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Verbatim Producer 44 review: Verbatim Producer 44

Verbatim Producer 44

6 min read

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If you've ever added an internal drive, you'll have no problem installing the Producer 44, but rookies are advised to get help from a PC-savvy buddy. The connectors and the switches on the back of the drive are labeled, and the slim install manual lays out the basic steps well enough, although some illustrations are so fuzzy they're nearly unreadable. The drive supports Windows Me, NT (SP4), 2000, or XP but not Windows 95/98 or Macs. Connect the drive and turn on the PC, and it's instantly found by the PC.

7.3

Verbatim Producer 44

The Good

Reasonable price; supports DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-R/RW; fast movie burning; easy hardware setup; external model available.

The Bad

Slow DVD-RW performance; 2MB buffer; doesn't support Windows 95/98; no Mac support; minimal Web support; data cable not included.

The Bottom Line

Need movie burning and massive archiving on the cheap? Verbatim's Producer 44 is a steal--but the pricier Sony DRU-510A may be a better deal.
Review summary
As the DVD-standards wars continue to rage, vendors are finally crying uncle and shipping drives that handle both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW media. Verbatim's entrant into this suddenly crowded market, the Producer 44, is built on NEC hardware--like TDK's competing 440N Indi DVD. The drives' capabilities are similar: 4X DVD-R/+R burning, 2/2.4 DVD-RW/+RW writing, and 16X/10X CD-R/CD-RW burning and writing. Both have puny 2MB buffers. But the Producer 44, while competitive when writing DVD+R/-R, falls behind the 440N Indi when writing to DVD-rewritable media. Verbatim also provides so-so documentation and neglects to include a data cable. Nevertheless, the Producer 44 is a bargain: $299 for the internal drive reviewed here (an external FireWire/USB 2.0 drive goes for $399). Despite a similar performance and being built on similar hardware, the Producer 44's low price and bundled backup software ultimately give it a leg up on the 440N Indi. But take note: Sony's DRU-510A might be the best deal of all; it's more expensive, but it offers 4X DVD+RW/+R/-R writing and all-around superior performance.

In a perplexing move, the manual warns users not to use DVD-RW media in a DVD+RW drive and vice versa--even though this is a dual-mode drive. The manual also mentions an included 40-pin IDE cable, but we never found it (Verbatim confirmed that it doesn't include one with this model).

Software installation is straightforward: pop in each of the three discs, click a button or two, and follow the prompts. One hitch: All the software manuals are PDF files, but you don't get a copy of Acrobat Reader. On the plus side, when you install the Nero InCD packet-writing software, it detects other packet writers on your PC and reminds you to uninstall them. There's no live update feature, so you'll have to download updates separately for every single application. Verbatim would be wise to check out Norton Utilities' excellent one-stop live update feature.

Although Verbatim earns kudos for including video tutorials on using Nero, MyDVD, and other tools, the lessons are fairly shallow, and they aren't interactive--you're looking over the shoulder of someone who's working. One unintentionally comic lesson: a tutorial on how to find the drive's serial number.

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They're not interactive, but the supplied tutorials show you how to burn discs, build movies, and more.

According to Verbatim, with the Producer 44, you can take all your home video and "be the producer of a Hollywood production." Uh, right. In reality, to capture video from an external source, you'll need additional hardware, such as Adaptec's VideOh. The video programs you do get--NeroVision Express and Sonic MyDVD--are rather limited. And the included copy of NeroVision is completely useless, as it doesn't even ship with the necessary MPEG-2 codecs for creating video CDs or DVDs (they'll run you an extra $16 and $24, respectively). MyDVD is easy to use, but it has modest capabilities: you can assemble clips, trim footage, create simple menus and backgrounds, and burn the result to disc. Nero Burning ROM 5, for CD and DVD burning, and InCD, the included packet-writing application, are both solid programs. InCD can't repair discs like Roxio's DirectCD can, but it does offer a killer set of disc diagnostics.

