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Review: Disc Makers Pico Robotic DVD/CD Duplicator
Posted May 24, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

The cheapest and most compact robotic system I've seen to date is Disc Makers' Pico. It's not the be-all and end-all of automated disc duplicators to be sure, but at $699 for a 25-disc, autoloading system using a state-of-the-art 16X DVD/48X CD NEC burner, it scores fairly high on the bang-for-the-buck scale.

Compact and lightweight, the Pico weighs in at 6.6 lbs. and measures 7.1" wide by 15.75" deep, and it's not much taller than 2-3 stacked half-height drives. It's also far from rugged, and probably wouldn't survive years of systemic physical abuse—but at $699 that's hardly an issue. And unlike many popular systems, like the higher-end Primera Bravos, the Pico is a duplicator-only; there's no print capability here.

The real value of a system like the Pico is as an automated, price-competitive alternative to a tower duplicator. Not only does it offer double the capacity, but with just a single recorder to keep running, it enables you to sidestep the chronic problem with 7-10-drive duplicators of multiple recorders inexplicably going out of service and thus dramatically reducing the utility and capacity of the system. And if you're a small recording studio that needs to dupe a lot of discs fast with a low cost of entry (and can get your surface printing done elsewhere), it's a viable solution.

The Pico's performance, in testing, on a series of 10-25 disc CD and DVD jobs, was generally solid, achieving on average 10 full discs per hour on the CD-R side and a more-than-respectable near-full 5 DVD±Rs per hour. My Windows XP Pro Pentium 4 laptop recognized the duplicator without difficulty, although installed CD/DVD burning software tools such as Roxio Creator 8, Nero, and iTunes could not record discs to it. You have to work with the bundled Disc Forge software, staging a valid disc image from your master disc source after loading it directly into the Pico's NEC drive or directing the robotic arm to pick it from the top of the input media stack. You can also build a disc image from files stored on your PC's hard disk by using the authoring functions within Disc Forge. For example, with audio CDs, you can build a disc from WAV or MP3 files; for DVDs, you can assemble pre-existing VIDEO_TS folders to create a compliant DVD image. Working from a source image with Disc Forge worked almost flawlessly, with both single and multiple job queues, but it seems a little rigid to be restricted to the bundled application when you're working with the drive from a single (non-networked) PC.

Disc Forge is quite serviceable, to be sure. It keeps things nearly as simple as with a standalone duplicator LCD menu with its all-business GUI, with a limited palette of available options including Archive Only, Copy and/or Verify, Multi-disc archive, and Relay-mode for qeueuing up multiple masters or disc images at once.

There's very little assembly involved with the Pico; place the four plastic pillars in their proper positions in the output tray, attach the tray to the front of the unit, and you're ready to master and duplicate. The input tray sits on top of the unit. The robotic arm does a smooth, quiet, and reliable job of moving discs from the input tray to the burner and then from the burner to the output tray. Where things get off-kilter (and noisier) is when recording fails. The arm removes the bad disc from the drive tray, and attempts to drop it at a nice reclining angle against the side of the unit. Needless to say, this is a far from foolproof approach, especially if you have the unit positioned close to the edge of your desk.

The Pico ships with 100 Disc Makers Ultra 52X CDs or 50 16X DVDs and free lifetime tech support. It also includes a built-in 3" disc and CardDisc adapter, although that was not tested for this review.

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