Review: Fight the Future: Toshiba SD-R2102 DVD/CD-RW

This legendary design has many devotees that simply refuse to upgrade (January 15th, 2003)

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Product Manufacturer: Toshiba

Price: $170

The Good

  • Adds burning capabilities to Pismo, works with iTunes, Disc Burning in OS 9 and OS X with no modifications in software

The Bad

  • Small modification necessary for appearances sake, possible error message in OS 9 (non-critical)

The PowerBook G3 "Pismo" is the first PowerBook to include FireWire and AirPort, one of Apple's most innovative, future-proof notebooks to date. Building upon the modular architecture of Apple's "Wallstreet" and "Lombard" PowerBook designs, the Pismo is the last truly upgradeable PowerBook.

This legendary design has many devotees that simply refuse to upgrade and give up on the flexibility the machine provides, with its collection of ports, removable drives and batteries, and processor on a daughtercard. For this reason alone, PowerLogix and Newer Technology offer programs to upgrade the G3 processor to a G4/500 or a G3/800. With all this flexibility, you would think there would be no limitations to this machine. You would be mistaken; one of the draw backs is the lack of an internal CD-RW/DVD-ROM (Combo) drive solution. Sure you could get an external FireWire or USB drive, but for those who wanted to be truly mobile this just didn't do. How many cords, adapters, and drives are we meant to carry around, anyway?

So we were left out while our iBook and Titanium cousins burned away....until recently.

Burn, Baby, Burn

A combo drive is available from various vendors, including PowerBook Parts ( as an OEM notebook drive. The Toshiba SD-R2102 combo drive sells for around $170. I ordered the "barebones" drive which did not include the Powerbook caddy (to save me money). The caddy is the pretty black case that Apple mounts the barebones drive inside of. If you already have an Apple optical drive for your Pismo, working or not, consider saving yourself some money and re-using your own.

Steps to Upgrade

Once I got the drive, I:

1. Took my broken old stock LG DVD-ROM drive and removed the caddy. Using a VERY small phillips head screw driver (#0, the same as required for adding ram to a new iBook), I removed the two screws on either side of the stock drive.

2. Removed the DVD-ROM drive and replaced it carefully with the Toshiba CD-RW-DVD-ROM drive. I replaced the four screws which I took out.

3. Replaced the module into the bay of my Pismo.

I rebooted and it worked perfectly!

Why is This Drive Different From All Other Drives?

These are the same model Toshiba drives which are used in the iBooks, so Disc Burner recognizes it and no extra software is required. This means, Apple operating systems can be expected to work with this drive for a long time to come- even if Apple doesn't officially support this modification themselves.

Burning with Disc Burner, Toast Titanium 5.02 and iTunes all burned at 8x. I have had no buffer underrun errors and successful burning. The only difference is that the face plate of the Toshiba drive is white so it clashes with the Pismo case, but I don't mind. I am happy to show it off and explain when people ask me about the color difference.

If appearances really mean a lot to you, it is possible to place the correct black Pismo face on the drive with only a little modification.

For Pismo owners with failing DVD-ROM drives wanting internal DVD-ROM/CD-RW capabilities, this Toshiba drive is your answer.

The Large Print Giveth, and the Small Print Taketh Away

The only issue so far is in OS 9 when you put the Pismo to sleep with media in the Toshiba drive. When it wakes up, you may see an error message which says "you must reinsert the module." To work around this, either eject the media before putting the machine to sleep, or when you do see this message do a force quit and the machine usually comes back to life. This is not a universal problem on all PowerBooks so you might not get it. This problem is being looked into.

by Brad Stone


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