Review: Primera Bravo Disc Publisher
Posted Feb 1, 2003

With its lovable size, full range of features, integrated label printer, and competent operation—all at price to die for—Primera's Bravo Disc Publisher sets a new standard for personal CD and DVD duplication, and may prove the ultimate digital studio peripheral. Anyone interested in desktop convenience should take a long hard look. While the jury is still out on whether or not the Bravo will be successful in attracting a wider audience—or merely steal sales from more expensive systems—there's little doubt that it indeed suggests the shape of things to come.

When it comes to expanding the market for CD and DVD duplication systems, talk is cheap. Primera Technology (www.primera.com), however, has put its money where its mouth is with the new Bravo Disc Publisher. A compact unit offering tons of power, the small-scale Bravo brings full-featured disc duplication and in-line color label printing to the masses for a song, compared with the competition.

The diminutive desktop Bravo is a truly liberating device akin to the first inkjet printers. Just as use of the personal paper printer has mushroomed due to its incredible convenience, Primera hopes that the same will happen with the Bravo. Rather than absorbing the expense and hassle of sending out to have a handful of discs professionally produced or navigating the bureaucracy of the internal IT department, why not just have your own desktop CD/DVD duplicator? Such wishful thinking has been prohibitively expensive until now. But with the Bravo comes the ultimate digital studio peripheral for affordable commercial and corporate DVD authoring and audio and data duplication for small and large enterprises alike.

With its thoroughly egalitarian disposition, the Bravo is available in both $1,995 CD-R and $2,495 DVD-R configurations. The system tested here came equipped with one of Pioneer's 2X DVR-A04 DVD-R recorders. For those seeking life in the fast lane, CD-R models sport LG's latest GCE-8480B 48x16x48 recorder. Looking more like an oversized office paper printer than the latest in disc duplication technology, the Bravo employs a conventional horizontally moving pick-and-place robot serving removable 25-disc input and output bins and the single centrally mounted recorder. Without a doubt, however, the Bravo's most distinctive feature is its fully integrated 2400dpi color inkjet disc-label printer. A $1,495 autoprinter (recorder-less) version is also planned for the near future.

Another endearing feature typically reserved for much larger and expensive systems is Bravo's soon-to-be-released $199.95 Business Card Adapter Kit. Consisting of disc-bin adapters, printer shields, and some modified software, the kit allows the Bravo to duplicate and print 8cm round, 63mm x 80mm "hockey rink," and 85mm x 59mm rectangular business card media as needed.

Beyond these impressive functional capabilities and its groundbreaking price, the Bravo also sets new standards for compact and elegant design. In a world of disappointingly ugly production behemoths, the Bravo is refreshingly comely, weighing only 18 pounds and measuring a svelte 7.25"H x 17.25"W x 16"D.

System Requirements and Installation
Recommended minimum system requirements for the Bravo consist of a 700mHz Pentium PC with 256MB RAM and a 7200RPM hard drive with 2 to 5GB of free space running MS Windows XP or 2000. Connections are delightfully modern and use an IEEE 1394 (Firewire, i.LINK) interface for the recorder (card not included) and a USB hookup for the printer and robotic disc-loader.

While the Macintosh crowd has long been ignored by the duplication community, Primera has a Mac OS X version of the Bravo on the drawing board for spring 2003 (at press time, prototype demos were planned for January's MacWorld San Francisco). A $149.95 personality kit is also planned to allow existing PC Bravo units to work on the Mac.

For this evaluation, the Bravo was given a workout using a 1.7gHZ Pentium 4 PC with 256MB RAM running MS Windows XP Professional, a Western Digital 60GB Ultra ATA/100 EIDE hard disk, Adaptec DuoConnect AUA-3121 combination USB 2.0/IEEE 1394 host adapter, and a Matsushita SR-8588 16X Max ATAPI DVD-ROM drive.

Operation
In contrast to its innovative and attractive physical features, the Bravo does not break any new ground when it comes to its control software. Sticking to old favorites (which it ships as part of its Composer line of duplicators), Primera again bundles the Bravo with the latest version of Veritas/Prassi's PrimoDVD recording application and MicroVision Development's SureThing CD Labeler (LE edition) package.

