Iomega ZipCD CD-RW External USB review: Iomega ZipCD CD-RW External USB

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Iomega ZipCD CD-RW External USB

(Part #: 31475)
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy setup; reliable performance; attractive case design.

The Bad A bit slow, even for a USB device.

The Bottom Line The ZipCD 650 USB is a decent choice if you want a low-cost, external CD-RW. Though poky, it's reliable, unlike its competitor from QPS.

7.0 Overall

What should you expect from a USB CD-RW? Don't expect it to be fast--USB just can't transfer data quickly. If you want a fast CD-RW, you'll have to go for an internal or FireWire model. What you should expect from a USB CD-RW is a drive that's easy to set up and use. As it turns out, that's what you get with the $249 Iomega ZipCD 650 USB. It doesn't break any speed records, but it does provide stable performance on both Macs and PCs. What should you expect from a USB CD-RW? Don't expect it to be fast--USB just can't transfer data quickly. If you want a fast CD-RW, you'll have to go for an internal or FireWire model. What you should expect from a USB CD-RW is a drive that's easy to set up and use. As it turns out, that's what you get with the $249 Iomega ZipCD 650 USB. It doesn't break any speed records, but it does provide stable performance on both Macs and PCs.

The frightening fine print
When we took the drive out of the box, we were in for a shock. The first was a warning on orange paper labeled "Caution! Important information about your ZipCD USB drive" It goes on to warn users against using the supplied copy of Adaptec's DirectCD 2.5. The application is designed to allow simple drag-and-drop writing to a CD-RW disc. Iomega suggests the average user go with Easy CD Creator 3.5 instead, or run the risk of an "undetected data error once every eight years on a random basis." That's like winning a lottery that you'd rather not win.

Anyone buying the drive now might not have to worry about that problem, though. The ZipCD now ships with a later version of the software (Easy CD Creator 4.2), in addition to DirectCD 3.1 for Windows 98 and Toast 4.1.2 for Mac OS 8.6 or later. Iomega also provides QuickSync 2 backup software (a 30-day trial), MusicMatch Jukebox Plus MP3 player, and, for photo management, Adobe ActiveShare (Windows OS) and MGI PhotoSuite 1.1 (Mac OS). The package also includes a troubleshooting guide and a Quick Install booklet, USB and audio cables, a single blank CD-R, and a thick power brick. There's a slim setup manual, with the rest of the documentation available from the CD or, after installation, your hard drive.

Nice looks; OK performance
Despite the precautions, the ZipCD turned out to be a pretty good drive for the money. We didn't expect the ZipCD to perform miracles in CNET Labs' standard performance tests. However, it lagged behind the QPS Que 4X/4X/8X USB drive on all four of the performance trials and was particularly slow on the packet-writing test, taking more than 19 minutes to write a 400MB directory to CD-RW in UDF format. But, then again, it wasn't constantly crashing like the QPS drive.

Satisfactory support
Iomega offers a decent one-year warranty on parts and labor. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. MT. Iomega's Web site provides a good range of support information, including a troubleshooting section, FAQs, user forums, and contact information, plus additional help via e-mail or a fax-back program.

Ultimately, the ZipCD 650 doesn't break performance records but makes up for its lack of speed by being portable and stable. It has an attractive design, and if you're not terribly particular about being number one, it's a perfectly good and relatively inexpensive way to produce your own data and audio CDs.

In every category, the QPS Que 4X/4X/8X USB outperformed the Iomega ZipCD 650. However, the Iomega drive was reliable and the Que wasn't, which more than makes up for the performance disparity.

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