The Driving Range: LaCie d2 DVD±RW
Posted Sep 29, 2004

Is there anything that LaCie's d2 external DVD recorder can't do? It's fast, writes most disc formats (including double layer), offers dual USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces, and even connects easily to both Macs and PCs.

Like many of its competitors, LaCie doesn't manufacture the business end of its recorders. Rather, the d2 is actually a repackaged ND-2510A model from NEC. It offers a conventional, yet well-rounded, set of features including writing DVD±R discs at 8X (ZCLV), DVD±RW discs at 4X (CLV), DVD+R DL at 2.4X (CLV), CD-R at 32X (ZCLV), and CD-RW at 16X (CLV) while reading prerecorded DVDs at 12X (CAV), DVD±R/RWs at 8X, and prerecorded CDs and CD-Rs at 40X (CAV).

One of the d2's key selling points is the ability to write double-layer (DL) discs. However, the cost and scarcity of DL blanks, combined with lengthy recording times and uncertain playback compatibility with DVD devices, realistically limit that use to authoring and prototyping chores. During testing, a full Verbatim 8.5GB DL disc took roughly 43 minutes to record. The result then successfully played in 64% of an assembled suite of 40 devices (computer DVD-ROM drives and recorders and set-top DVD players and recorders). In comparison, a 45% result was achieved previously in a similar test involving a DL disc written by a Sony DRU-700A recorder [see June, pp. 38-40]. The LaCie's more favorable outcome is most likely attributable to the introduction of DL-aware firmware in some newer recorders included in the experiment. And by default, the LaCie d2 records DL discs using the prerecorded DVD category code (book or bit type) to trick some playing devices into accepting what is otherwise unknown.

During evaluation, the d2 suffered from an odd performance bottleneck when connected through USB 2.0, preventing the unit from writing above 6X speed. LaCie's technical support could not duplicate this problem and suggested that the Adaptec DuoConnect interface used in the test may have been the culprit. FireWire performance, however, was on the money, with Nero CDSpeed 3.12 producing full Verbatim DVD+R discs in 9:25, DVD-Rs in 9:29, DVD+RWs in 13:44, DVD-RWs in 14:10, and CD-Rs in 3:31.

The review unit came bundled with Easy CD & DVD Creator Basic 6, Easy Media Creator Basic 7, and Toast Lite 6. For an additional $30, LaCie also offers two other options including Pixela's CaptyDVD or Toast Titanium.

Perhaps just a little large and heavy, the external LaCie's d2 can still be moved around at will and, with its full set of features, really fits the bill for those seeking a switch-hitter for mixed Mac/PC offices.

System requirements: FireWire-equipped Mac G3+ running OS 9.1 (10.2.3 or higher for DL); IEEE1394 or USB 2.0-equipped PC running Windows 98SE/Me (2000/XP for DL); 5GB free HDD space for SL discs and 10GB for DL discs.