NewTech Infosystems CD-Maker 2000
Stephen Clark Jr.
EMedia Magazine, October 2000
Copyright © Online
has been the name of the game for some time in CD-R software. First
Microtest bought OMI, and then things really got rolling when Adaptec
swallowed up the two most popular products in PC recordingCorel's
CD Creator and Incat's Easy CD Proand took over Astarte's
Toast shortly thereafter to corner the Mac recording market. So
it should have come as no surprise that CeQuadrat's WinOnCD, top
seller in the European market, was the next to huddle under the
Infosystems CD-Maker 2000
| synopsis: NTI's CD-Maker
2000 succeeds in bringing simplicity to the increasingly complex
realm of CD recording software. Offering the advanced features
that we have come to expect of CD burning software, CD-Maker
2000 also benefits from several new features that take advantage
of the growing digital audio rage. While somewhat limited
in terms of flexibility, the software nevertheless offers
great reliability and performance. What distinguishes the
CD-Maker 2000 is its ease-of-use, which allows users of all
experience levels to quickly master this software.
NewTech InfoSystems (NTI)
1395 Warner Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780
But, while Adaptec grabbed the headlines and all the competitors
it could, several companies with strong CD-R software entries
kept on doing what they did bestselling and improving their
products. Prassi resurfaced strongly with its PrimoCD line, Gear
Software maintained its presence in the professional market, and
HyCD held onto its faithful following in the world of hybrid CD
creation. Meanwhile, newer contenders such as Ahead, with its
Nero product, have made their presence felt as well.
Also in it for the long haul has been NewTech Infosystems, stalwart
provider of an all-purpose premastering engine called CD-Maker
and CD Backup Now!, a popular tool foryou guessed itCD
backup [See Bob Starrett's review, May 1999, pp. 60-62Ed.].
Recent months have seen the debut of the latest incarnation of
the general recording product, CD-Maker 2000, which sports an
easy-to-use, wizard-free interface whose simplicity belies the
program's sophistication and strong range of functionality.
Installation of the CD-Maker 2000 software was a fairly simple process.
I simply placed the CD in the CD-ROM drive, and a blue screen automatically
popped up asking if I would like to install the software. After
selecting "Install," a second screen asked me for my choice of language,
and the software then began copying files. Installation of CD-Maker
2000 took about a minute, and went without a hitch, freeze, or crash.
I received no complaints from the software about sharing the same
hard disk with some of those other CD-R/RW applications that have
been known to get a tad territorial on occasion.
Designed as a general-purpose desktop PC tool, CD-Maker 2000 runs
under Microsoft Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT 3.5 or later. According
to the documentation, the software requires a 486 66mHz processor,
8MB RAM (16MB recommended), and 20MB of hard disk space. While these
may be minimum requirements, for high-speed recording a powerful
PC processor and fast hard drive are a must. CD-R drives from 40
manufacturers are supported by CD-Maker 2000, and upgrade patches
to support additional drives can be downloaded from NTI's Web site.
For my testing, I used a 166mHz Pentium PC with 32MB RAM, running
Windows 98. The software was tested on an external SCSI-2 TEAC
8x24 CD-R drive, connected with an Adaptec ISA SCSI card. While
not the fastest around, the host system's CD-ROM drive, at 24X,
is sufficient for most recording purposes, including supporting
direct CD-to-CD copying at 8X.
Firing up CD-Maker 2000, the software loads with a screen showing
buttons for each type of CD the software supports, as well as links
to various locations on the NTI Web site. The packaging for the
CD-Maker 2000 says "Easy as 1-2-3," but for most functions, including
CD Copy, only two steps are required. Buttons to the left of the
window allowed me to quickly jump back and forth between steps in
case there was a setting that I wished to change. The first step
allows me to choose the source CD drive, as well as the destination
CD-R drive. An option is also available, in the form of a check-box,
of caching the entire source CD to the hard disk before burning
(to help keep data flowing faster to the burner if you have a slow
CD-ROM reader). Only the CD Copy mode has the option of writing
a CD to the hard drive first before burning.
Step 2 allows me to set the writing speed, the number of copies,
and whether to write, test & write, or test-burn the disc. An
advanced button gives users the option of choosing track-at-once,
session-at-once, disc-at-once, or the default "smart decision,"
which lets the program decide. A blue check mark next to one of
the options indicated the computer's preference in case I decided
to change the settings.
