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Reviews

NewTech Infosystems CD-Maker 2000

Stephen Clark Jr.


EMedia Magazine, October 2000
Copyright © Online Inc.


NewTech 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.

price: $69.99

NewTech InfoSystems (NTI)
1395 Warner Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780
714/259-9700
Fax 714/259-9727
http://www.ntius.com

Consolidation 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 recording–Corel's CD Creator and Incat's Easy CD Pro–and 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 Adaptec umbrella.

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 best–selling 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 for–you guessed it–CD backup [See Bob Starrett's review, May 1999, pp. 60-62–Ed.]. 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

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.

support

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.

copying CDs

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.

standard features

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.

audio issues

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.

extras

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.

documents

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.

so...what now?

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 letters@onlineinc.com.

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