You don't incorporate the words "Design by F.A. Porsche" into your product name without it being a somewhat integral part of your product's appeal, and that's exactly the case with LaCie's latest external DVD burner. As the name suggests the industrial design has been done by Porsche Design. LaCie's been using big-name designers for its products for some time -- the LaCie Rugged Hard Disk drive we reviewed recently springs to mind -- and a quick gander at the F.A. Porsche design site reveals that they consider themselves "Engineers of Purism" -- whatever that means. In the case of the Slim DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±RW, it presumably means "minimalist", as your design essentially buys you some in-cut grooves on the top of the drive, a rather bleak metallic paint job, and, naturally enough, a logo on the side that reminds you who it's been designed by. Taste is, as always, a rather subjective thing; we found the drive to be a touch on the dull side, but you can come to your own conclusions by checking out the Image gallery.
Leaving the design aside, the slim DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±RW measures in at a svelte 20mm by 137mm by 162mm and a lightweight 350g, making it a decent companion drive for any laptop user on the go. It's a tray loading drive with connections at the rear for an AC power supply or dual USB connectivity -- one connection for data and the other for power. Cables for AC or USB power are both supplied in the box, and switching between the two also involves flicking the small toggle switch that lets the drive know what to expect.
The slim DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±RW supports burning to DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±R DL,DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, CD-R and CD-RW; that pretty much just leaves DVD-RAM out of the equation when it comes to burning support for currently available media. It'll handle dual layer media at 2.4x while single layer DVD media will burn at 8x. Its CD writing speeds (24x write, 20x rewrite, 24x read) feel a little mundane on paper, although they'll still manage most discs suitably fast and without too much vibration at higher speeds, which is quite important in an external drive. The drive itself -- Nero's InfoTool reports it as a rebadged Toshiba SDR6572M -- comes with a 2MB memory cache and supports HP's LightScribe technology. LightScribe, for the uninitiated, uses specially produced writeable discs (either DVDs or CDs) and etches a pattern onto the surface of the disc itself, saving all that messy fooling around with labels and disc pressing apparatus. The downside to LightScribe is that the individual discs are quite expensive, and not particularly widely available, either.
On the software side, the drive ships with Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.3.011, SureThing CD/DVD Labeller SE 4.3.0199 for LightScribe, DVDMAX Player 2.0 and USB drivers for connecting up older Windows 98 systems. All of the software is Windows specific -- in the case of SureThing CD/DVD Labeller, it's even Win2K/XP specific -- so Mac enthusiasts and Linux fans will need to look elsewhere for software if pondering the Slim DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±RW.
The Slim DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±RW's specifications aren't the fastest on the market today, even given the limitations of the USB 2.0 Bus, so we weren't expecting wonderful things from the drive in our burning tests. It's worth noting that for an external drive of such slim dimensions, the drive is wonderfully quiet; all through our testing we could tell it was burning by gently touching the case, but it was barely perceptible on an audio front. Some simple market research suggests that the vast majority of users are burning to single layer media; while dual layer media is now more readily available, it's still somewhat rare and quite expensive, and LightScribe media is even more so. For this reason, we concentrated our testing with single layer media, where the drive averaged around 6.5MB/second burning to both DVD+R and DVD-R media. That's a reasonable, but not spectacular data rate that'd see you spending around ten minutes to fill the average disc, with longer wait times for Dual Layer and LightScribe media.
In technology, there's always a price to pay for smaller and slimmer, just as there's normally an extra zero on the price tag of "designer" clothing items. The LaCie Slim DVDÃƒ,Ã‚Â±RW has both, of course, and thus we weren't entirely surprised by the asking price of AU$299. It's by no means a bad drive, but given that very similar external drives -- admittedly lacking the truly slim form factor or Porsche design -- can and do sell for around half the price, this is really only a drive that can be recommended to the hardcore Porsche-ophiles out there.