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Information Today, Inc.
Review: Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher *** EDITOR'S CHOICE ***
Posted Dec 15, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  

While a luxury for most, having a disc duplicator is a necessity for many. Enter the Primera Technology Bravo SE ($1,495-$2,995) brings very low-volume automated CD, DVD, and—surprisingly, Blu-ray Disc (BD)—production within reach of just about any desktop.
     Combining recording, copying, and label printing in an all-in-one package, the Bravo SE offers unattended 20-disc production capacity, connects easily through USB 2.0, and supports both Windows XP and Mac OS (DVD/CD only) systems. Depending upon the model, writing is handled by either a Pioneer DVR-111 or BDR-101A (see review). The DVR-111 outputs DVD±R (16x), DVD±R DL (8x) and CD-R (40x) while the next generation BDR-101A tackles BD-R (2x), DVD±R (8x), DVD+R DL (2.4x) and DVD-R DL (2x).

In addition to recording, the Bravo SE directly labels discs utilizing its integrated Lexmark inkjet printer. The unit features solid 4800 x 1200dpi resolution and a three picoliter ink droplet size fed by a single 11.5 ml tri-color cartridge. In practice, Primera quotes roughly 100 to 130 (full-surface, full-quality) labels per $37.95 cartridge for a cost of $0.38 to $0.29 per disc.

Conservatively, my testing suggests that in worst-case situations as few as 60 or 70 labels can be output ($0.63 to $0.54 per disc). Obviously, ink consumption various tremendously depending upon the particulars of the image, area covered, and quality settings employed.


figure 1Publishing Software
Duplication and recording is performed using the included Primera's PTPublisher for the PC (left, tested here) or CharisMac Discribe for the Macintosh. And while it's possible to craft artwork using most design software, the Bravo SE supplies a version of MicroVision's SureThing CD Labeler for the PC.

PTPublisher offers a simple step-by-step interface and the bare necessities—copying existing discs, attaching labels or printing them on their own, burning selected files or working with images. Given the Bravo SE's size and target market, Primera chose to exclude some features found in larger systems such as network operation, multi-job queueing, and relay-mode duplication.

Personally, I prefer to have the ability to set up and process multiple masters, especially when doing overnight BD work. Also missing were some BD-specific menus but I was assured these would be added in a software update.


figure 1
Waterproof Disc-Printing
In addition to testing the BravoSE with run-of-the-mill CDs and DVDs, I had the opportunity to try it out with the latest and greatest hub-printable discs from Taiyo Yuden and Imation/Memorex (also available through Primera). Historically, inkjet-printables are criticized for taking their sweet time to dry or for being scared of the water but these new discs feature the latest fast-drying moisture-, smudge-, and smear-resistant surfaces. To my eye, Taiyo Yuden's new-fangled WaterShield discs are significantly whiter and brighter than past offerings as well as having a smooth lustrous finish with a generous printable area stretching from an inner diameter of 23 mm to within 0.9 mm of the outer edge.

When labeled on my Bravo SE at its highest resolution, I found the results to be vivid, clean, beautifully glossy, and with an appeal far beyond that of mere-mortal media. Durability has also improved by leaps and bounds with printed images easily surviving dampness and water spills that would reduce my standard surface test discs to messy puddles of ink. Of course, this isn't to say that WaterShield is impervious to moisture but labels aren't easily affected.

AquaGuard discs from Imation and Memorex also boast superior moisture resistance and have an even whiter, albeit matte, finish, a less visible hub region, and a slightly larger printable area extending to within 0.4 mm of the outer rim.

Obviously, beauty and poise come at a price, but WaterShield (CD-R $0.70, DVD-R $0.86 MSRP) and AquaGuard (CD-R $0.75, DVD-R $0.95 MSRP) discs are an excellent option for event videography, sales, marketing, and many of the low-volume image conscious tasks to which the Bravo SE is ideally suited.

The news, however, isn't so rosy on the Blu-ray front. To date, only TDK has announced inkjet-printable BD-R discs so it's going to take time for even standard surface media, let alone something more advanced, to hit the streets.

figure 1Disc Production Performance
Over the course of several weeks I had the opportunity to put a Bravo SE Blu-ray model as well as a DVD unit under the microscope. To my contentment, each reliably processed many hundreds of discs without mechanical difficulty or even the suggestion of mishandling (after all, what good is robotic equipment if you can't leave unattended?).

I did, however, run into an odd situation when using both systems with AquaGuard media. Since AquaGuard discs are slightly thicker than conventional inkjet printables (they employ a taller laminate surface), I was able to load only 19 (rather than the prescribed 20) into the unit's input bin. This additional height also confused the detection sensor used to determine the number of discs sitting in the bin (eight or more registered as one disc greater than was actually present). And, unlike Primera's larger systems, the Bravo SE does not support business card or 8 cm discs.

As is the case with many automated duplicators, the Bravo SE prints and records simultaneously to maximize efficiency. Its single-recorder design, however, dictates only modest throughput. The DVR-111 DVD/CD-equipped version performed as expected with recording and labeling (full surface at highest quality) ten full 700MB data CDs from an existing hard drive image timing in 45:39 while ten full 4.7GB DVDs (using 8x speed media) took 1:56 to produce. Operation without labels was somewhat faster at 44:01 for ten CDs and one hour and 33 minutes for an equal number of DVDs.

Not surprisingly, my unit equipped with the BDR-101A BD/DVD recorder took significantly longer to perform the same DVD duplication tasks. Ten discs were processed in two hours and 15 minutes including labels and four minutes less without. Lamentably, inkjet printable Blu-ray discs are still unavailable thus preventing me from fully assessing the Bravo SE's BD performance. I was, however, able to run ten full 25GB TDK BD-R discs without labels in roughly seven hours and forty minutes.

Impressively, for straight ahead labeling, the BravoSE took only 10:50 to impart full-surface images to ten discs at its mid-level quality setting and 24:05 at its highest (slowest case). This puts it in the ballpark of Primera's much larger and far more expensive BravoPro.

It's worth noting that the Bravo SE does not support rewritable media. While I agree this isn't an issue for DVD and CD duplication (due to compatibility and printability issues), I feel allowance should have been made for BD-RE given BD-R media expense and the want of similar compatibility concerns.

In summary, compact, capable and efficient, the Bravo SE is an excellent option for event videographers, musicians, sales and marketing associates or anyone else who needs very small run disc copying and professional appearance labeling at one's fingertips. By far the lowest cost Blu-ray Disc duplication option going, the Bravo SE should also find a home with game and software developers who desperately need BD capabilities but are unwilling to dump huge amounts of money into larger duplicators that will quickly become obsolete as writable BD technology evolves.

Pricing:

  • Bravo SE AutoPrinter $995
  • Bravo SE DVD/CD $1,495
  • Bravo SE Blu-ray Disc $2,995

Hugh Bennett (hugh_bennett@compuserve.com), an EMedia and EventDV contributing editor, is president of Forget Me Not Information System, a reseller, systems integrator, and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is the author of The Authoritative Blu-ray Disc (BD) FAQ and The Authoritative HD DVD FAQ, available on EMedialive.com, as well as Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).


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