Review: Directing the Documentary - OWC Mercury Pro 8x Blu-Ray™ Pioneer BDR-203 External
Quad Interface External 8x Blu-Ray™ Burner
Apple’s no show at the blu-ray™ party hasn’t deterred one Mac accessory company from marketing its own Mac compatible internal and external blu-ray™ burners. Other World Computing has offered blu ray burners for the Mac for some time. Over the past year, it has increased burn speeds four-fold, provided Toast 10 Standard version as a bundled option, and lowered pricing. Its latest entry is a quad interface 8X external blu-ray™ burner that is attractively priced at $349.99. The drive ships with cabling, power supply, blank media, and a four-page user manual. It utilizes an aluminum case and small internal fan to disperse heat. Black plastic front and back panels complete the device. Toast is not included at this price.
What’s In The Box. The review unit included two 25GB BD-R (write once) blank discs (4x), a small external power brick and cable, and USB2, FW400, FW800, and eSATA cables. You must supply your own internal PCI SATA card, or ExpressCard/34 SATA card. OWC sells both at its web site, and they are available from other companies as well. No authoring software was included in my review drive bundled, although Roxio Toast Titanium (Standard version) is bundled with the drive by OWC for about $90.00 more. You also can buy Toast 10 directly from Roxio. I suggest purchasing a couple of inexpensive BD-RE rewritable discs to use for test burns before finalizing any authoring projects on write-once discs.
The burner is attractively packaged, and as stated, solidly constructed of aluminum and plastic. It measures 7.5x2.5x10.5 inches and weighs about three and a half pounds. The drive supports 8x write speeds for both 25GB or 50GB blu-ray™ discs, 16x speeds for single layer DVDs, 8x for DL DVDs, and 40x for CD burning. A one year OWC warranty is provided. Interestingly, I wasn’t able to locate an 8x rated blu-ray™ blank discs, nor does OWC sell them.
Setup and Use. Set up is straightforward. Connect the power supply and appropriate cable to your Mac. Power on the device and you are ready to start burning. My first test used the standard 6-pin Firewire cable. Once attached and powered up, the device was immediately recognized by Toast 9/10 and Encore CS3/4 as a Pioneer BDR-203 blu-ray™ burner. I also tested with the USB2 mini, FW800, and the eSATA ports and experienced no issues. On/off switch and power connector are located on the back panel and indicator light, eject button, and pin hole to manually eject a disc are on the front panel. The fan noise is noticeable, but not a significant issue.
I did some test burns using Verbatim BD-RE 2X discs. Toast 9/10 reported a 2x write speed for this erasable blu-ray™ blank disc, which is its rated speed. Toast 9/10 also erased the disc in less than one minute using the “quick erase” function. Although OWC supplies 4x BD-R discs with the unit, I didn’t test those discs for burn speeds.
The device supports all optical media formats except the now defunct HD DVD specification. Detailed specifications for all read/write speeds for non blu-ray™ optical media is available at the company’s web site. On balance, these meet or exceed currently shipping drives from other companies for DVD/CD burners. In addition, the BD-R/BD-RE read/write specifications are the fastest for currently shipping blu-ray™ drives. OWC suggests using either eSATA or FW800 for the blu-ray™ use, but my testing disclosed that FW400 and USB2 were sufficient. The drive is compatible in OS 10.5.x for Finder disc burning, use with Toast 9/10 and Encore CS3/4 as noted, and with iTunes. For earlier OSX versions, Patch 3, a free utility that supports iTunes, is available for download from the company’s web site.
I used this drive extensively to test blu-ray™ encodes to rewritable blank discs, and it performed flawlessly in all respects. Rewritable discs burned with the drive mounted consistently in a Panasonic set top. I also burned BDMV folders to disc from an AVCHD cam, and experienced no issues. Normal data and SD DVD burns also presented no issues. This is a solid device.
Pros: The OWC Mercury Pro 8x Blu-Ray™ combines 8x blu ray burn capabilities, and four alternative connection protocols in solidly built aluminum case. The drive is easy to set up and use, and provides industry leading burn speeds for standard and blu ray optical media. The solid construction, alternative connections, burn speed, software compatibility and price make the drive a remarkable bargain for Mac users for both blu-ray™ data backup, and authoring.
Con: No bundled software at this price; still somewhat expensive. Prefer an internal, brick less power supply. Fan is a little noisy.
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