Unlike many CD and DVD writers, the Producer 44 comes with backup software--well, 30-day fully functional demos. You get NTI's Backup Now and DriveBackup software, and both are a snap to use. With Backup Now, you pick files and folders from a Windows Explorer-like tree, select a destination, choose the method (All, Differential, Incremental), and click start. It's simple and fast, and the programs automatically span discs; let you mix media types, such as DVD-R and DVD+R; and more. Restoring files appears to be just as easy, but we got errors when attempting to restore from either the backup catalog or the first backup file. At post time, NTI was researching the problem.

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Backing up with NTI's Backup Now is a prompted, point-and-click process.

What happens when you put the Producer 44 on the CNET Labs' racetrack? Sometimes it zooms past the competition, and sometimes it falls flat on its face. The Producer 44's performance with DVD-RW and DVD-R media was slower than with DVD+RW and DVD+R, but that's typical of dual-format drives. The drive took first prize for writing to CD-RW and was right behind the leader in burning movies. But it was dead last when writing data to or reading it from any kind of rewritable DVD.

Movie write  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a movie to write-once media  
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD+R)
4.94 
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD+R)
4.44 
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD-R)
4.08 
Sony DRU-510A (DVD+R)
3.96 
Sony DRU-510A (DVD-R)
3.15 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD-R)
3.13 
Note: Compression rates may vary, so write speed is measured in megabytes per second.

Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Write a 500MB directory to rewritable media  
Write a 383MB file to rewritable media  
Sony DRU-510A (DVD+RW)
1.59 
1.23 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
2.75 
2.14 
Sony DRU-510A (DVD-RW)
3.19 
2.42 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD-RW)
3.85 
2.74 
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD+RW)
6.21 
2.37 
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD-RW)
6.36 
2.64 

Read tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Copy a 500MB directory from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Copy a 383MB file from rewritable media to the hard drive  
Sony DRU-510A (DVD+RW)
2.19 
1.21 
Sony DRU-510A (DVD-RW)
2.64 
1.21 
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD-RW)
2.80 
1.43 
TDK 420N Indi DVD (DVD+RW)
3.20 
1.23 
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD+RW)
5.66 
1.40 
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD-RW)
8.25 
2.08 

Write tests  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Packet writing from hard drive to CD-RW (400MB directory)  
Audio burn to CD-R from image on hard drive (from 43-minute, 11-second audio CD)  
Verbatim Producer 44 (DVD+RW/-RW)
2.10 
3.37 
Sony DRU-510A (DVD+RW/-RW)
5.49 
3.40 
TDK 440N Indi DVD (DVD+RW/-RW)
14.82 
3.17 

In day-to-day use, however, you probably won't end up drumming your fingers. The drive can burn a packed audio CD in less than 6 minutes, and it beat the 440N Indi in formatting DVD-RW and DVD+RW discs by nearly 50 minutes in several tests. It also backed up 5.8GB in about 20 minutes. Not bad.

The drive's compatibility with other CD and DVD formats was tops. It read (and where appropriate, wrote to and erased) everything from 1X CD-RWs to old DVD-ROMs to DVDs burned on an array of drives.

One minor gripe: The Producer 44's 2MB buffer, while equal to that of the Indi 440N and adequate for most tasks, is a bit smaller than those of some other competing drives.

Verbatim's tech support is quite limited. The manual has only a modicum of generic troubleshooting advice, and the Web site is barren except for a few driver updates and a tech-support form. To even use the form, you must supply your name, address, phone number, product serial number, where you purchased drive, and a model number. Finally, the model number pull-down menu doesn't list the Producer 44.

When we used the form, we got e-mail from tech support directing us to a Web page with an answer to our question. On some of our tries, the Web address we received didn't work, and we were directed to another page where we were again asked for our e-mail address and case number.

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It's not interactive, but post your questions via a form, and you'll get an accurate answer the next day.

That said, Verbatim customer service responded to queries within 12 to 24 hours, and their answers were usually fairly accurate. There is also toll-free, telephone support Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Verbatim customers could benefit, however, from a comprehensive Web site with a real knowledge base, FAQs, and online chat support.


7.3

Verbatim Producer 44

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Performance 7Support 7