Review: Kanguru DVD Burner

Adding the external DVD burner (March 5th, 2005)

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Product Manufacturer: Kanguru

Price: $140

The Good

  • Handles double-layer DVDs and dual formats (DVD- and DVD+), units come with either USB 2.0 or FireWire connection, equipped for up to 16x burning capacity, price advantage of up to $60 over competition.

The Bad

  • Noisy fan means you have to manually turn unit on/off, more industrial look than competing products.

Your Data as Antiques, or Remember the 8-Track?

Am I the only one who thinks CDs are about to go the way of floppy disks?

It's the price we pay for progress, I suppose. If you think about it, CDs were hailed as the floppy killer, which they were; 650MB of storage, versus 1.44MB. It was a no-brainer.

But several years later, CDs just don't do it for me any more. They only hold 650MB; by comparison, my Entourage database alone is up to 1.6GB, my business documents are another 888MB (and growing by the way), and my iTunes music library? Don't get me started.

So it's no longer enough for me, and I suspect for many others, to be able to burn CDs. We need the greater capacity of DVDs for storage. But guess what: single-layer DVDs increasingly aren't doing the job, either. If I back up all of my documents, it comes out to more than 5.8 GB...and that's more than the 4.7GB capacity of a traditional DVD disk.

Put another way, double-layer DVDs are the way to go today, burning DVD discs that hold up to 8.5GB. And while you're at it, the battle between DVD+ and DVD- is a waste of time, and shouldn't be of any concern to end-users. Just give me a DVD burner that will work, regardless of format, regardless of platform.

Kanguru: Utilitarianism

Several manufacturers are doing just that; Kanguru loaned me a burner that you may find to be useful. Its external DVD burners are configured to support speeds of up to 16x, and come configured for either double-layer DVD+ or DVD- discs. One model connects via FireWire; the other, via USB 2.0. It also comes bundled with a copy of NTI Software's Dragon Burn, which I found to be a very pleasant alternative to Roxio's Toast. It's point-and-click interface makes it simple to operate and it does the job it's designed to do.

The Kanguru burner is not elegant, in the sense that many of LaCie's CD and DVD burners are sleeker in design. You're getting an industrial brick that will sit on your desk. Its fan is also a little too loud for me; I found myself turning off the drive when I wasn't using it to burn disks, which is something I don't do with the LaCie DVD (single-layer) burner I also have on my desk.

Media Makes a Difference

But the Kanguru unit hops to it when it comes to performing the task for which it's designed. Please note one important point: just because this drive, or any other drive claims to be able to burn disks at 16x doesn't mean you're going to see that kind of throughput...unless you buy DVD media that's able to keep up. In my case, I had several DVD+ and DVD- disks, each running at 2.4x. They burned data at an equivalent rate to each other, although far more slowly than I might expect with a 4x or 8x DVD disk, and their price is lower than what you're going to pay for higher speed disks.

My advice: I've found that buying DVDs in bulk through a company like Meritline makes incredible sense. I can buy the disks for less than a dollar each, and you've got to figure that price will go down over time. They're not going to be speed merchants when it comes to burning, but if you go this route, you can start burning a disk and leave for the night, or for lunch, or whatever...and know that when you come back, you'll have a good copy that you can take with you on the road, or move offsite to secure your data.

Summary

Lastly, note that Kanguru's list price is $140. That's $60 less than LaCie's list price for a double-layer burner equipped with software (Toast); LaCie's drives also incorporate the company's LightScribe technology, which enables you to burn labels directly onto the face of the disk, something Kanguru doesn't offer.

So, here's the way it all boils out: if you can live with Dragon Burn and without Toast or LightScribe...if you can live with a somewhat noisy fan, and aren't a stickler for streamlined design, Kanguru makes a solid unit that you'll appreciate. The price is very fair, and it should last you a year or two, before the next big jump in technology comes along.

In the meantime, understand that you'll be making the move to DVDs for data protection before long, if you haven't already done so. CDs are well on their way to joining cassettes, 8-tracks and floppies.

by Steve Friedberg


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