

LaCie unit arrives with a manual on CD in English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian, plus a handy visual Quick Install Guide. Its software installer provides Roxio Toast Lite v5.2, plus Silver Keeper 1.1 and Silverlining Pro 6.4.5. A helpful ReadMe document should be read, printed, and saved for your reference. An attractive blue switch on front of the case powers the drive.

OWC unit ships with a complimentary 25-pack of 52x generic CD-R blanks that work flawlessly at every burn speed. The rear of the burner’s drive case contains RCA-style audio jacks. Software is Toast-Lite only. Power switch is on the back, with no indicator light on front, an ironic mistake given the name “LiteOnIt.” Documentation is skimpy.

Both fan-cooled exterior shell cases are large, heavy and substantial. LaCie is stackable on your desktop or it has a rackmount design. Its case is constructed of industrial brushed aluminum, while OWC provides sturdy plastic over metal. Each company’s power supply is a two-stage unit. BE CAREFUL when inserting the DIN plug into your drive.

An idle 52x drive is completely silent, and slow-speed burns are exceptionally quiet. Bravo! Media drawer is opened via a convenient button front right; its gentle touch push-to-close mechanism is smooth and well-geared.

Software requirements are OS 9.1 or later, OS X Jaguar 10.2.1 or later, 64MB of RAM, and 60MB free disk space. I’m a huge fan of Roxio’s Toast family of applications. Roxio provides valuable instructions in the Help menu application that accompanies Toast.

At full 52x operative capacity, my first 184.2MB data CD-R burn took 2:15 (minutes) to reach “Verify/Eject.” A red light glows and throbs on front of the unit, with moderate fan noise, no vibration, and a timed countdown in Toast. CD duplication was flawless. Once you become accustomed to each manufacturer’s slight differences in packaging and powering their burners, the OWC and LaCie drives are interchangeable, which is a good feature.

Be aware that you cannot and should not expect 52x results when working with audio files and music CD duplication. These drives automatically slow down to their optimum music burn speeds of 8x, because faster laser action can produce inferior results. A typical audio CD copies in 10 – 15 minutes depending upon how much music is on the original. Be patient, music lovers; use the super-high speeds for your data archiving and transfers.

A new breed of much faster CD-RW media is becoming available. Initial tests are positive, and impressive. We’ll have more on this exciting topic once we obtain additional blank high-speed CD-RW disks. Let us know of your personal experiences.

Which brand should you purchase? For the same price, if you have a specific need for power switch on front, better multi-language manuals, and formatting software, get the LaCie. If you want a hefty stack of CD-R media, and/or will use the two included audio-out jacks, Other World Computing’s burner is your choice. Either way, it’s a pleasure to give these LiteOnIt CD-RW drives a high recommendation.

In spite of minor differences, both products meet our criteria for:

MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5
Fantastic products! Well worth your money and investment. The best of their kind.

John Nemerovski

Leave a Reply