Mercury FireWire/USB 2 D107 DVD+/-RW

Other World Computing Mercury FireWire/USB 2 D107 DVD+/-RW
Company: MacSales
Price: $189.99 external case bundle

Want to be able to burn DVD’s, but your Mac doesn’t have an Apple-supplied SuperDrive? Perhaps you want an external burner to supplement an older, slower internal SuperDrive?

In the Mac world, the Pioneer DVR-107 is considered by many to be the best multi-format DVD burner that’s affordable to the average buyer. It’s an 8×8 dual format writer; it can write at 8x speed on DVD-R discs whose standard is being ratified in the DVD Forum and +R discs that are designed for this recording speed. The -107 also records high-speed DVD-RW and +RW discs at up to 4x speed, and CD-R and CD-RW discs at up to 24x speed. It handles both DVD-R and DVD-RW disc formats as well as the +R and +RW formats. This little box will handle most any format you want to burn.

I’m not going to get into the endless debate about which DVD format is going to be the ultimate survivor, but whichever format wins out, this Pioneer drive will be able to record or play it.

The Weeks division of MyMac Labs tested a DVR-107 furnished by the great folks at Other World Computing . They sell the unit as a stand-alone internal part, as well as part of a great bundle that includes the DVR-107, Dantz Retrospect Express, NTI DragonBurn mastering software for OS 9/OS X, 5 DVD-R 4X blanks, and 25 80Min CD-R blanks. OWC provides a one-year warranty for the burner itself.

The unit was hooked to our Power Macintosh dual 1.42 GHz machine running OS X 10.3.4. It’s got one gigabyte of RAM, and comes standard with a DVR-105 SuperDrive, which is an earlier predecessor to the -107.

The -107 is recognized out of the box by OS X 10.3.3, and OWC has instruction on how to patch earlier versions of OS X. If you’re still hanging on tight to OS 9, OWC provides a plug-in to have OS 9 see the -107.

The -107 burns DVD-R’s at 8x, twice as fast as the 4x speed of the older -105 models. It burns CD-R’s at 24x, whereas the -105 pokes along at 16x. Note that you’ll need to use the more expensive 8x DVD-R media if you want to get the faster 8x burn rate, and this media isn’t cheap. But if you’re burning lots of DVD-R’s, cutting your burning time almost in half may be worth the extra dollars.

We tested OWC’s external version of the -107 as our primary optical drive for over a month. In a word, we were extremely impressed with the drive itself, and the OWC case.

The case is an attractive silvery-gray plastic. It’s tricked out with two FireWire 400 ports, as well as a USB 2 port. Having two FireWire ports makes it possible to daisy chain, with the Pioneer in the middle of the chain. Touches like dual ports separate cheapie cases from better cases. With the US 2 port, this case will appeal equally to PC or Mac users. No FireWire 800 port yet, but that’s not really necessary, as FireWire 800 throughput is far in excess of what 8X DVD-R burning requires. Both Toast Titanium 6.01 and the bundled DragonBurn 3.1.26 saw the -107 when connected via USB 2. Oddly, iPhoto 4.01 did not see the drive when connected via USB 2, but had no trouble with the FireWire connection. iTunes 4.5 picked up the -107 USB 2.0 connections with aplomb.

The OWC case has an internal fan that’s not much louder than quiet hum. A small external power supply fits in-line with the power cord.

If you’ve never used a 52x burner for making CD’s, you haven’t lived. You’ll notice a significant speed improvement burning at 52x compared to 32x or slower. I used iTunes 4.5 to make a playlist that totaled 689 megabytes. iTunes’ “Burning” preference detected the -107 both in USB 2 and FireWire modes. Using FireWire, I burned the 689 MB disk in a bit over 4 minutes. No muss, no fuss, and it was just as easy as using the internal SuperDrive, only faster. iPhoto 4.01 burned a 562 MB CD with 191 photos in just under 4 minutes.

Finder CD/DVD burns via FireWire was uneventful. The only oddity was the Finder seemed to think the maximum burning speed was 24x for CD burns. However, USB 2 burns did not work, producing a Mac error code about the drive not being recognized.

Data DVD creation was just as easy. OWC supplies a relatively unknown application, DragonBurn, published by NewTech InfoSystems. I installed DragonBurn, and then surfed the NewTech website to see if DragonBurn had any updates. I found the most current DragonBurn update with no trouble, and updated with no trouble. I burned a few CDs and data DVD’s with Dragon, but used Toast Titanium for most of my work with the Pioneer -107. DragonBurn has most of the features of Toast, and may do just fine if you don’t already own CD/DVD mastering software. It doesn’t have the polish or slickness of Toast, but it is feature-complete. OWC would do better to ship an OEM version of Toast, as most other bundle resellers do. Could licensing costs be an issue?

What are the main limitations of an external DVD burner? No iDVD.

Apple has taken plenty of flak over it’s limiting (or crippling, take your pick) of iDVD to burn only from internal DVD burners. MPEG 4 licensing fees figure are a factor, but specific reasons don’t matter: you cannot burn from iDVD to an external burner. I had no trouble burning photo CDs/DVDs from iTunes 4.5, but don’t think that you can burn that an iMovie to your external Pioneer 107 with iDVD. You can’t. But, Toast will burn DVD’s to an external burner; another good reason to ship Toast instead of DragonBurn.

The easiest answer to the “no-iDVD” dilemma is to buy the -107 as an internal unit. It’s a snap to replace an older SuperDrive with the -107, and then once this outpatient surgery is complete, iDVD will see the internal -107 as though it were an old friend. OWC also sells the -107 as an internal unit.

Over the course of a month’s testing, I burned dozens of audio and data CD’s at full 52x speed. I ripped my entire collection of 650+ audio CDs into iTunes to play on a SlimDevices SqueezeBox, and the -107 40x CD-ROM read speed was great timesaver. I burned numerous DVDs at 4x, as I had no 8x media. I had only two coasters, and both were my fault. The drive performed flawlessly time after time.

If you have need for another optical drive, either internal or external, OWC’s Pioneer DVR-107 bundles are great bargains, and are highly recommended.

MyMac Rating: 5 out of 5

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