If you're searching for an affordable CD- and DVD-burning package primarily for data backup and disaster recovery, NTI's CD & DVD Maker 6.7 Platinum Suite is worth considering. Although it features a handful of other capabilities--including video editing; DVD authoring and playback; and audio, VideoCD, and SuperVideo CD production--these are not CD & DVD Maker's strong points. If you're mostly interested in advanced video editing and DVD authoring, you're better off with another package. Roxio's and Ahead's , while a bit more expensive, both offer more features, superior performance, and a better interface than NTI's CD & DVD Maker 6.7 Platinum Suite. Setting up NTI CD & DVD Maker 6.7 Platinum Suite requires three separate, sequential installations, including one reboot. It's a somewhat tedious process that could use some streamlining. The software requires 400MB of free drive space, but it can run on Pentium III computers with as little as 64MB of RAM--attractive if you're running an older computer.
Once you've installed the suite, you can select most of the component applications from the main CD & DVD Maker splash screen, but unfortunately, not all of them. For example, you can't call up the software's audio editor from the Audio button, where all of the other audio functions live; rather, you need to access it via the Tools menu. In addition, the splash screen has no button for video editing; instead, you must click the nonintuitive Video DVD icon to open HomeVideo-Maker or launch it from the Start menu. Easy Media Creator 7.0 and Nero Ultra 6.0 use both task-based and application-specific menus, which make their various functions much more accessible.
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You can select most--but not all--of CD & DVD Maker's functions from the splash screen.
We like that the NTI programs share a common look and feel and that numbered steps outline most operations, greatly simplifying work flow. Although the HomeVideo-Maker component, developed by Arcsoft, looks and works a bit differently, it's reasonably well integrated into CD & DVD Maker's overall work flow. NTI's CD & DVD Maker 6.7 Platinum Suite consists of four basic modules; Backup Now Deluxe for disk imaging; DriveBackup for data backup; CD & DVD Maker for general CD and DVD production and copying; and HomeVideo-Maker for video editing, DVD authoring, and DVD playback. CNET has already reviewed the very good , so we focused our testing on the suite's other media creation capabilities.
We found CD & DVD Maker generally adequate for creating and copying data and audio CDs and DVDs, though some features are limited. For example, NTI will download track information only from &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Egracenote%2Ecom%2Fmusic%2F">CDDB/Gracenote when producing an audio CD; it won't insert track names on songs ripped to MP3 format for hard disk-based playback, as Nero and Roxio both do.
CD & DVD Maker's performance was mixed. The software ripped a 40-minute CD to MP3 format in 2 minutes and 5 seconds, compared to 2 minutes and 38 seconds for Roxio's . When recording an audio CD on our HP DVD Writer 300n, however, CD & DVD Maker maxed out at 8X write speed and took 5 minutes and 48 seconds to burn the disc. Easy Media Creator, in contrast, wrote at 16X (on identical Verbatim media) and finished the CD in 2 minutes and 58 seconds, significantly faster than CD & DVD Maker. (We performed all tests on a 3.2GHz HP xw4100 workstation running Windows XP.)
NTI's HomeVideo-Maker, a rebranded version of Arcsoft Showbiz 2.0, is likeable but limited. It handled our first test, converting a 60-minute DV tape to DVD format, with aplomb, producing very high quality video with perfect synchronization in about 90 minutes, including the time it took to capture and write to DVD. You can use HomeVideo-Maker to edit in both storyboard and time-line modes, but although the software lets you work with two audio tracks for background music and narration, it allows only one video track, ruling out effects such as picture-in-picture or logos or watermarks on your video. However, the slide-show creation tools are very good, with pan and zoom controls and interslide transitions; you can also set image duration to match a background music track.
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Though it presents a different look and feel from NTI's in-house components, HomeVideo-Maker is intuitive and easy to use, albeit limited in features.
For the sake of comparison, we used HomeVideo-Maker and VideoWave, Roxio's video editor, to build a similar 7-minute video project. NTI's software was much faster, rendering to MPEG-2 format in 5 minutes and 42 seconds, compared to Roxio's 8 minutes and 43 seconds. However, HomeVideo-Maker ran into some trouble when we tried to apply a slow-motion effect to a video clip, which became distorted and very jerky. We tested this function with multiple clips and on two different computers and came to the same result. Roxio had no such problem going slow-mo.
NTI's DVD authoring was another mixed bag. Though HomeVideo-Maker offers submenus and chapter menus for a good mix of navigation options, you cannot make menus or buttons that feature video, and the available menu backgrounds are somewhat cheesier than those offered in other products. NTI's CD & DVD Maker 6.7 Platinum Suite suffers from a severe documentation deficit. For example, we wanted to see if we could set custom chapter points when burning direct to DVD, a feature offered in most competitive DVD-authoring tools, but the suite's help file contained a mere three lines of unhelpful information on that topic.
We contacted NTI's toll-free technical support, available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT (excluding major holidays). They answered on the second ring. However, we were quickly informed that Arcsoft provides technical support for the HomeVideo-Maker component of the suite, not NTI. According to Arcsoft's Web site, there is no phone technical support, and it took the company two weeks to respond to three relatively simple questions we submitted via e-mail.
NTI's online support options are also limited. Online, you'll find FAQs for NTI Backup Now and NTI CD-Maker, but nothing on CD & DVD Maker or any other modules.