Product: QPS Que! Firewire CD-RW Drive 8x4x32
Company: QPS Technologies Inc.
Category: Hardware, data storage and backup.
Price: $399 to $309.
Requirements: 233 MHz PPC G3 processor, Mac OS 8.5.1 or higher, FireWire drivers and interface, CD ROM, 50 MB free HD space.
OS X Plans: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 5 bites out of the Apple.
I had not jumped on the CD technology bandwagon when I received the review unit of the QPS Que! 1394 CD-RW. The reason was simple: Speed. USB CD-RW’s were slow by most reports, sometimes taking 45 minutes to burn an audio CD. My immediate backup and archiving needs were not such that I felt the need for a CD burner. Finally, I had not joined the MP3 revolution either. All that changed when I received this review unit.
We at applelust.com like to review products which in some way capture the Mac spirit of simplicity, design innovation, and usefulness. The ST drives we reviewed are a case in point. So does the Que! 1394 drive. Three elements make this CD burner a very attractive purchase: style, software, and speed.
Let me hasten to add that we received this product some time ago. Almost a day later QPS came out with the faster model CD-RW with speeds of 12x10x32. Oh well, so it goes. But still, the drive that we look at here is a great purchase if you cannot afford the faster and pricier model. It does a fine job in its speed class and that is how I will rate it.
The first thing you notice about the drive is its external design. It is a stylish drive, and nothing else out there is quite like it. It matches the G4/450 we have pretty well. Yet the drive is sturdy. The style goes down to its accessories. The drive comes with a black leather carrying case with a shoulder strap. I am not sure who will be carrying around this drive, but it’s nice to know it’s there of I need it.
But this drive is much more than stylish: Its style is more than skin deep. You realize this the first time you use it.
Also included with the drive is a universal AC adapter, a 1394 IEEE cable, software (see below), and two CD-RW media ready to burn. The manual is short and to the point; it doesn’t have to be very long because of the ease of using this drive. The software includes FireWire drivers, but we suggest just making sure you have Apple’s latest drivers installed, and the Lite version of Adaptec Toast. It is this software which is one of the elements which makes this drive a joy to use.
FireWire was developed just for devices like this. FireWire leaves USB in the dust when it comes to devices like this. I will talk about its actual speed later. But since a CD burner takes over your machine while it works, the faster the better because the faster you’ll get your machine back. Also, due the large amount of information that can be burned to a CD, speed is an important quality for these drives. FireWire provides it. We hooked ours up to both the native 1394 port on the G4, and also to a KeySpan FireWire PCI card we have in the G4. It worked flawlessly on both and we saw no speed compromises.
If you are going to use the drive be sure to have the latest FireWire drivers from Apple, as well as any Firmware updates that are out for your machine. Simply have the drivers installed, hook up the drive, install Toast, and you are on your way to creating CD’s. In fact, within fifteen minutes of receiving this drive we had burned our first audio CD. It is that simple. Anyone can do it.
The software is one of the things which makes this drive a joy to use. Adaptec’s Toast Lite is CD burning software for the masses – - no brainier software we might call it. You simply start up the program and it presents you with a window. You just drag and drop your files, MP3′s, or whatever you want to burn to the CD, click ‘Write . . .’ and you’re on your way. Toast keeps track of the minutes and MB for you. You can set time between tracks with audio CDs, rename files and folders for data CDs, and includes the ability to burn to any standard format. Go ahead, burn those pictures of your trip to a CD and pass them out to anyone in the family, because you can burn Windows compatible CDs as well. The disk copy feature is especially useful for making backups of disks. The software is a joy to use because you don’t have to think about it at all. It’s so Macintosh!
Since receiving the drive I have burned audio CDs, data CDs for backup, copies of downloadable software we have bought, archived digital pictures from a trip, and have set up a catalog of astronomical images as a database for use with StarryNight Pro. What I am about to tell you is the truth: I have had 100%, yes, 100%, success burning CDs with this drive. I have not produced one single “coaster” out of over 25 CDs I have burned. While I realize that some have had problems with this drive on some models of the Mac, from my own experience there is only one word to describe this drive and software’s performance: Flawless. I think that speaks for itself. Of course, the machine we tested on has all the latest updates, drivers, and software installed for MacOS 9.04 and this makes a difference. (Never under-estimate the ability of a simple update to calm down your wacky machine.)
Now for the speed. The drive is 8x4x32. This means it writes to CD-R media at 8x, writes to CD-RW media at 4X, and reads at 32x. As I said at the outset, QPS released a faster 12x10x32 model within days after we received our review unit. These drives are, to say the least, much faster than the one we tested. But the one we tested is not a slouch either.
Before I go any further, the media I used should be noted. One of the most important factors of successful CD burning is the media. It’s like RAM: Don’t skimp on cheap media. I chose Imation CD media, both for CD-R and CD-RW media. Be sure to choose disks which can write at 8x and 12x too, so you can get the full speed. Not only is the price competitive, but the company has a solid reputation. The new slimline jewel cases mean you can fit more of those CDs on your desk or storage rack as well. We have had no problems with this media.
Though I didn’t have another drive to test the QPS drive against, the times below represent respectable burn times.
Burning an audio CD (74 minutes): 14 minutes
14 minutes. Burning a full data disk (700 MB): 11 minutes.
While this may not burn it up (sorry for the pun), these speeds are respectable in their class. However, if you look closely you will see that they do not quite measure to the 8X speed. taost reports faster times for burns than are actually achieved sometimes; and the tim,es include some verification time. In reality, you will get about 5x to 8x speed, but they are enough for most purposes as most will not be fillng disk with 700 MB anyway. When you burn a rewritable disk the QPS can only hit a speed of 4x and this slows it down significantly. But any speed issues you might have with the drive are counterbalanced by its reliability and durability.
Since receiving this drive for tests I have burned many audio CDs, several data disks, have backed up two months of email from Outlook Express (very easy to do really), and saved several software packages which I purchased through download. It’s true: The CDR revolution is cool indeed. With shelf lives of 200 years in some cases, packing 450 floppies on one disk, and the portability of CDs, CD-RW is the way to go for long term backup and archiving solutions. Add a stylish Que! Drive, with Toast, and you have an easy, relatively inexpensive, solution for many needs. The faster drive which was just released is, well, faster, but for the price/performance ratio, this drive cannot be beat. Its style, speed and software makes it a great bargain as prices drop.
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