Boa Firewire DVD+/-RW, by EZQuest
Posted: 4-Feb-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: EZQuest Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
If you happen to own a Mac with a combo drive, then you can read CDs and DVDs, but you can only write CDs. In this day and age, the need to write DVDs, whether to create a movie, or simply for backing up files, is becoming more and more prevalent. Being able to write to a DVD provides you 4.7GB (8.5GB for Dual Layer DVDs) of data storage, versus just 800 MB for a CD. Under Mac OS X, the ability to burn DVDs is required for using iDVD.

You have the option to purchase an internal DVD+/-RW drive (aka, "Superdrive") to replace the combo drive, but a more versatile solution (and easier) is to simply get yourself an external DVD+/-RW drive. An external drive can be used from one computer to the next, and does not require any "surgery" on your Mac.

To answer this call, EZQuest brings us the Boa Firewire DVD+/-RW drive.
The Boa FireWire drive can be used with any Mac or PC that has built-in firewire capabilities. The Boa drive writes up to 16x speed on both DVD+R and DVD-R media, and is the first external drive to write to dual layer DVD media. The drive comes bundled with Toast Titanium for burning both DVDs and CDs.

Features

  • 16x DVD+/-R write Speed
  • 4x DVD+R/-R Dual Layer write Speed
  • 48x CD-R write speed
  • Universal Power Supply
  • 2 Standard 6pin FireWire ports
  • 2MB buffer
  • Increased write quality and reliability at high speeds
  • Dust proof and sound proof tray pads
  • Precision Recording Technology

Setup

$199 Retail


Setup
Setting up this drive on the Mac for use with Toast is much simpler than setting it up on the PC. There are two cables to hook up, the power cable to your AC outlet, and the firewire cable to your Mac's firewire port. Both cables are included. The only software you need to install is Toast, and installing Toast is a breeze (even easier if you already own Toast Titanium). At this point, you can use Toast to burn CDs and DVDs. In this regard, the drive works right out of the box.

However, for native OS X burning, such as with iTunes, iDVD and the Finder, you're going to run into the same problems as you would if you purchased the internal DVR-108 DVD+/-RW drive. Namely, the drive is not natively supported by Mac OS X. A closer look at the Boa drive within Toast indicates that the Boa contains a DVR-108 drive. The good news is that, with a little further setup work, there is a solution to this.

The solution is a 3rd party freeware patch utility called
PatchBurn. PatchBurn provides the option to install "profiles" for all kinds of drives, including the DVR-108 drive that the Boa uses, for Mac OS X. This utility is very simple to use. Once you run PatchBurn, you are prompted for an administrator password, and then it provides a list of all the CD/DVD writers connected to your machine. It lists the vendor, model, and whether it has a profile or not. The "profile" is the key. If it says no, that's telling you that your native OS does not support it. Click on the drive, then click Install, and just like magic the drive is now supported.

In Use
The Boa drive comes in a very sleek and stylish design. It sports a silver metallic case contained within a translucent plastic case, with all edges rounded. The front of the drive has the EZQ logo, and the tail of the "Q" in the logo also servers as the drive's eject button. Overall, I liked the design of the case, albeit I thought it was a bit large sitting on my desk. It takes up an 8 1/2" by 11" space, so if you have limited desktop space, you may have to get a little creative on where to place the drive.


The EZQuest Boa DVD+/-RW drive

Mechanically, it operates very well. The drive opens and closes very smoothly, and power to the drive can be toggled off and on by a switch in the back. When the drive is running, the only noise it emits is from a low volume fan.

Without PatchBurn installed, the Boa shows an a generic drive when viewing with the System Profiler. It allows me to read CDs and DVDs just fine, but the Finder, iTunes and iDVD do not recognize the drive as writable. However, Toast Titanium 6.0.7 recognizes the drive just fine, both for reading and writing, including writing Dual Layer (also known as Double Layer) DVDs. As a test, I took a Dual Layer DVD that I own that uses both layers, and used Toast to copy the DVD to a disk image. I then put in a blank Dual Layer DVD into the drive, and used Toast to write the disk image to the DVD. The resulting DVD is just like the original, complete with the slight pause you see viewing a DVD when it is switching from the first layer to the second layer.

It was good that Toast worked great with the Boa right out of the box, but I like to use iTunes for burning playlists to CDs, and iDVD for burning home video DVDs. Occasionally, I even like to use the Finder to burn a CD or DVD (I like to preserve Finder window attributes that Toast sometimes does not do well). In order to get all of these functions to work with the Boa drive, I had to install PatchBurn. Once PatchBurn was installed, the System Profiler showed the drive's writability as "Vendor Supported". I tested it out by making a few CDs with iTunes, making a DVD with iDVD, and backed up some data onto a blank DVD using the Finder. All my tests worked flawlessly. As expected, when using a Dual Layer DVD, none of the Mac OS programs were able to utilize the 2nd layer (i.e., the most I could back up using the Finder was 4.7 GB, even though the DL DVD holds nearly twice that). This was not really an issue for me because Dual Layered DVDs are still quite expensive, and when I did need to utilize the full 8.5 GB, I simply could use Toast Titanium. NTI's DragonBurn 4 also supports writing to DVD DL media.

I was extremely pleased with the functionality and usability of the Boa drive. In all my tests, the burning was fast and the results were as expected. However, there is one problem with the drive that I would really like to see fixed. I have used several external devices on my Mac systems, from hard drives to CD writers, and the one thing I always appreciate with these drives is that when I shutdown my Mac, the drives power off. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Boa drive. After my Mac shuts down, the Boa drive stays on, requiring me to manually power down the drive using the switch in the back. This is a problem related to the drive's power bridge (or lack thereof) to the Mac. I did discuss this with EZQuest technical support, and it appears to be an issue that they are looking at.


Summary
The EZQuest Boa Firewire DVD+/-RW drive serves as an external "Superdrive" for your Mac. The Boa comes in a very stylish translucent case, and sports CD writes speeds up to 32x, DVD writes speeds up to 16x, and it supports Dual Layer DVDs. The drive can be used with your Mac or PC, and because it is external, it makes for a very mobile solution. The drive comes with everything you need to have it work right out of the box, using Toast software. There is a little more work involved in getting the drive supported by native OS X applications such as iTunes and iDVD. B
y downloading and installing a 3rd party freeware utility called PatchBurn, you get full read and write support for CDs and DVDs by Mac OS X native applications. Mac OS X does not currently support Dual Layer (DL) media, so if you need to utilize the 8.5 GB of DVD-DL media, you'll need to use Toast (NTI DragonBurn also supports DL media). The Boa offers fast, smooth and reliable operations. The one down side is that there is no power bridge to your Mac, so when you shutdown your Mac, you need to manually switch off the drive. Other than that, I was very pleased with this drive. Whether you have a combo drive and want to add the capability of writing DVDs, or are just looking for an external drive to use for multiple machines, the Boa drive is a versatile solution for providing fast and reliable DVD+/-RW functionality to your Mac system.

Pros

  • Sleek and stylish case design
  • Fast and reliable CD and DVD read/write operations
  • Support for double layer media

Cons

  • No power bridge to the Mac
  • Slightly bulky in size
  • Requires 3rd party software to recognize drive for native OS X DVD burning


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice