External DVD Burner Review:TDK Multi-format IndiDVD

$400

TDK Electronics Corp

901 Franklin Avenue

Garden City, NY 11530

(516) 535-2600

www.tdk.com

TDK is a very big name in the blank media business, manufacturing both tapes and discs. And although TDK is not primarily a hardware manufacturer, it offers a number of attractive branded bundles, with good documentation, support and a name you can trust. The indiDVD external multi-format DVD burner is a fantastically flexible burner at a very competitive price.

Plug and Burn

Besides burning just about any sort of blank media that you can fit into the tray, the indiDVD connects to your computer via either USB or FireWire. We took the drive out of the box, plugged in the power supply and connected the USB cable to a Windows XP PC. Windows popped up a notification and within a second, we were ready to go.

After running some tests, we disconnected and tried out the FireWire connection. This required the installation of a small driver file and a reboot of the computer, but it was all completely automatic.

Subsequent swapping of the connections revealed that the drive was ready faster with the USB connection, but the delay with FireWire was only a few seconds. You will need to install drivers from a CD the old fashioned way on Windows 98 machines, but on anything else the process is automatic and effortless.

USB or FireWire?

We are glad this drive offers both USB and FireWire options. If you peek ahead at our tested performance numbers (see sidebar), you can see that the USB 1.1 standard is not fast enough for this drive, but both USB 2.0 and FireWire connections surpass the requirement.

In our tests, there was no measurable difference in disc reading or writing performance between USB 2.0 and FireWire. Furthermore, although the internal ATAPI (i.e. IDE) Pioneer DVR-106 drive (reviewed elsewhere) had a significantly higher measured Burst Transfer rate (16,976 vs. 603 KB/s), this did not translate into real-world performance numbers, as indicated by the more meaningful Average Transfer rate figures.

Mac-ximum Flexibility

The indiDVD works on most home computers, Mac and Windows. We tested the drive over a FireWire connection on a Power Mac G4. (USB 1.1 ports are too slow for external drives, and only G5 and later Macs have USB 2.0 ports.) The drive automatically installed in a few seconds and operated as expected. More or less.

Not everything was smooth on the Mac. We did try to test it with iDVD 3, but unfortunately that program still will not write to an external drive. We also discovered that the Mac would not recognize or write to DVD+R/RW discs, although it would read them. Finally, it was impossible to eject blank discs from the drive without running the included Roxio Toast Lite application or rebooting.

These are problems caused by the Mac, not by the burner at the time of this writing. Because of this, we would not recommend this drive for the Mac, even though it is largely compatible. Since the Mac does not burn DVD+R/RW discs, you could get an external DVD-R-only drive and save yourself some money.

Too Dang Kool

For a household with multiple computers, an external drive is the way to go. There is a price for the external housing, but with both USB and FireWire connections, the TDK indiDVD burner is a fabulously flexible burner that will go almost anywhere, attach to pretty much anything and burn any sort of disc.

TECH SPECS

Model Number: DVDRW0404N

Firmware Version: 1.06

Platform: PC and Mac

Operating System (Win): Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP

Operating System (Mac): OS 9.2, OS X

Processor(Win): PIII 800MHz

Processor (Mac): G3/G4

RAM: 128MB

Write Formats: DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R/RW

Maximum Speeds (manufacturer reported)

Read: CD 32X; DVD 12X

Write: CD-R 16X; CD-RW 10X; DVD-R/+R 4X; DVD-RW/+RW 2X

Interface: USB and FireWire

Buffer Size: 2MB

Included Hardware: USB cable, FireWire cable

Included Software (Mac): Toast Lite

Included Software (Win): Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator, DVDMax, PhotoSuite Lite

Extras: 1 DVD+R disc (4x), 1 DVD-R disc (4x)

TESTED PERFORMANCE

Average Transfer: 5,175 KB/s (3.75x)

Average Seek Time: 150 ms

Load Time: 18.57 seconds

Burst Transfer: 603 KB/s

Burn Time (4.5GB): 14:29 minutes

STRENGTHS

  • True plug-and-play
  • Ultra flexible
  • Mac compatible (mostly)

    WEAKNESSES

  • Mac incompatibilities

    SUMMARY

    If you need a burner that will work anytime, anywhere, on any machine with any format of disc, the TDK indiDVD is it.

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