One of the great things about having a technology column is that you get to play with
cool toys. The latest one to cross my desk is an ultra-slim DVD reader/burner for
people on the go.
For a while now computers have been made without any diskette drive and many laptop
computers come without a DVD drive. Because so much of your data comes via online,
there is not often a need for a removable media device.
That’s the way my laptop works, no removable drive whatsoever. So when I need to load
up some software that comes on a CD or DVD, I have to borrow that huge external DVD
device from the office, a device that weights about as much as my computer and is
almost as big. Certainly not anything I’d carry with me if I could avoid it.
But not any more. StarTech.com has come up with an ultra-portable
CD/DVD player and recorder that’s just great for laptop computers. At only 23 mm thick
(less than an inch), 165 x 135 mm dimensions, it’s the size and weight of a small
book, and I’m amazed that this thing even works.
But it does work, and it works very well. Called InfoSafe, the device
uses a USB 2.0 connection, and although it also comes with a power supply (that too
being very small), I’ve not had to use it. All the power it needed in my tests came
from a USB port.
Installation consisted of plugging it into the USB port. That was it! Windows found
the right driver and within seconds it was operational. I experimented with reading
data off a pre-existing DVD, writing data to a blank DVD (which it does at 8X), and
watching a movie (Material Girls, starring Hilary Duff a favourite of my daughter’s).
The device worked pretty flawlessly. One strange thing I found was that the computer-end
of the USB cable split into a Y, with two USB connectors, the second one being for
extra power. Except that on my computer the USB ports are so far apart from one another
that the cable would not stretch far enough to use the two. The instructions said
that if you only had one USB port, you’d need to use the external power supply but
I found I had enough power off the one USB port.
The other thing that wasn’t exactly optimal was when I unplugged the drive from the
USB port then re-plugged it, the computer couldn’t find it. This may have as much
to do with Windows Vista as with the drive, but when I plugged it in again after having
shut down the computer it worked without any problem. It tried to repeat this problem
but so far has only happened the one time.
Two CDs came with the device, one containing drivers for Windows 98 and SE, the other
containing the Nero 7 Essentials suite of programs. Nero 7 Essentials is a program
for editing audio, video, and data files. I pity the poor soul with a Windows 98 computer
and no CD reader; he’d need the device to load the drivers, and the drivers to get
the device to work! A bit of a Catch 22 there. This was actually the first time I
ever watched a video on my computer and I was amazed at how clear it was. With my
extra-capacity battery and the InfoSafe drive, I can see myself bringing a video or
two with me when I travel, but not Material Girls. Maybe Catch 22.
The bottom Line: At $149.99 US suggested retail price, the InfoSafe portable DVD drive
from StarTech.com is one great little device.