Editors' note: In February 2004, a San Francisco federal judge ruled that this product is illegal because it circumvents antipiracy technology. Making personal backups of CDs and DVDs is a highly controversial topic that is still being tested in the courts. CNET does not encourage or condone the illegal copying of commercial discs.
There used to be just one program out there that quickly, easily, and (mostly) legally copied commercial DVDs: DVD X Copy. When we reviewed it, we said (among other things) that the preferences could be challenging for novices and that the price was high. Maker 321 Studios may have heard our call, because it now offers DVD X Copy Xpress, a much cheaper option ($49.99 after a currently offered rebate, but $89.99 standard) that simply removes most of the preferences of the pricier version. Xpress is much easier to use, but it offers far less control over the finished product. (The pricier, recently announced DVD X Copy Gold combines the features of both the original and Xpress.) If you want to back up your DVD collection cheaply and easily, grab this app ASAP--after all, it might not be legal for long. Installing the PC-only DVD X Copy Xpress is quick and easy, although it does require online or phone activation before it will work. You get three activations (meaning you can run it on three separate machines) per copy, and you can call for another three if you're having trouble. The interface is simple and clear, featuring only an Options tab and a big, round Go button.
You'll need to click a few nuisance buttons when you first launch the program to attest that you own the DVD being copied and that you're making a copy for your own use. The program has only a few other options to set; you simply select the audio track you want and whether or not you need subtitles. After that, click Start and let the copying begin. Xpress promises to copy and burn discs in less than an hour, and in our testing, it was usually closer to 40 minutes. (Note, however, that drive speed is a major factor in burn time.)
|/sc/30422594-2-300-SS1.gif" width="300" height="225" border="0" alt="" />|
Xpress's elegantly simple interface lets you know how much time you have left every step of the way.
Before you spend your money on Xpress, you may want to confirm that your DVD player will play DVD-R/RW or DVD+R/RW discs. Many older models don't. Check &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Edvdrhelp%2Ecom%2Fdvdplayers%2Ephp">this DVD player information page to see whether your player will work. Beyond copying DVDs, including commercial DVDs, quickly and easily, there isn't much to DVD X Copy Xpress. In fact, it's more notable for what it can't do. The original DVD X Copy could copy a movie onto two DVDs, for instance, retaining all of the menus and special features. Xpress skips all that in the interest of space and simplicity; all it copies is the movie. The chapter markers are still in place, though, so you can quickly advance scene by scene. Also, the program can copy only one audio track to a DVD, so if you want a version with the director's commentary, you'll need to burn a second disc.
Because commercial DVDs have a lot more storage space than the blank ones you can buy retail, most movies must be compressed in order to fit on your disc--even after the special features and superfluous audio tracks have been stripped away. 321 Studios wouldn't reveal to us exactly how DVD X Copy Xpress performs this compression, but the results looked good in our testing: average-length movies showed no loss of quality when copied. We didn't test it with anything Titanic-length, but users have reported seeing distortion and visual artifacts with longer movies. The company acknowledges that backgrounds will often look darker when you copy longer movies.
|/sc/30422594-2-300-SS4.gif" width="300" height="225" border="0" alt="" />|
DVD X Copy Xpress tries to stay legal with this warning about illegal copying of DVDs.
We're going to assume, and encourage, that you use this app only to copy your own DVDs--and to that end, DVD X Copy Xpress, like its fuller-featured predecessor, does its best to stay within legal guidelines. It automatically adds a warning to the start of every movie it burns specifying that it's a copy. Also, like DVD X Copy, Xpress won't make a copy of a copy, so you'll always need an original on hand. While we didn't get a manual with our copy of Xpress (the boxed version wasn't finished yet), 321 Studios does offer excellent online support resources, including forums, FAQs, an e-mail support link, and a searchable knowledge base. The company also frequently upgrades its products and, so far anyway, those upgrades are completely free. Registered users get e-mail notifications when new versions are available for download.
We were initially overjoyed to see that there's a toll-free 24-hour help line, but our joy faded when we found that it's completely automated. Suffer through the recorded prompts, and you'll eventually be given a second number where you can reach actual knowledgeable support specialists, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, weekdays.