When, exactly, does the time come for a duplicator? If you’re making money with video, and you’ve got a lot of discs to ship out to a lot of places, and burning them individually would take too long or be too tedious, but you need too few discs to bother taking the job to a duplication house… a duplicator is your friend.
Like the original Primera Bravo SE, the SE Blu’s still billed as an entry-level robotic duplicator _ but the only thing making it “entry-level” is the unit’s disc capacity. While higher-end duplicators have input bins that can handle 50 or more discs at a time and can sometimes burn multiple discs at once, the Bravo SE Blu keeps it simple with a 20-disc input bin and single disc burner. For smaller jobs, it’s entirely possible you might not need much more than that.
This particular duplicator is special, though. It’s not just a DVD burner _ no sirree, Bob. Installed in its chassis is a Panasonic Blu-ray Disc burner. You provide the computer to control the system (burner, printer and robotics). If you just need to duplicate DVDs and CDs, though, you can get the original Bravo SE for pretty much half the cost of the Bravo SE Blu ($1,495 vs. $2,995).
Primera has taken the initiative to make the out-of-box experience for the Bravo SE Blu very pleasant. A Quick Start poster is the first thing you see, and you find everything else encased in cardboard. Once you break it out of its license agreement envelope, the software/driver CD is visually striking (and was duplicated and printed with a Primera duplicator, natch). Lift the platform up top to reveal the actual duplicator. Remove the shipping tape and head retainer from the unit, then insert the software/driver CD into either your Mac or your Windows PC, and the installer will guide you through the process of connecting the power and data cables, installing the driver and software, loading discs and installing the print cartridge. (We tested the system with an HP xw4600 workstation running Windows XP SP2.)
We were fairly impressed with the Bravo SE Blu’s inkjet mechanism, which avoided a lot of the annoying inkjet setup rituals of the past. The Bravo SE Blu still requires calibration, but it makes needed adjustments by itself, as opposed to older print mechanisms where you had to look at patterns yourself and tell the driver which set of lines was straightest.
Speaking of the print mechanism, it uses a single cartridge for all colors (it’s a 4-color system, known as CMYK in the biz, because it reproduces the subtractive colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Ink level reports are in terms of the color with the smallest remaining ink supply, even if the other colors may be nearly full. We prefer to see individual ink cartridges for each of the ink colors, so that extra ink isn’t wasted.
We experienced an odd little issue when launching PTPublisher, the core application driving the duplicator. On every other launch, we received an invalid ink cartridge report. The fix was really quite easy, though _ a firmware update and an upgrade installation of PTPublisher (offered for free on Primera’s website) took care of that problem in short order.
PTPublisher knows that keeping its users informed keeps them happy _ so, in addition to all of the normal functions of a decent disc-burning application, it adds a complete info screen to monitor the duplicator’s disc burner and printer. Additionally, it lists the number of discs you load into the duplicator’s input tray and the print cartridge capacity in the lower right-hand corner of the window, so you can keep an eye on your consumables.
The system offers many disc-burning tasks: make data discs, make audio discs, copy discs, make DVDs or other tasks _ e.g., print a disc without burning it, burn an image or create a disc image. The only thing missing is the ability to create a Blu-ray Disc with video (e.g., BDAV or BDMV). If you have a disc image you’ve already created, though, you’re golden. The menu system is also logical _ for example, the task of copying a DVD appears in both the Make DVD section and the Copy section.
As with all of Primera’s past duplicators, it’s great fun watching the robotics move everything around. While you can simply give the duplicator its task and walk away, we bet at least once you’ll just have to watch it move a disc from the input tray to the disc burner, then watch the arm pick up the disc and place it in the print tray, then repeat the process.
Best Blu Dupe Choice for Now
If your primary task will be duplicating Blu-ray Discs, it doesn’t get much better than this for the time being. It takes quite a while to burn a full Blu-ray Disc (with the duplicator’s Panasonic SW-5582 drive, about an hour and 45 minutes for a 25GB disc _ double that time for a dual-layer disc). To burn a full stack of 20 Blu-ray Discs that are chock-full of programming at 2x speed could take up to 35 hours _ roughly a day and a half. 4x drives and discs are out there, but both of those items currently command premium prices. (For $8,995, Primera also offers the Bravo XRP-Blu, which has a 100-disc input bin and two burners, but also includes an improved printer that uses a separate cartridge for black ink. However, it also utilizes 2x speed Blu-ray Disc burners.)
The $2,995 price tag on the Bravo SE Blu duplicator is pretty high, considering that the internet price difference for a DVD burner versus a Blu-ray Disc burner is somewhere between $325 and $350. We realize that there are also software license costs and other royalties involved, but it couldn’t possibly double the price of its DVD-only counterpart. As competing products come out, though, we expect that a price cut will be forthcoming.
That’s not to say that it’s not a good choice _ it’s just pricey. We really like the Bravo SE Blu, but it would be even better if it cost less, that’s all.
Formats and Write Speeds: BD-R (E) (SL/DL): 2x; DVDR (SL): 8x;
DVDR (DL): 4x; DVD+RW: 8x; DVD-RW: 6x;
DVD-RAM: 5x; CD-R: 24x; CD-RW: 16x
Hard Drive: No
Input Bin: 20 discs
Included Software: PTPublisher (Windows), Describe (Mac)
- Very easy to set up and use
- Excellent-quality output
- Expensive compared to DVD-only counterpart
- Single ink cartridge is convenient, but has potential to waste ink
- A very good, if expensive, choice for a
Blu-ray Disc duplicator.
A very good, if expensive, choice for a
Blu-ray Disc duplicator.
Charles Fulton is Videomaker’s associate editor.
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