Mac Musings

Burning CDs, Watching DVDs

Daniel Knight - 2001.01.24 -

Watching the keynote at Macworld San Francisco, I would have sworn that Steve Jobs said the big difference between the other Power Mac G4 models and the 733 MHz one was that all the drives supported CD, CD-R, CD-RW, and DVD - but only the G4/733 SuperDrive also supported DVD-R.

I was wrong. That was disappointing. What's even more disappointing is that Apple has no CD-RW/DVD options, even though such drives have been available for months and are regularly covered on Accelerate Your Mac.

Accelerate Your Mac is one of my favorite sites. They're always on the cutting edge with things like CD-RW/DVD drives, EIDE cards for PCI slots, and the latest video cards. Their database has 51 user reports on "combo DVD/CDR" drives. Here's a quick summary:

The vast majority of reports, maybe 85%, are for the Toshiba drive. It boots the Mac. It burns CD-R and CD-RW. It plays DVDs. And it's reasonably fast: 4x writes, 4x CD-RW, 24x read, and 4.8x DVD.

The first review on Accelerate Your Mac was posted in May 2000, but had a product preview in February - almost a whole year ago. Yet much of the Mac community seems unaware of this useful hybrid.

That's too bad, because I'm convinced a lot of Power Mac G4 buyers would love to get their new computers from the factory with a combination CD-RW/DVD drive instead of the more pedestrian CD-RW drive or far more costly SuperDrive.

The Que! Combo comes in 4x4x24x4x, 6x4x24x4x, and 12x10x32x8 versions, giving the buyer with a FireWire port a range of speeds and price points. The Toshiba mechanism can replace the CD or DVD-ROM drive in any Power Mac or clone that supports EIDE drives.

I don't know what CD-RW drive Apple uses in the G4s, nor do I know how much the Pioneer SuperDrive mechanism adds to the cost of a G4 (The Apple Store doesn't say), but I'm guessing a good number of new buyers would be willing to ante up an additional $100 or so for a CD-RW/DVD drive inside their new computer. I think Apple is missing an income opportunity here.

The same goes for the external FireWire CD-RW/DVD drive, although the Que! drive has a very attractive price (see deals below). But I'm betting Apple could sell an Apple branded FireWire CD-RW/DVD very successfully, considering the number of FireWire iBooks, PowerBooks, iMacs, and Power Macs out there - or maybe they should simply consider selling the Que! drive.

Apple spoiled us by adopting DVD early; now they seem have almost abandoned it. If Steve Jobs thinks Apple missed the boat by going DVD instead of CD-RW, I think they're missing the boat by not offering something between CD-RW and the SuperDrive.


While we're at it, I'd love to see Apple come out with a version of iDVD that's designed for video CD mastering (VCD). Sure, the quality isn't the same as DVD, but for those with less capable machines than the G4/733 who only have CD burners, it would be a great way to make portable movies you could watch on a Mac, PC, or DVD player.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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