PrimoDVD offers a competitive range of features including multiple ways of duplication such as disc-to-disc (using a CD/DVD-ROM drive as the master source), setting up a number of jobs to be run in sequence, and by mixing master and blank discs in the Bravo's input bin. Complete premastering capabilities are also on tap, allowing the creation of most popular CD and DVD formats from scratch. For all of its virtues, however, PrimoDVD isn't the most intuitive software package in the duplication universe and may, at times, be confusing to casual users not well- versed in its intricacies. Weak documentation and a number of operational quirks compound the problem.

The PrimoDVD application incorporates some basic label-creation functions but has been long neglected by Prassi. Consequently, Primera substitutes the far more desirable SureThing CD Labeler application which offers a variety of clip art, backgrounds, and text effects to satisfy most needs. Simply saving artwork as a standard printer (PRN) file also accommodates those preferring to use more conventional graphics software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or CorelDraw.

Printing Features and Costs
The easiest way to think about the Bravo's printing capabilities is to compare it to the other Primera printers which dominate the inkjet disc-labeling market. Like its stablemates, the Bravo employs a Lexmark printing engine that provides output quality similar to the SignaturePro [See http://www.emediamag.com/r4/2001/bennett9_01.html ] but with operating speeds more in ine with the smaller Signature IV [See http://www.emediamag.com/r4/2001/starrett6_01.html ]. Like the SignaturePro, the Bravo boasts 2400x1200dpi maximum resolution, four-color capability, a 7-picoliter droplet size, and image quality well-suited to most labeling tasks. (It's interesting to note, however, that these features are now considered entry-level in the paper printing world where the latest-generation engines are now capable of up to 5760dpi with a 3-picoliter droplet size.)

The Bravo makes use of separate black (K) and three-color cyan, magenta, yellow (CMY) ink cartridges, each priced at $42.95. And as with its paper-printing cousins, calculating the Bravo's operating cost is difficult given the variables involved such as the selected resolution, the quantity of each color used on an image, and the amount of surface area covered. As a rough guide, Primera advertises that 135 to 150 disc labels (100% coverage) can be printed per set of cartridges, translating into a cost of approximately 57.3 to 63.6 cents per label. Bravo testing here suggests that black is typically not used as heavily as the other inks, which results in color cartridges being consumed at twice the rate of the black. This lowers printing costs into the neighborhood of 43 to 47.7 cents per full label.

A Little Dynamo
For such a small and unassuming system, the Bravo proved surprisingly capable during testing, successfully duplicating and printing 75 DVD-R and 500 CD-R discs. The disc-picking mechanism also served with distinction by executing two weeks of additional robotic cycle testing. This consisted of transporting 1000 times with DVD-R (Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim) and 1000 times with CD-R discs (MBI, Taiyo Yuden, Lead Data) from the input bin to the recorder tray, to the printer tray and then to the output bin. A failed recorder (it can happen to any manufacturer) forced the return of the first test system to Primera and might have put a damper on the whole testing exercise, but a speedy replacement replicated the same results without incident and continued to work properly thereafter.

No speed demon, the Bravo's performance nonetheless proved well-matched to personal DVD duplication and labeling. During duplication and print testing with full-surface labels in 1200x1200dpi mode (the most likely to be used), it took the Bravo roughly 4 hours and 58 minutes to output ten full 4.49GB DVD-R discs. Straight-ahead duplication without labeling was marginally faster at 4 hours 52 minutes. CD-R duplication and printing with the same label yielded, naturally, faster results, taking the Bravo approximately 1 hour 58 minutes to output ten full 700MB (80-minute) discs, 68 minutes for ten 350MB discs, and 38 minutes for ten 50MB discs. Pure duplication times clocked in at 1 hour 52 minutes, 62 minutes, and 18.5 minutes, respectively. Thrill-seekers will be happy to know that throughput for DVD-equipped Bravo systems is expected to double as soon as Pioneer's DVD-A05 recorder (offering 4X DVD-R and 16X CD-R writing speeds) comes online.

When it comes to printing-only tasks, the Bravo's pace also proves respectable, taking approximately 54 minutes to output ten discs at 2400x 2400dpi resolution, 31 minutes at 1200x1200dpi, 26 minutes at 1200x600dpi, and 20 minutes in 600x600dpi mode.

Good Things Come in Small Packages
With its lovable size, full range of features, integrated label printer, and competent operation—all at price to die for—Primera's Bravo Disc Publisher sets a new standard for personal CD and DVD duplication. Anyone interested in desktop convenience should take a long hard look. While the jury is still out on whether or not the Bravo will be successful in attracting a wider audience—or merely steal sales from more expensive systems—there's little doubt that it indeed suggests the shape of things to come.