22985 NW Evergreen Parkway
Hillsboro, OR 97124
It is not uncommon for a household to have more than one computer these days, but most people probably don’t need to burn discs on all of them at the same time. That’s the real appeal of an external DVD burner, such as the LaCie DVD-RW FireWire drive. Connect it to the computer you like, when you like. Besides being able to switch between machines, it is also nice to hide your computer tower someplace inconspicuous and still have your CD/DVD drive right on your desktop next to your monitor.
FireWire has been around for a while now, but it has only been the last year or so that FireWire storage devices have hit the mainstream in any quantity. It’s never really been a technology problem: FireWire supports theoretical data rates of 400Mbps. This far exceeds the maximum write speeds for the LaCie DVD-RW drive, which is less than 23Mbps. Still, it is nice to have a healthy safety margin, especially when burning discs.
The LaCie DVD-RW drive has two bi-directional 6-pin FireWire ports on the rear of the case, one that connects to the computer and another that you can use to hook up another FireWire device, such as a hard drive or a DV camcorder. This may just be a convenience on a desktop machine that has 3 or 4 FireWire ports, but laptops often only have a single port. In our tests, we were able to create a chain that went: computer FireWire port > Maxtor hard drive > LaCie DVD-RW > Sharp Mini DV camcorder. All three FireWire devices played well together. The devices could be connected and disconnected without shutting down the computer, although the drive needed to be disconnected with software first under Windows 98.
The drive is not particularly small, since it contains its own power supply, and resembles a thick encyclopedia volume in both size and weight (5lbs). Inside the housing is a Pioneer DVR-104 drive. We could use it as a disc drive immediately after plugging it in.
We found that it was compatible and worked well as a data burning drive on Windows 98SE, 2000 and XP as well as on a few Macs with various versions of OS9 and OSX, although it took a while to figure out how to eject blank discs. For video authoring, the drive was also recognized and used without problems by all of the various DVD authoring applications we tried, with the notable exception that iDVD 2.0 on an eMac would not write to the external LaCie. Unfortunately, we discovered that this was an intentional limitation engineered by Apple. We ran tests with a couple of DVD authoring/burning applications utilizing quality 4.7GB Verbatim blank DVD-R discs. The DVDs that we created were broadly compatible with newer standalone DVD players.
Not a lightweight at over 5lbs, the LaCie DVD-RW drive is portable, if not pocketable. Still, it is a very convenient device as a result of its wide compatibility and the ability to hot-swap; and it is certainly cheaper than buying multiple DVD burners for multiple computers.