- Compact and lightweight design;
- can be powered from USB;
- good software bundle
- Not quite as fast as full-size drives
Many ultraportable notebooks achieve their low size and weight by sacrificing removable media drives. These are usually found in a separate docking station which you need to take with you if you need to read CDs or DVDs, taking your travel weight back up again. LaCie wants to save you this trouble with its slim DVD±RW drive. What's more, the company is offering a bit of style, since the drive's case is designed by F A Porsche.
This high-speed USB 2.0 drive weighs just 390g and measures 13.5 x 16.2 x 2cm, making it incredibly portable. Your travel weight could be bumped up if you take the power adapter for the drive with you, but since it can be powered from the USB port, this isn't strictly necessary. You're also provided with a separate USB power cable, which connects to the external power supply socket and plugs into a USB port, but we really can't see the point in this, since you're already connected to the power through your data connection.
The drive is rated at 8X DVD read, 2X DVD write and rewrite, 24X CD read, 16X write and 10X rewrite. Although these speeds are a little behind the state of the art for full-size drives, it's still respectable for a portable unit. We tested the drive for read performance using CD WinBench. CD read performance is smooth, with no speed fall-back problems. Transfer rates range from around 1,500 thousand bytes/s on the inside edge to nearly 3,500 thousand bytes/s at the outside edge. DVD-ROM read performance shows similar consistency, with transfer rates from 5,022 thousand bytes/s to 9,682 thousand bytes/s. These figures show the advantage of using USB 2.0 over USB 1.1, since the data rates of the drive are far higher than the slower interface could cope with. DVD Video disc performance is also consistent, so you should get a smooth picture when watching movies using this drive.
The software bundle is respectable, and up to the level you'd get with a desktop drive. It's mostly Windows software, so although the drive is Mac-compatible, Apple users aren't getting as good a deal. For PC users, you get Sonic's MyDVD Video Suite, ArcSoft's ShowBiz, InterVideo's WinDVD and Roxio's Easy CD Creator Basic, which should be enough to create both data and video discs on recordable CD or DVD media.
There is also a FireWire version of the drive available, costing £249 (ex. VAT), which we didn't test, but has an identical technical specification apart from the interface. You should bear in mind, though, that if your notebook only has a four-pin FireWire port, you won't be able to power the drive from the notebook. However, some older notebooks are more likely to have a FireWire interface than USB 2.0, and if this is the case it's worth paying the extra to get the higher transfer rate.
Although we wouldn't necessarily recommend getting this slim drive instead of an internal one for desktop systems, if you do need a drive that you can take virtually anywhere, then this is one of your more stylish options.