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Review: Aleratec 1:2 DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LX *** EDITOR'S CHOICE ***
Posted Nov 27, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

As CD and DVD recording and duplication technologies have evolved, product differentiation has become more and more challenging for the companies that manufacture and sell the products. Fortunately, CD recording technology hit the speed wall a few years ago, and manufacturers stopped trying to squeeze a few seconds out of the recording process with drive speeds any faster than 52X, which was already virtually indistinguishable from its 48X predecessor. So we could all stop worrying--and hearing--about who had the fastest CD burner on the block. Besides, most producers doing any sort of mastering set a ceiling (however arbitrary) on their recording speeds well before 52X anyway. The game goes on with DVD recording, of course, though I wonder if anyone is paying attention as drive speeds hit 18X and 20X; I just hope no users are actually paying a premium for those increasingly meaningless speed jumps.
     To me, the most interesting development in CD/DVD recording technology in the last couple of years in't even about recording per se; it's the LightScribe technology developed by HP and others than enables certain drives (with compatible media) to do disc-surface printing via laser within the drive itself. (The other most exciting development in the SD disc production world is waterproof inkjet printing, but since that doesn't happen in recording drives, we won't get into that here.) I'll admit to being a little disappointed by LightScribe printing the first time I saw it; it looked like a faint imprint on a disc, less readable than a Sharpie, and a lot more time-consuming. But the technology has improved, and it's grown on me. It's still not a fast way to print a disc, but optical disc production isn't just about speed. Given an extra pass (as with most printing endeavors), LightScribe-printed discs can actually look pretty distinguished, and even if you don't do all your disc-printing with LightScribe, it's a nice feature to have handy when the application suits.

So if LightScribe printing is the most interesting development in CD/DVD recording in the last couple years, what's its most effective implementation? For my money, it's Aleratec's 1:2 DVD/CD Copy Cruiser Pro LX. I've long been a fan of Aleratec's 1:1 CopyCruisers, going back to the days of 2X-4X DVD recording. The lastest version uses the same solid, self-cooling chassis, with two significant differences: LightScribe support and the inclusion of two recordable DVD/CD drives (instead of a ROM drive and a recordable drive), which gives you the ability to use the Cruiser as a two-disc duplication tower when sending a job from a PC. It all adds up to a device that records and prints to two recordable CDs or DVDs simultaneously for an eye-popping price of $429.

Admittedly, to use the LightScribe feature, you'll have to pay a premium for LightScribe discs (a 100-disc DVD spindle costs around $75, which is $30 more than you'd pay for inkjet cakeboxes from respectable manufacturers), but you don't have the consumable costs associated with inkjet printers because there's no ink involved. I tested the Cruiser with a stack of HP LightScribe CD-R media using the bundled Special Edition Droppix Label Maker and Recorder software with good-to-great results, and also did some burn-only DVD runs with media from Verbatim (-R), Ritek (+R), and Memorex (-R). The drives support CD recording speeds at up to 48X at the outside edge of a full disc, and up to 16X DVD±R/RW and DVD-RAM. (With apologies to all the DVD-RAM faithful out there, I didn't do any DVD-RAM testing this time around.)

For the burn-and-print LightScribe CD tests, I found the bundled Droppix software suite easy to follow and use, and kept Aleratec's well-composed and organized manual handy for backup. Using the enhanced version of the HP LightScribe software, I eschewed Draft-mode printing after the first test (looked more like a watermark than a printed disc), and cranked the system up to the 35-38-minute Best setting, which looked better, and got really strong results with a two-pass approach at the Best setting. Granted, 80 minutes is a long time to spend burning and printing a CD (even for those of us who burned a lot of 1X discs back in the day), but 80 minutes for two fully burned and satisfyingly labeled discs (printed simultaneously) isn't so bad. And while you're obviously getting nothing like photo-quality printing here--really, there's no substitute for inkjet if that's what you're after--the results are a lot more respectable and professional than what you get with a Sharpie, and far more reliable than a sticky label.

As a disc-to-disc 1:1 and host-assisted two-drive DVD duplicator, the Copy Cruiser Pro LX gets high marks across the board. Set up is virtually non-existent, besides connecting the Cruiser Pro LX via USB 2.0 and installing the software, and recording is a snap, as we've come to expect from the likes of Aleratec. Top speed became a non-issue with DVD a long time ago, but for the record we got 3-3.5GB burns done to both drives in under 9 minutes, which is plenty fast for me. Disc testing and post-burn data verification are available as well. 

If your business is considering investing in a DVD/CD duplicator for low-volume production needs, but don't have much to spend, the 1:2 Copy Cruiser will get your foot in the duplication door and quite a bit more for a lot less than you probably ever imagined you'd pay for a two-disc tower. If your budget and your production needs are slightly higher, consider Aleratec's 1:4 Tower, which also offers LightScribe support in all drives, currently sells for under $650, and was reviewed by Dave Doering on EMedialive in September. 

System Requirements

  • Processor/RAM Pentium III 550MHz
  • 128MB RAM (Pentium IV 1.6GHz, 256MB RAM recommended
  • Operating System: Windows XP
  • 100MB free HDD space for CD/DVD recording software installation
  • For CD Image Recording 1GB free HDD space,
  • For DVD Authoring 10GB free HDD space (20GB for double-layer DVD authoring)
  • One available USB 2.0 port

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