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55. What features should one consider when purchasing an external burner?

1. Compatibility
Will the mechanism in the drive work with the burning capabilities of your primary OS (disc burner under OS 9.x and earlier or the burning features of the OS X Finder)? Does Itunes support the drive (reading and burning)? If you already have mastering software such as Toast, will it support the new drive? If not, do you like the software that ships with the drive?
2. Which burn speeds are important to you?
The initial burn speed differences between CD-RW drives become neglible once you reach a certain barrier, at least in my opinion. For example, a 52x24x52x drive like mine isn't going to offer that much of a speed improvement over a 48x12x48x drive when doing an initial burn. This doesn't even consider that the top burn speeds are manufacturer claims and that it's unlikely the drive will ever truly burn at the rated speed. CD-RW drives are like printers. Manufacturers claim their units have a top speed of X pages per minute but will probably never print at them because of other factors. The big difference between mechanisms these days is the rewrite speed. A unit with a rewrite speed of 24x will reburn CD-RW media faster than one that tops out at 12x. The difference will be noticeable. However, if it's a minor issue at best if one rarely use CD-RWs.
3. Do you like the design of the case?
All cases aren't created equal. Some cases do not have a flap down tray door like the internal burner that ships with G4/466 or the case of an Ezquest Boa 52x24x52x. If flap-down doors annoy you, then look for a drive that doesn't have one or one that has a door that you can keep open when you're using the drive. Unlike the door built into the case of the G4/466, the door built into the case of the Boa drive can be made to stay open.
Some cases do not have cooling fans. Although I don't know if they are truly that important, I've always gone with cases that have cooling fans. Excessive heat causes problems in computers. Why not in CD-RW drives? The APS case and the Boa case have cooling fans. If this is important to you, you'll have to contact the manufacturers to see which use cases with fans.
Some drives are louder than others. The office APS drive is louder than Boa. The fan is louder and the mechanism is louder. Since there is always tons of ambient noise in my house and office, the noise created by the drive is a non-issue to me. It may be an issue too you.
The size of the case can be an issue if desk space is a premium. The APS case is smaller than the Boa case. But, they both take up more space than a portable drive. I'd rather have a larger case with more space for internal cables and such than one that requires the manufacturer to cram everything in to make it all fit.
4. The power cord.
Sounds funny, right? Nope! While the power cord is a function of case design, it's important enough that I look at it separately. The APS drive shipped with a non-standard power cord that is connected to a power brick. A standard power cord goes from the power brick to the outlet. What do I do if the power brick goes bad? It's not like they're readily available in the local electronics or computer shop. A replacement will probably cost a bundle, too. The Boa uses a standard power cord that connects to the back of the drive. Also, some external devices will have brick-style power cords. It wouldn't surprise me if some external firewire burners use them. Power bricks cover more than one outlet on a UPS or surge protector, at least depending on the type. This can be remedied with a power cord extender but why go through the trouble and have potential electrical hazard concerns when they're easily avoidable?
5. The software that ships with the drive.
Some manufacturers bundle better software with their units than other manufacturers. La Cie, Other World Computing and APS bundle Roxio Toast Lite with their drives. It's a scaled down flavor of Roxio Toast 5.x Titanium. Ezquest bundles Charismac Discribe with its drive. Some also include backup software. La Cie includes its backup software. Others include Retrospect Express. The software package can be important if you don't already own mastering software and/or don't like what the manufacturers include with the drive.


Related Links:
http://forums.xlr8yourmac.com/drivedb/search.drivedb.lasso
http://www.apple.com/itunes/compatibility/
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=60849



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