As some of you Applelust readers may be aware from some of my previous articles, I am pretty old school when it comes to computers. Remember when Al Pacino in The Scent of a Woman asked for a John Daniels on the rocks, and when his aide corrected him by saying, “Sir, don’t you mean a *Jack* Daniels?” And Al Pacino said, “Son, when you know him as well as I do, you call him John?” Well, let’s just say that I am a big fan of Chuck Babbage.
I have always, always, been very fastidious regarding my backups, be it on punched paper tape (wha?), IBM punch cards (huh?), 8.5″ floppy disks (doh!), 3.5″ floppy disks (hmmm…), Zip disks (ahhh…), or an external hard drive (duh.). The thought of a CD burner never really got my attention, for two reasons, speed and dependability. I mean, sure, I thought, I might get into making audio CDs. But could I really use a CD burner for backup? Would it be fast enough? And all of this talk about buffer underrun seemed like a joke to me. OK, so maybe if someone got a pop on an audio CD, that would merely be an annoyance. But to actually use a device to go through the process of making a backup, and then wonder if the device actually *had* made the backup? Or have the device repeatedly fail in the process of making the backup? Unpredictably? Excuuuuuuse me. Forgetaboutit.
So, you could imagine my excitement when I got the chance to review the OWC 24x10x40 Mercury Pro Oxford911 Plextor FireWire External CD-RW Drive (OWC241040PXFW), which, at the time of this writing, includes all cables and Roxio Toast Lite version 5.0, and costs US$299.95 after a US$30 rebate. Could everything that I wanted in a CD burner have finally come together? Could the CD planets finally have come into laser-like alignment? Could this be the dawning of the age of Burnarious?
Holy Uranus, quite possibly so. Right out of the box, quite frankly, I have never been more impressed with the quiet strength of any high tech gadget.
The OWC drive arrived mounted in an attractive Universal translucent grey plastic external storage enclosure, whose jet black front panel has a power button with a green power on LED, the door for the sliding CD tray, an eject button, an activity LED, and a mini headphone jack with volume control. The rear panel houses two FireWire ports, stereo RCA output jacks, and the power cord connector. The activity LED is green when power is on and there is a disc in the drive, yellow when initializing or reading from the disc, and blinking orange when writing to the disc.
The case itself has eight dark blue rubber bumpers, two on the bottom that serve as feet, and two on the top to facilitate stacking. Good to their claim, OWC included a 6′ three-prong power cord, and a 6′ FireWire cable. Top it off with being able to see the grey metal case of the drive itself though the translucent sides and top of the external enclosure, and this drive looks professional, reliable, functional, and just plain pretty. I mean, even the FireWire cable looks and feels above average in quality (seriously), six feet for both is a nice, generous, nonrestrictive length, and the minijack, volume control, stereo output jacks, and dual FireWire ports are a nice attention to detail.
The good looks of this drive are not just skin deep, either. Plextor has had one of the best reputations in the industry for quality, technical innovation, and performance since their first SCSI CD-ROM drive over a decade ago. Basically, if any CD-RW drive can do it, Plextor can do it.
And gone are the days when you must start a CD burn and then tiptoe away with your fingers crossed. With Plextor’s BURN-proof technology, coasters due to the dreaded buffer underrun error are effectively a thing of the past. I mean, you can even continue to surf the web while you are burning a CD, try *that* with any CD burner without buffer underrun protection. Not that you will have that much time to surf the web, mind you, because this drive is just so blazingly fast.
Setup could not have been easier. Load Toast Lite, which in and of itself has one of the most attractive and easiest installation procedures that I have ever encountered, let the installer automatically restart your Mac for you, plug the drive into the wall, turn it on, plug in the FireWire cable, and you’re burnin’, baby…you are so HOT!
The drive, weighing in at 5.8 pounds, feels surprising heavy, but that just instilled more confidence in me that this was a sturdy and reliable unit. The drive does have a continuously running fan, and definitely makes some noise when it is whirring away at 24x, but quite frankly, I don’t care.
This being my first CD-RW, playing with this drive has been an interesting experience. For example, right out of the box with the default Toast Lite settings, I was able to burn a 49:44 minute audio CD in 14:09 with my Pismo 500Mhz. But, by upgrading to Toast Titanium and fiddling with parameters, I discovered that the actual rate that this drive could burn that CD was in 3:03. And this is with this off brand 50 pack of 24x CD-Rs that I got at Fry’s Electronics for US$9.50 no less. And without a single coaster in the mix. Interesting, huh?
So, if you are in the market for a CD-RW, you appreciate quality, and Santa knows that you have been nice, keep your fingers crossed, and stay tuned to see how this drive performs in my more detailed performance tests to follow, because everything about the OWC 24x10x40 Mercury Pro Oxford911 Plextor FireWire External CD-RW looks like a winner.