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The latest and greatest. Speed to Burn

OWC’s Mercury Pro DVR-110 DVD burner.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Other World Computing. As befits their funky name, they’ve been supporting the Mac community with well-designed hardware through good times and bad for 17 years–almost exactly as long as I’ve been a Mac user. They’re both a manufacturer and distributor, and it’s been my experience that anything bearing the OWC name has been Mac-tested and is backed by good tech support.

One of OWC’s latest offerings is the Pioneer DVR-110D dual-layer DVD burner, either internal ($68-85, depending on software/media bundle) or in OWC’s Mercury Pro FireWire/USB 2.0 case ($138); I tested the latter. In either configuration, the drive is Pioneer’s latest/greatest (16x DVD, 8x DVD-DL, 40x CD). It’s the first on the market with 8x dual-layer burning, though it lacks some others’ DVD-RAM burning capability (so you might want to wait for the next generation if you’re into HDTV). It’s also compatible with all Apple applications–not always the case with third-party drives. The OWC case is a nice “stackable” design in clear plastic, with a small cooling fan (though the DVR-110D is a comparatively cool runner) that’s audible but not annoyingly so. It uses a separate power brick, but this has its own cord and won’t hog extra space on your power strip. OWC ships it with NTI DragonBurn (a full-featured Mac burning suite) and Dantz Retrospect Express (a highly regarded backup package), as well as both FireWire and USB 2.0 cables, 25 CD-R’s and 5 DVD-R’s.

I don’t have space here for exhaustive test results (Google “DVR-110” and you’ll find several extensive reports online). Suffice to say that I exercised the drive with a variety of CD and DVD media; it performed at expected speeds without producing a single coaster. This included a couple of DVD+R dual-layer discs rated at 2.4x but written at 8x. Faster-rated media are still scarce, and all DL media remain expensive–$3-6 per disc–though they are finally widely available now. –Ken Henningsen

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The Dock Doctor

Addlogix’s UniXpress USB port replicator.

Those of you who travel on business know the drill: After a long trip, the very least you need to do is look through your files, print some, transfer a few others to a thumb drive and connect to the Internet to upload some files to colleagues. But that means disconnecting the cables from your PC so you can hook up the notebook to your various desktop peripherals. It gets tedious.

That’s where Addlogix’s UniXpress USB Port Replicator comes in. The basic principle is simple. If you are a frequent laptop user but have a desktop at the office–or use the laptop at the office to tie in to a host of peripherals and cables –you can simplify the connect/disconnect process down to a one-wire deal.

I recently gave the UniXpress a test drive, seeing how it performed on my laptop and how it would interface with my monitor and desktop. It works on any Windows-based notebook or PC, and it can do virtually anything a traditional docking station can do.

In many ways, the device is the next grade up from the usual road-warrior solutions such as docking stations or traditional USB port replicators. Docking stations are proprietary and work with only one specific laptop model, while USB port replicators are non-proprietary, but don’t function with a Video Graphics Array (VGA) connector.

Addlogix, however, has developed an way to accomplish the link between USB and VGA at high quality. Thus the UniXpress bridges VGA, USB, and non-USB peripherals to the notebook with one single USB cable.

USB port replicators evolved as a non-proprietary alternative to docking stations. One device could be used to connect any laptop to office peripherals. What was missing was the VGA connector, meaning users had to dock the laptop to the USB port replicator and then run another cable to a monitor.

A better alternative for mobile business users is to place a UniXpress unit in the office, connect everything to it, and simplify all those connection options. It represents the easiest and most effective way to adapt a laptop to multiple environments. –Drew Robb

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