Ikebana FireBlaster DVD+RW FireWire review:

Ikebana FireBlaster DVD+RW FireWire

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Fast burning speeds; rugged design; portable; cheaper than competing HP drive.

The Bad No included FireWire adapter; limited Mac software.

The Bottom Line This external DVD+R/RW drive is easily as fast as internal models, and it costs about the same.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

Despite its name, the Ikebana FireBlaster isn't the latest anime-inspired battle toy. Rather, it's a rugged external FireWire DVD+R/RW drive--and a fast one at that, even compared to internal models such as the Sony DRU120A or the HP DVD-Writer DVD200i. Within the FireBlaster's silver, gray, and beige case is a second-generation DVD+RW drive with write-once (DVD+R) capability. Equipped with a carrying case and a nice bundle of software, it's perfect as a shared backup resource in the office environment. And at $459, it's a lot cheaper than HP's $599 DVD200e external DVD+RW drive. Despite its name, the Ikebana FireBlaster isn't the latest anime-inspired battle toy. Rather, it's a rugged external FireWire DVD+R/RW drive--and a fast one at that, even compared to internal models such as the Sony DRU120A or the HP DVD-Writer DVD200i. Within the FireBlaster's silver, gray, and beige case is a second-generation DVD+RW drive with write-once (DVD+R) capability. Equipped with a carrying case and a nice bundle of software, it's perfect as a shared backup resource in the office environment. And at $459, it's a lot cheaper than HP's $599 DVD200e external DVD+RW drive.

Packed to go
Open the FireBlaster box, and you might think you mistakenly bought a piece of small luggage. Not to worry--the FireBlaster simply comes packed in a handy black carrying case so that you can easily tote the rugged, three-pound drive around the workplace or between your home and office. Inside the carrying case, you'll also find an AC power brick, a power cord, a FireWire cable, and a shoulder strap for those really long hikes. Ikebana also tosses in one blank DVD+R and one blank DVD+RW disc so that you can start burning right out of the box. Unfortunately, the package doesn't include a FireWire adapter, and there's no setup sheet or other documentation; all of the manuals are on the installation CD.

The FireBlaster ships with a bevy of PC software, including BHA Software B's Recorder Gold 3.28 for the PC, B's Clip UDF packet-writing software for the PC, Ulead VideoStudio 5.0 SE DVD for video editing, and CyberLink PowerDVD XP 4.0 for playing DVD movies. Mac users get B's Recorder Gold 1.72, but it doesn't support DVD authoring, thanks to Apple's exclusionary third-party licensing policy. And the drive won't work with either of Apple's DVD software packages, iDVD or DVD Studio Pro, so Mac users are restricted to CD mastering.

Fast enough
The 2.4X-rated (3.32MB per second) FireBlaster held its own in CNET Labs' performance tests against internal DVD+RW drives such as the Sony DRU120A and the HP DVD-Writer DVD200i. The Ikebana wrote a 383MB file to DVD+RW media in 2 minutes, 11 seconds, or about 10 seconds slower than the Sony drive. It took care of a large 500MB directory of files in 3 minutes, 11 seconds--8 seconds faster than the Sony DRU120A and minutes ahead of the HP DVD200i. The FireBlaster also compressed and wrote our 3.24GB video file at competitive speeds: 2.69MB per second compared to 2.34MB per second for the Sony and 2.96MB per second for the HP.

However, different software packages vary in the amount of time they take to compress movie files and in the file sizes they create. In our tests, DVD files created with B's Recorder software actually used more space on the DVD disc than those authored by Sonic MyDVD (included with the HP drive) or NeoDVD (Sony). As a result, the Ikebana drive took nearly two minutes longer than either of the other drives to burn a complete disc. However, the drive wrote CD-R and CD-RW on a par with its 12X/10X ratings, and it read all the different DVD media we threw at it, including competing DVD-R and DVD-RW standards.

Standard support
Ikebana offers standard service and support for its drive, starting with a one-year warranty. You'll get toll-free technical support Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, but you're on your own when the weekend rolls around. Ikebana does offer some online support, including FAQs, manuals, software downloads, and e-mail to a techie.

If you want to join the DVD recordable/rewritable revolution but don't have the bucks to outfit every computer you own, Ikebana's FireBlaster is a great solution. Its full complement of accessories and swift performance make it a convenient shared resource. But if your systems lack FireWire ports, you'll have to factor the cost of an adapter card (about $50) into your purchasing decision.

Data write tests
Time, in minutes, to perform tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media
Write 500MB directory to rewritable media
Sony DRU120A (DVD+RW drive)
2.02
3.28
Ikebana FireBlaster (DVD+RW/+R; FireWire)
2.18
3.18
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW drive)
2.00
5.82

Movie write tests
Movie files vary in size due to different compression rates, so write speed is measured in MB per second (longer bars indicate better performance)

HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW drive)
2.96
Ikebana FireBlaster (DVD+RW/+R; FireWire)
2.69
Sony DRU120A (DVD+RW drive)
2.34

Read tests
Time, in minutes, to perform tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Copy the 383MB file from rewritable media to hard drive
Copy 500MB directory from rewritable media to hard drive
HP DVD-Writer DVD200i (DVD+RW drive)
1.04
2.21
Ikebana FireBlaster (DVD+RW/+R; FireWire)
.72
2.39
Sony DRU120A (DVD+RW drive)
.77
2.48

The FireBlaster held its own in CNET Labs' performance tests, even when pitted against internal Sony and HP DVD burners. While it couldn't match the HP DVD200i's performance when writing a movie file to DVD+R media, it bested the Sony in this regard. It also kept up with both drives in various reading and writing tests.

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