Field Test: Primera BravoPro CD/DVD Duplicator/Printer

Jul 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Rick Spence

TURNKEY MULTI-DISC DYNAMO FOR MAC AND PC

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In the duper wars, speed and the set-and-forget factor rule. No one wants to baby-sit a robot as it churns through a burn run of 100 discs, especially if it's printing labels. The BravoPro, the latest integrated duplicator and printer from Primera Technology, addresses these issues and more. Designed for businesses and studios in need of a turnkey solution for small-run duplication, the BravoPro features two Plextor 716 drives, Lexmark 4800 dpi print resolution and faster robotics than past efforts. The BravoPro also includes a Kiosk mode that allows it to print up to 100 DVDs and CDs in a single run.

I'm happy to see that Primera is now using Plextor drives, as Plextor diligently tests a wide range of media with its drives and publishes the results. The firmware seems to be stable, and the BravoPro can burn some discs beyond their rated speeds. However, your computer will have to keep up.

The BravoPro requires a single USB 2 connection. At faster speeds, especially with DVD media, the drives will cycle on and off using the memory buffer to prevent the jobs from failing. At slower speeds, such as 4x DVD burning, the drives are able to continuously burn. This isn't much of an issue for cranking out CDs at high speeds, as the mature players seem to be more forgiving. However, DVD players can be a little more fickle, and DVDs created at high speeds may sometimes freeze or fail to play.

CAPABLE AND SPEEDY DUPLICATION
The BravoPro can burn DVDs and CDs at top speed: 16x and 48x, respectively. It's no longer necessary to make a decision about your duplicator based on the type of media you're most likely to be using; i.e., CDs or DVDs. The Plextor 716s are equally capable at burning both types of blank media in all current formats. For this test, I used Taiyo Yuden printable CDs and DVDs. I created DAO audio CDs and CD-R video DVDs from ISO images.

The BravoPro is equally at home in the PC or Mac environment. However, the software bundles have a slightly different look and feel on each platform. Because my studio, AVT Pro, is more of a PC house, I actually prefer to work with the PC version, but found that the Mac version worked admirably and the disc design and layout tools were more elegant. The Mac software also includes a nifty utility for copying multiple master discs during the same job. For example, it's possible to make three copies each of five separate discs: Just load all of the discs in the right order and let it rip.

It would be nice to see some consistency in the look, feel and feature set of the software bundle between the two platforms. Better yet, I'd really like to see a custom integrated software package from Primera. That way, you could learn one set of tools with the same look and feel for both the PC and Mac.

ON THE JOB
The BravoPro robotics' mechanism is twice as fast as previous generations, according to Primera. Previous duplicators I've tested from Primera — such as the Composer, Bravo and Bravo II — were noticeably slower. While I didn't get out the stopwatch to time the various models, I can confirm that the BravoPro is the most refined of the duplicators in the line. The machine did a good job of picking and putting discs in and out of the bins and drive trays without missing any during the tests. I ran multiple small runs of both DVDs and CDs, usually 25 or so, without any problems. Compared to other Primera products I've tested in the past that weren't always “pick perfect,” the BravoPro required less eyes-on time.

However, in Kiosk mode, the output tray had to be positioned just so to work. When I ran the first job of 100 discs in Kiosk, I returned the next day to find 100 DVDs burned and printed. But when I moved the machine or removed and replaced the output bin and attempted to run another job in Kiosk, sometimes the discs would not slide correctly out of the front and into the output bin; they tended to stand on edge.

What I don't understand is why they made the output bin in Kiosk mode adjustable at all? It should just snap into place and work. The duplicator also has to sit at the edge of a table so that the bin can hang down — not a very elegant solution.

Kiosk quirks aside, the BravoPro produced quality CDs and DVDs and the print quality is stunning. Even at the lower-quality settings, the discs looked great, especially when paired with high-quality printable media. I really enjoyed the results from using silver printable media, which adds a certain glow to the colors.

DOES BRAVO GET A BRAVO?
I've had considerable experience with Primera dupers, and the BravoPro is quieter and more predictable than other products in the company's line. As I mentioned above, DVDs are, as a rule, quirky, so to be safe, slow the burning speeds and verify that each disc has been burned correctly.

If space is an issue, the BravoPro has a fairly large footprint. Other downsides are that the software package feels a bit disconnected between Mac and PC, and the kiosk isn't perfect. However, in most respects, this third-generation Bravo hits the mark. Primera has created a turnkey solution that can run itself. The BravoPro is worth serious consideration for any business looking to do small-run in-house duplication.

MSRPs: CD-R, $3,495; DVD±R/CD-R, $3,995.

Primera, 800/797-2772, 763/475-6776, www.primera.com.


Rick Spence is the owner of AVT Pro, a production company in the Silicon Valley.






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