The final burn stage proved somewhat anticlimactic with CD-Maker,
as it is a rather uneventful process. A dialog box displays a
simple progress meter and estimated time remaining. One feature
that I found interesting was a second meter that displayed the
amount of data stored in cache. A second dialog pops up after
the disc is finished, reading "CD is recorded successfully," and
displaying a small trophy.
The software proved fairly reliable at burning CDs, although
I experienced a few buffer underrun problems while attempting
to write at 8X. Although it would be easy to blame the software,
I suspect the real culprit is a slow transfer rate through the
ISA SCSI card, or insufficient access time of the hard drive.
The interface of CD-Maker 2000 is very simple, allowing even
a beginner to adapt quickly to using the software. There is no
wizard to walk a user through the process, but with the simple
structure of the software this shouldn't be missed. Common tasks
and options are easy to find within the menu, ranging from data
CD creation to audio CD, multisession CD, CD copy, recording from
a staged image, and more.
Each application within CD-Maker 2000 followed the basic two- or
three-button approach from layout to writing. NTI's CD-Maker 2000
includes support for writing data, audio, video, Mixed-Mode, and
CD Extra CDs. A custom CD option is also available, for creating
a CD from a disc image. Files to be included on the disc can be
dragged and dropped into the CD layout window, either as a batch
or individually. The software supports bootable CDs. Support for
Sanyo's BURN-Proof technology is also built into the CD-Maker 2000,
although taking advantage of this feature, of course, requires a
2000-vintage drive that supports it.
Support for audio extraction is essentially a requirement these
days for any CD recording software, and it is included in CD-Maker
2000. MP3 support has also been added to the application, allowing
it to convert MP3 files to CD-Audio tracks. One interesting feature
of the software is the live audio option that it supports. This
allows audio to be burned to a CD as it is coming in through the
sound card. While the usefulness for burning audio directly to CD
without first editing or filtering is questionable, the feature
is, nevertheless, interesting. The CDDB connectivity found in many
current recording products is not supported.
Also included with the CD-Maker 2000 is JewelCase Maker, a utility
for designing jewel case inserts and CD labels, and FileCD, a utility
for writing to CD-RW discs.
NTI's CD-Maker 2000 Web site (http://www.ntius.com)
offers a list of supported drives, as well as a downloadable manual
in PDF form to walk users through the software and troubleshoot
problems that may arise when using it. The site is easy to navigate,
and the help documents that are included with CD-Maker 2000 are
similar to the software, very simple and easy to read. This means
that there is no great in-depth material in the help, but also that
there is less clutter.
CD-Maker 2000 stacks up well versus the competition in terms of
price, its $69.99 MSRP placing it on the less expensive end compared
to other prominent players such as Easy CD Creator Deluxe ($99),
Nero ($69), and Gear Pro ($149.95).
All in all, it has much to recommend it in terms of usability
and effectiveness, but it is not without its shortcomings. One
complaint that I have about the software's navigation is that
I did not see a way to get back to the starting screen once I
finished writing a CD. Of course, all of the options that were
available as buttons on that first screen are available as menu
options, but getting back to that welcoming, button-based starting
screen would have been nice.
NTI's CD-Maker 2000 proved somewhat lacking in flexibility as
compared to other CD-R software. The software supports ISO 9660,
Joliet, and Romeo file systems, although it does not support creating
discs for other platforms' file systems, such as Mac-native HFS.
CD-Maker 2000 also doesn't allow the user to test and display
transfer rates for manually determining an appropriate CD-R recording
speed. This would be particularly helpful when trying to determine
if a system could support 8X or 12X recording, for example. Shortcomings
aside, CD-Maker 2000 has proved to be a very useful utility for
mastering CDs without the complexity of other CD-R software packages.
The two-step procedure for burning most CDs makes it possible
for almost anyone to successfully burn a disc. While the more
advanced users may require greater control over their discs, the
software's intuitive, user-friendly design makes it a good choice
for all to use.
Stephen Clark Jr. is News Editor of EMedia
Magazine and principal designer of the emedialive Web site.
Comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.