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LaCie CD-RW 52X/24X/52X USB review: LaCie CD-RW 52X/24X/52X USB

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MSRP: $109.00
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The Good Overall fast performance for an external drive; rack-mountable; Mac-friendly; easy to set up.

The Bad Bulky and heavy; USB 2.0 card not included.

The Bottom Line The LaCie offers solid and speedy performance, but its bulky size and weight limit its portability.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.1 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Review Sections

Size matters--at least, it does when it comes to external devices such as the LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW drive. This behemoth measures about the size of a cigar box and weighs almost as much as a collegiate dictionary. In other words, you probably won't want to lug it back and forth between home and work. Still, the LaCie has some less obvious advantages. For example, this speedy burner connects to a PC via USB 2.0 and has grooves along its sides for stackable desktop or rack-mount configuration. This drive is plenty capable for network administrators, but if you want a cheaper, more portable drive, we suggest the CenDyne 40X/12X/40X CD-RW. The LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW comes in a rather Spartan package. In addition to the drive, you get a USB cable, one 48X CD-R, and one software CD. The setup materials consist of an illustrated, postcard-sized quick-install guide, which does little more than show you where to plug in the cables. The company does include a separate CD with a more in-depth electronic manual that includes a brief troubleshooting section and glossary. However, the documentation CD itself is poorly organized and contains manuals for other products, making it difficult to find what you need quickly.

If you use Windows 2000 or XP, you're in luck. These operating systems already come with USB 2.0 drivers; you can simply plug the LaCie drive into a free USB port using the included cable, connect the power supply, turn on the computer, install the burning software, and let it rip. The drive also works with Windows 98 and Me, as well as Mac OS 9.1 or higher, but you'll need to install the USB drivers found on the included software CD after you connect the drive.

The LaCie comes with Roxio EasyCD Creator Basic 5.3.2 for CD-mastering and DirectCD for packing-writing chores. The CD also includes Roxio Toast Lite for Mac users. But while novices will be happy with these light versions of the software, power users will want to get the full versions with more functions, such as Video CD burning.



Does size matter?
The silvery LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW comes in a protective 7-by-11-by-2-inch, metal-alloy shell. In other words, at twice the size of an internal drive, the LaCie requires a fair amount of desk real estate. And try not to drop it on your toes--this puppy weighs more than 4 pounds. But to help ease the burden, the drive has grooves along its sides for stackable desktop or rack-mount configuration. You can buy a rack-mount kit from LaCie for a reasonable $39.

Although you can also connect the LaCie drive via a USB 1.1 port, you'll need a USB 2.0 connection to achieve optimal speeds. Many new computers come with built-in USB 2.0 support, but you can always upgrade your older machine by adding a USB 2.0 PCI card. (You don't get a USB 2.0 card with the drive, unfortunately, so you'll have to purchase one elsewhere.)

The drive comes with the usual assortment of burning technologies. To prevent buffer-underrun errors, it uses SmartBurn technology to match the burning speed of the drive with the amount of data in the buffer. It also supports Mt. Rainier technology, which significantly shortens the amount of time needed to format CD-RW media. Unfortunately, the LaCie has only 2MB of buffer memory--low compared with the 8MB found in many other high-speed burners.


For an external drive, the LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW delivers impressive performance. Usually, external burners prove less speedy than their internal counterparts because of the delay in port communication between the drive and computer. But in CNET Labs' tests, the LaCie took 1 minute, 44 seconds to burn a 43-minute audio CD from an image on the hard drive, only a few seconds slower than the CenDyne Lightning V and the Memorex internal CD-ReWritable, both of which are 52X internal drives. In packet-writing tests, the LaCie scored even better, copying a 400MB folder to CD-RW in only 3 minutes, 47 seconds. By comparison, the CenDyne Lightning V required 4 minutes, 29 seconds and the Memorex internal CD-ReWritable 4 minutes, 35 seconds to complete the same test.

In read tests, the LaCie ripped a 273MB audio file in only 46 seconds, a tad slower than CenDyne and the Memorex but hardly noticeable. And it took 94 seconds to install Microsoft Office Small Business Edition, less than 10 seconds behind CenDyne and Memorex.

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 
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 
 
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 
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 CD-recordable drives, see CNET Labs' site.

While the LaCie 52X/24X/52X CD-RW looks indestructible, it comes with a one-year warranty just in case. Free phone support is also available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, but it's a toll call. The company's well-organized Web site offers manuals, drivers, software updates, and a relevant and continuously updated FAQ section.

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