In an industry with an ever-increasing tendency for program bloat, there is something to be said for a product that values simplicity and purity of purpose. Unlike its market competitors Nero and Roxio, in their latest offerings, NTI has made no attempt to expand its CD & DVD-Maker into a full-blown digital media studio. Instead, NTI CD & DVD-Maker 6.5 does just what the name implies—burns CDs and DVDs. This may be a welcome sight to users who already have an arsenal of third-party tools at their disposal, but it also may disappoint the consumer who is looking for all the necessary tools in a single package, especially when comparison-shopping with Roxio and Nero, not to mention Sonic's new MyDVD/RecordNow combo.
Although NTI has added the obligatory DVD recording ability, a tool absolutely necessary to remain competitive in this market, they unfortunately have limited this to data backup only. There is no support whatsoever for DVD movie making, a glaring omission when compared with competitive offerings that can capture video and offer at least rudimentary DVD menu creation. To their credit, NTI provides the ability to record VCD, Slideshow VCD, SVCD, and Slideshow SVCD, as well as support for a variety of data and audio formats. Their interface is clean and easy to use, and they deliver a balance between simplicity for the consumer and options for the power user. As a piece of software for pure recording purposes, you couldn't ask for more, but in a market where consumers may be looking for supplemental features, it's impossible to ignore their lack of support for DVD movie production.
This review takes a look at NTI CD & DVD-Maker Platinum 6.5 and how it defines itself in the current CD and DVD recording software marketplace.
Right off the bat, you have to like that NTI requires a mere 75MB of hard disk space. Compare that with the whopping 800MB you need to install Roxio or the 500MB recommended by Nero. After you put the installation disc into the CD player, you are presented with an installation front end, which is overkill, since all you can do is install, browse or go to NTI's Web site. Installation is a snap—not even requiring a registration key—a welcome rarity in this day of locked-down programs.
Some users may be unhappy that you cannot pick and choose which pieces you want to include, something that both Roxio and Nero allow. Upon completion of the installation, you are presented with the Indeo software codec installation. Finally, the program installs an NTI Backup trial version. Granted, NTI makes the best Windows backup tool in the industry, but they could have saved everyone some aggravation here by giving a choice about installing it. It's only a seven-use trial and it makes little sense to force it onto every user. Experienced users will simply cancel out of the installation process, but those with less savvy will have to live with it. NTI would have served everyone better by providing an out or simply including a full working copy of the program in the package.
Like Roxio and Nero, NTI has developed a front-end menu system to make it easier to access each program in the package. In this case, NTI uses a CD graphic metaphor for its menu, breaking down their package into different types of activities such as audio, data, or video. Clicking a menu name reveals specific functions in a pop-up. Selecting a function brings you to a screen where you can begin the process of choosing the files you want to record.
Although there are differences depending on which choice you make, NTI presents a uniform interface for all tasks, making it a very easy program to learn and use. This is a nice advantage over Easy CD & DVD Creator, in which Roxio has made little effort to unify the "look" of the new modules and the "classic" interface. The visual integration here also arguably beats Nero's.
Each separate task includes a set of numbered buttons on the left side of the screen, which NTI calls EasySteps that are really an embedded help system. Clicking a step number reveals a pop-up with the instructions for completing the task (or the correct dialog box to complete the task). This is a nice nod to the novice user; unfortunately in their effort to keep the steps brief, they don't include all of the instructions in the EasySteps. Clicking the Help button brings up a context-sensitive help page with the complete instructions, but the beginner at whom this is aimed is probably not going to know this.