Drive: PocketDrive 8x4x24x
Mac Model: PowerBook G4
I decided to get a CDRW for my PowerBook G4. As I do a lot of international travel, I didn't want to have to carry additional power bricks with me, so looked into bus powered models. I thought about the 8x VST (now being given away with G4 purchases), but this is deliberately not being sold separately during the Apple promotion. The 4x was a bit pricey for the speed, and I didn't care for the looks. I turned to LaCie and their 'PocketDrive'. This is both a USB and FireWire drive, although running from USB requires the power adaptor, but they do supply one (take hint Formac, VST). This means it can be used with ANY post iMac Mac OS machine. The drive comes in 4x4x24x and 8x4x24x versions, and I opted for the latter. (Note that the 8x writes at 4x is used with USB)
The drive has a metal case with blue silicone rubber along the edges. Marginally larger than the VST, and a tad heavier, but better suited to mobile use. Still small enough to easily fit in notebook cases. Supplied with some very thick, blue (of course) FireWire and USB cables, as well as an external PSU. Also ships with Toast OEM 4.1.2, blank CDR, blank CDRW, various LaCie utilities.
Just to really stretch Mac OS 9.1, on taking it from its box I plugged it in via firewire straight into the PowerBook, without installing anmy software. To my suprise the System Profiler saw it straight away as a Sony CRX700 mechanism. Both iTunes and DiscBurner saw it, and work fine with it. (Tested one 74min Audio-CDR in iTunes, and a CDR and CDRW in DiscBurner). Only problem is that session closing in DiscBurner takes a very long time. In iTunes DAE is 6x for inner tracks, peaking to 11x for outer tracks. Data transfer is closer to 22x than the advertised 24x, but hey, it is running of bus power!!
I installed Toast, and disabled the Firewire Authoring Support Extension. Again, instant recognition. Reports buffer to be 8MB. After further research this is correct, despite LaCie only claiming a 4MB buffer in their specs. It turns out that the CRX700 is one of the most common OEM drives used in Windows notebooks, and is also used in the Sony battery powered USB drives. At 8x write, this buffer allows for almost 7 seconds of data interuption before a coaster is created. At 4x, this doubles to almost 14 seconds, which in computers is an eternity. With a buffer this large, Buffer Underun technology is not needed. Again a couple of test CDRW's worked fine in Toast. Still annoying that Toast OEM and iTunes cannot exist. No sign yet of a Toast 5 OEM, so I may buy the full version.
To conclude I highly I can highly recommend this drive. I was a little dubious about running off bus power from a PowerBook, but so far no problems. In Standby, there is no noticable affect on battery drain, but when burning the power drain is quite substantial. Maybe better to run off mains for burns, but if you reduce the burn speed the power drain also decreases.
I think it is the best portable CDRW around. It is cheaper, and looks nicer than the VST. It is also much smaller than the Formac drives. Above all it offers true multi-platform capabilities by having both FireWire and USB. Having the CRX700 mechanism is an added bonus.
Addendum: tested under OS X 10.0.4 with a B&W G3. Recognized in iTunes. Burns fine.