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LaCie Fusion 24X CD-RW drive (USB 2.0) review:

LaCie Fusion 24X CD-RW drive (USB 2.0)

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The Good Good audio and straight data burning; compact; affordable.

The Bad Noisy; slow packet writing and audio ripping; flimsy top; no Mac support.

The Bottom Line The Fusion falls short in some areas of performance and construction, but its superlow price will appeal to budget users.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

When it comes to fast CD burners, the words portable and affordable rarely go together. Users generally have to pay a premium for a mobile device. The LaCie Fusion 24X CD-RW drive is an exception to the rule; it's the least expensive USB 2.0 burner CNET Labs has tested to date. Despite its bare-bones package and a few cut corners in features and performance, some nice service policies and a rock-bottom price may be all a budget user needs to overlook the Fusion's flaws. When it comes to fast CD burners, the words portable and affordable rarely go together. Users generally have to pay a premium for a mobile device. The LaCie Fusion 24X CD-RW drive is an exception to the rule; it's the least expensive USB 2.0 burner CNET Labs has tested to date. Despite its bare-bones package and a few cut corners in features and performance, some nice service policies and a rock-bottom price may be all a budget user needs to overlook the Fusion's flaws.

You get what you pay for
You wouldn't expect much from a $169 portable CD burner, but the Fusion has a few bonuses, such as Burn-Proof technology and a colossal 8MB buffer. Otherwise, however, it's a spartan package. The sole software title is Roxio Easy CD Creator 5.0 Basic, which includes DirectCD 5.0 for packet writing. Although LaCie is well known for Mac support, the Fusion works with all flavors of Windows that support USB but lacks software for the Mac OS.

About the size of a Discman, the LaCie is very compact for an external 24X burner. It's also light on features; there's no headphone jack or volume control, just indicator lights and a button that opens the clam-shell-like top. We wish LaCie had spent a bit more money on design and construction; in operation, the Fusion produces more noise and vibration than even some 40X IDE burners we've looked at. Our test unit also had a somewhat flimsy cover, which at times rattled during use.

The need for USB 2.0's speed
You need USB 2.0 support to take advantage of the LaCie Fusion's maximum speed. (The burner works with USB 1.1 but at around 4X/4X/6X speeds.) If you have a desktop with a Via P4X266E or an Intel 845G chipset, you have built-in USB 2.0; otherwise, you'll need an add-in card. No such card comes with the burner, but LaCie offers one for $39. Even with the extra expense of the USB 2.0 card, the Fusion is still cheaper than competitors such as the Iomega Predator or the Yamaha Spyder, which both sell for about $229.

In CNET Labs' tests, however, the LaCie posted merely average marks compared to similar products. It burned a 43-minute audio CD in just less than 3 minutes--about 30 seconds slower than the Iomega Predator but about twice as fast as the Yamaha Spyder, which writes at 12X. The Fusion installed Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition in 1 minute, 43 seconds--right on target for its 40X read speed. But its packet-writing and audio-extraction scores were a little disappointing. At supposedly 12X speed, the LaCie Fusion took 10 minutes, 34 seconds to write 400MB to CD-RW, while the 8X-rated Yamaha took only 8 minutes, 32 seconds. And LaCie's drive took 1 minute, 48 seconds to extract a 27-minute audio track; the Yamaha beat it by 18 seconds, and the Predator took just half the time.

Support policies
Despite the Fusion's low price, it comes with some decent support policies, starting with a standard one-year warranty. Weekend support is getting rarer, but LaCie gives you some: Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon and Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Phone support is free for the life of the product, but it requires a toll call. The LaCie Web site includes useful resources such as driver updates, troubleshooting tips, FAQs, and e-mail support info.

What's in your wallet
The Fusion is definitely not the quietest burner, nor is it the fastest. But if you're looking for a good burner that's both portable and especially affordable, it's a decent deal.

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 Fusion (24X/10X/32X)
2.91 
10.57 
Yamaha Spyder (12X/8X/24X)
4.99 
8.54 
Iomega Predator (24X/10X/40X)
2.37 
35.32 
 
Audio extraction tests
Time, in minutes, to extract a 26-minute, 58-second audio track (shorter bars indicate better performance)

Iomega Predator (24X/10X/40X)
0.88 
Yamaha Spyder (12X/8X/24X)
1.45 
LaCie Fusion (24X/10X/32X)
1.80 
 
Read tests
Time, in minutes, to install Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business Edition (shorter bars indicate better performance)

LaCie Fusion (24X/10X/32X)
1.77 
Iomega Predator (24X/10X/40X)
1.79 
Yamaha Spyder (12X/8X/24X)
2.51 
 
The LaCie offered a mixed bag of performance results. Its audio-burn time was right on target for its ratings, as was the time it took to install Microsoft Office Small Business Edition. But when it came to packet writing and audio extraction, the Fusion dragged its feet.

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