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LaCie External USB CD Writer

One idea that I've always liked was external CD writers. They are portable. You can grab it and take it to the office to burn your data or you can take it over to friends to quickly grab some data. I like the idea of portability. Secondly, I'm sure everyone likes hardware that is easy to install, and it doesn't get much easier than USB devices. USB is about as close to plug and play as there currently is.

The Drive
  • 4/4/6 Write/Re-Write/Read
  • USB 1.1 Interface
  • 2MB Buffer
  • 250ms Access Time
  • W 190mm
  • D 260mm
  • H 60mm
  • Firmware version: 2.8C
  • Write Methods: track at once, multi session, session at once
  • 5 Year Warrenty

(+,-) $229USD
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First Impressions

The first thing you notice when you open the box is how big the drive is. Measuring 6x19x26cm, the unit is a little larger than we had hoped for maximum portability, but it's certainly manageable. Housed in the unit is a 5 1/4" Mitsumi 4804TE CD-RW drive along with a small power supply and fan to keep things cool. One rather interesting aspect of the case is the power LED. It's a funky looking blue plastic bubble on the front of the top cover. Upon plugging the unit in, the odd looking light on the top of the case sends the coolness factor through the roof. Also, the LaCie cases are stackable, allowing you to save quite a bit of desk space.

Nothing extrordinaire specifications wise. Most people who see the drive's rated speeds are not overly impressed, but this is a limitation of a USB based CD drive. The USB 1.1 spec has a maximum transfer rate of 12Mbits/sec which translates to ~1500KB/sec throughput, or 1.45MB/sec, and this is what will ultimatly limit the speed of the drive. The actual Mitsumi drive is rated at 4x4x24 so the USB bus will definitly be a bottleneck. It's unfortunate that the USB 1.1 spec does not allow for more bandwidth, but this will also have some positive effects on the overall drive speed as we will see in the benchmarks.

Until recent developments like Burn Proof, "coasters" were common fare in the CD-burning world. A coaster describes the situation when a buffer under-run occurs during burning and the burned CD is unusable. The reason I mention this is because with USB's rather slow transfer rate, the CD burning speeds must also be cut back to 4X to try and eliminate buffer under-runs. The 4X write speeds combined with a 2MB buffer keeps the data moving along during periods of heavy system use quite well.

Pictures and Installation

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