Here's a thing I haven't seen before in a duplicator: a CPU is actually built into the DiscMakers ElitePro1, DiscMakers' 100-disc autoloading CD/DVD duplicator (and I'm guessing the rest of the line). Not that I haven't heard of such things before, but when I have, it's been a hopelessly out-of-date chip running the show, like a 386 or some other fossil. But this is the first CPU-equipped duplicator I've encountered that could be accurately described as having more than half a brain, at least to my knowledge, which kind of makes you wonder how much of its brain a duplicator actually needs to use to get its work done. In any event, the gray matter churning away in there is a 1gHz Intel Celeron chip, and 256MB RAM on somebody's mainboard (I don't know that I'd be able to pop this thing open to get a gander inside).
That's an exceptionally intelligent move, I'd say—packing in a dedicated system—as loads of those duplication demons issue from hooking into machines that don't meet minimum system requirements, or use too much of what they've got picking up other passengers on the bus, and stopping at every corner when some inane, tertiary function rings the "stop" bell.
Rearward, you've got the typical external features of a mainboard—parallel and serial ports, keyboard and mouse ports, FireWire ports, USB ports, a couple of NICs, even built-in sound. So, aside from the connections that must be made on the duplicator proper, all you need to do is plug in a mouse, keyboard, and monitor (all included), and you're almost done with setup. The ElitePro1 does leave a pretty good-sized footprint, but because there's no tower involved—that is, you won't be running a SCSI or FireWire cable from your PC or Mac to a standalone duplicator—you actually end up saving room on the desktop.
Hardware assembly is different, but not at all difficult. The printer—a Primera Signature IV, as near as I can tell (there's nothing emblazoned on it to indicate as such), well-reviewed in these parts a couple years back—fits neatly in its ordained position; the three slim rods constituting the input bin are already in place, a vessel waiting to be filled; the reject and output poles are where they ought to be, output about 100 discs high and reject about 10, as if to say this thing's gonna work, man, check it. The pick arm doesn't come attached to the screw, or the "CD lift mechanism," as the literature calls it. You have to do that yourself, but it's no big deal. It's a simple matter of holding the pick arm onto the screw, then inserting two small black rivets on either side of the arm.
Three things jump out at me right here. First, the pick itself is fixed out at the end of the arm, which, given the design, probably won't really matter once duping gets underway. Second, there's a rubber band—I should say "gasket" or "o-ring," but my journalistic imprimatur compels me to be honest—wrapped around the pick; I don't know if it's there to protect the inner polycarbonate, or if it's there offering resistance to something mechanical that slides down to open the pick, then slides up to close the pick. In the name of science, I'll be taking that off for you, to see what's what, but I have to do that last, just in case I can't get the rubber band back on. Third—and this has bothered me ever since I met duplicators—the output spindle is a spindle, not a bin. Let's see just how many discs go flying off, hole having missed the pointy stick by an eighth of an inch. It's particularly irksome here, as a bin would fall well within the arc of the fixed arm, and wouldn't interfere with any drive trays.
Twenty bucks a man came up with the spindle idea, and has watched it perpetuate itself all across the duplication market in phallic glee. (Or maybe he just got a patent on it, thought better of the strategy later, but kept it to himself when the cash started rolling in.) Seriously, guys, go read some Cixous, if for nothing else than to prevent people from stepping on disc-ridden floors. Shattered polycarbonate is sharp and can hurt the tootsies, not to mention the toches if you've got to park yourself on the floor there to adjust the thing.