Review: NTI Dragon Burn 4

Burn any media you want with NTI Dragon Burn. (September 25th, 2008)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: NewTech Infosystems

Price: $39.99

The Good

  • Easy to install and use. Affordable. Burns all sorts of media. Menus are informative and clear. Supports multiple-burning, jpeg, mixed-mode, video, and live audio CDs. Suite includes label software.

The Bad

  • Interface design could use some work. Duplicates some of the functions of software already on your Mac. Filtering doesn’t always work correctly. Quit on an Intel iMac periodically. No Blu-ray support. Some options hidden away in Preferences.

NewTech Infosystems, Inc., (NTI) Dragon Suite with Shadow features more functionality than you might ever use and it sports features you may not know you need. This suite of applications includes NTI Dragon Burn, NTI Dragon FliX, and NTI Shadow. Each application creates copies of your files on DVD or CD media. When bought separately, the three applications total $110, so the $79.99 bundle is a good deal, but the three reviewers who tested each application had mixed performance reviews. Due to the different features within each application, we'll cover only NTI Dragon Burn here and the others in a later review.

Out of the box

The boxed bundle includes only the CD with all the programs and the serial numbers printed right on the label. Although the side of the box notes the inclusion of a Quick-Start Guide, there was no printed matter inside. Thankfully, the Help menu contains an introduction, overview, and fairly complete information on all the features in each program. You can download each program and order a CD for $3 more from the site, if the bundled package is more than you need.

NTI Dragon Burn version 4.1.2.0

Upon launch, Dragon Burn opens a splash screen then a launch window, in which are nine icons to click for the type of file copy you want. The useful rollover descriptions of each action may be turned off in the Preferences. Jeff Cutler, one of our product reviewers, found this invaluable when trying to pick which method and type of disk to use.

Dragon Burn screen

Select Burning Type Window with Custom CD Rollover

First, Jeff chose the data CD/DVD mode and copied 9556 items from his MacBook onto a DVD. He found it easy to add files to the burn window; either by dragging them in or choosing files from a Finder window. He added 4.4GB of stuff and tried to jam it onto a 4.4GB DVD+R, but that didn't work. You must remember that even a DVD needs some room for formatting data, so most DVDs hold about 4.2 or 4.3GB of files. The MacBook's 8x DVD burner worked seamlessly with Dragon Burn and Jeff had a back-up DVD of his files in just over 10 minutes. While Dragon Burn offers a number of media burn solutions, all available from the main window. There are a number of little glitches, or features, depending on your outlook, in each type of burn that I found inconsistent and frustrating. When I tried to burn a Data CD/DVD, I could not choose the size media I wanted to burn until I clicked the Enable disc spanning button, which enabled a media pop-up menu with a number of media sizes available. I think a menu with disc types should not have to be enabled with a check box and thought it annoying. On the plus side, another pop-up menu let me choose from a variety of compatible media types, including HFS+ only, or a cross-platform hybrid CD or DVD.

Dragon Burn screen

File List Window with Pop-up Menus

I experienced another frustration when I accidentally dropped a folder inside another folder in the burn list, I had to manually remove it. Toast, with its more user-friendly interface, allows you to undo the last action and takes out the misplaced folder, so you can drop it in again in the right place.

While Jeff also backed up his music files as data files with no complaint, I had less success.

Dragon Burn screen

Burn Progress Window

The Help files claim you can use layout filtering to create backups of specific file types. As instructed, I set the audio CD filter to recognize only MP3 files, and then dropped my iTunes folder onto the layout window. It displayed a warning dialog that Protected AAC files aren't supported, which was unnecessary, as I only wanted MP3 files. My resulting file list came up with 99 tracks in no particular order, but my iTunes library folder contains over 300 MP3 files. I also could not click on the headers, like Title or Length to reorder the list. On the plus side, there is an audio playback control in which I could hear each song if I wanted.

Audio CD Test

If you want to burn an audio CD from an iTunes playlist, Dragon Burn doesn't offer an elegant solution. You must export your playlist as a text file then use the Import iTunes Playlist command from the File menu. The Audio CD menu automatically opens and Dragon Burn then converts your AAC files, I assume to AIF. This process can take a few minutes if you have long songs in the playlist. After a 5-minute song took over 10 minutes to convert on a 2.4GHz Intel iMac in Mac OS X 10.4.11, I had to force quit the program.

I believe it was a Protected AAC file that tripped up the program. I wasn't made aware these AAC files (iTunes downloads) are not supported until I dragged one into the audio list. Roxio Toast does not support these files either, but you can drag an iTunes playlist into a Toast window to create an audio CD; it just omits the Protected AACs. You cannot drag an iTunes playlist into Dragon Burn though. Also, while testing this feature Dragon Burn up and quit on me a couple of times. When the program did work correctly, it only processed one or two files from a 20-song playlist, so I never was able to burn the audio CD I wanted.

No matter what type of burn I chose, if I closed the window on the burn set up, the Select Burning Type window didn't reappear. You must choose New Layout from the File menu, which is another user interface annoyance.

Other Features

The Preference Panel includes five tabs, as seen in the screen shot below. The Overburn option that allows you to burn more data on a CD than normal may be useful in some special circumstances. This option comes with many warnings that your CD can be damaged in the process, but may be useful when you need to burn just a bit more than usual.

prefs screen prefs screen
Two Preference Panels

Dragon Burn also supports burning on multiple burners at once, but multi-burning is only available in the retail version, not the download version. There is no Blu-ray support in either version yet though.

You can also design and print personalized CD or DVD labels and jewel case inserts using the included label design software, Discus NT (v. 2.74) from Magic Mouse Productions. I've used this software previously and although the interface isn't the best, they do offer some great templates for almost every label manufacturer.

Bottom Line

When you consider that Apple provides Finder-level disc burning, plus backup capabilities and audio CD creation within iTunes, you may think purchasing a third-party solution is redundant. Personally, I don't agree. I can fit more data or audio files on media I burn using another program instead of the Finder. In addition, I find third-party solutions more flexible. As a Roxio Toast user, I'm very interested in other solutions. Unfortunately, I found NTI Dragon Burn fell short of my expectations and although it includes some features unavailable in the Finder or Toast, I am not happy with its interface, buried options, and inability to handle dual-layer DVDs in some situations.

by ilene hoffman, reviews editor


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