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EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW review: EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW

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The Good Fairly fast; rugged; easy to install; includes Mac software.

The Bad Pricey; bulky; lousy documentation.

The Bottom Line This drive is easy to install, but its size, price, and occasional glitches give the edge to LaCie's competing unit.

Visit for details.

6.4 Overall
  • Setup 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 5

Review Sections

An external drive should be fast, rugged, and portable. The EZQuest Boa 52X external CD-RW drive scores two out of the three, and that ain't bad. Fast? This USB 2.0 unit keeps up with the 52X crowd just fine. Rugged? It's wrapped in a tough-as-nails plastic case. Portable? Drop it, and you could break your foot. This porker tips the scales at six pounds and measures nearly the size of a desktop scanner: 8.5 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 3 inches high. At a list price of $189 and a street price of $159 for the USB and FireWire models, the price is pretty fat, too. A better bargain--if you can live with its quirks and slightly slower performance--is Verbatim's competing external USB 2.0 unit for $90. Otherwise, LaCie's 52X external drive gets the nod--for now. Unlike many CD-RW drives on the market, the Boa embraces both the PC and Mac worlds. It's happy with Windows 98 SE or later (except NT), as well as Mac OS 8.6 through 9.22 and OS X, including Jaguar. For PC users, EZQuest bundles Nero Burning ROM 5.5 and InCD 3.39; on the Mac side, the drive provides Charismac Discribe 5.027. The company also throws in a long USB cable and a blank CD-R and CD-RW.

Installing the Boa is simple--if you ignore the documentation. Connect the drive to your PC with the included USB cable. Turn on the drive, then the PC; Windows XP recognizes the drive on the spot. (If you have another version of Windows, you may need a driver that EZQuest supplies on a separate CD.) Next, install the supplied Nero CD-burning and packet-writing software--you're done.

If you want to be confused, however, read the included manuals and watch the video tutorial on the included CD. The terse printed setup guide and PDF manual tell you to install the software first, then the hardware, and imply you must leave a special disc in the drive because Windows will ask for it. (Windows XP doesn't; other versions may, but the manual isn't specific.) The video tutorial tells you to install the hardware first, then the software. Mac user warning: After installing the included Discribe on a Mac OS 9 system, you will have to disable the disc burner, the authoring support, the FireWire-authoring support, and the USB-authoring support extensions. Note, too, that only OS X supports USB 2.0 connections.

We also noticed a hot-swapping glitch. If you unplug the drive from a USB 2.0 port and plug it into a 1.1 port on the same system, you may not be able to erase files on the CD-RW. In some cases, the drive can't even read the contents of the disc, though plugging the drive back into the USB 2.0 port corrects the problem. EZQuest says it's researching this riddle. Since USB can carry audio data straight to your PC, you don't need to connect the Boa drive to your PC's sound card. In our informal tests, playback quality sounded fine, and there was no noticeable performance hit. If you want to connect the drive to your sound card, however, there's a pair of RCA audio output jacks on the back.

The drive's tough, plastic case is great if you plan on lugging this tubby unit around. Otherwise, it gets in the way. For example, when the case's external drive door is closed, you can't see the drive read/write light. When the door is open, you'll have difficulties accessing the drive's headphone jack, volume knob, and disc-eject button.

The Boa is a desk hog.Nero Burning ROM 5.5.
One potential plus is the Boa's ability to format and write CD-RWs in the new Mt. Rainier spec (CD-MRW) backed by Microsoft, Compaq, Philips, and Sony. Formatting an MRW takes seconds, not minutes, and defect management is built into the drive--handy if you plug the drive into different PCs using different packet-writing software. But MRW is not widely supported, so you'll need a utility, such as the included EasyWriteReader, to read (and only read) MRW discs on other systems.

Living with the Boa drive is easy. It's quiet; it successfully read every CD format we threw at it, including very old 1X to 4X CD-RWs; and it can read, write, and burn discs (albeit slowly) when running off a USB 1.1 port. Burning a CD-R is fairly straightforward, although Easy CD Creator users will find Nero's window-happy interface a little daunting. But the basic process is simple; pick files and folders from Nero's Explorer-like tree, drag them into a target window, and click a button to burn a disc. External drives almost never beat their internal cousins in a footrace, but the Boa is a close also-ran. In CNET Labs' tests, the drive ran only 10 to 15 seconds behind the speedy 52X internal CenDyne Lightning V in burning an audio CD and writing 400MB to CD-RW, respectively, when connected to a USB 2.0 port. It tied the CenDyne in loading files from disc but came in at the back of the pack in digital audio extraction. Note: If you connect the Boa to a USB 1.1 port, CD-R and CD-RW performance drops to 4X.

Write tests
Time, in minutes, to complete tasks (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43 min., 11 sec. audio CD)   
Packet-write from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)   
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
1.74 
3.78 
TDK VeloCD 48X/24X/48X CD-RW
1.71 
4.40 
CenDyne Lightning V (52X/24X/52X)
1.64 
4.49 
Memorex internal CD-ReWritable (52X/24X/52X)
1.69 
4.59 
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
1.82 
4.73 
Verbatim external CD-RW (48X/16X/48X)
2.00 
5.08 
 
Audio-extraction tests
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)

CenDyne Lightning V (52X/24X/52X)
0.73 
Memorex internal CD-ReWritable (52X/24X/52X)
0.76 
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
0.78 
TDK VeloCD 48X/24X/48X CD-RW
0.81 
Verbatim external CD-RW (48X/16X/48X)
0.87 
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
0.88 
 
Read tests
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)

CenDyne Lightning V (52X/24X/52X)
1.36 
EZQuest Boa 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
1.37 
Memorex internal CD-ReWritable (52X/24X/52X)
1.46 
LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW (USB 2.0)
1.57 
TDK VeloCD 48X/24X/48X CD-RW
1.63 
Verbatim external CD-RW (48X/16X/48X)
3.58 


All write tests are run with both the drive's recommended media--submitted by the manufacturer--and with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. For more details on how we test optical drives, see CNET Labs' site. EZQuest backs the Boa with a standard one-year warranty. And while toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, we found the online support a bit sloppy. For starters, there's no specific online manual devoted to this Boa model. In fact, none of the print, PDF, and online manuals mention this unit.

EZQuest's tech-support staff replied to our e-mail query within 24 hours, but their answer was incomplete. And don't turn to the Web site for help; it doesn't include FAQs for any of the company's PC CD-RW drives, the handful of downloadable drivers aren't listed by drive model, and searching the so-called knowledge base usually elicits zero results.

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