capsule review

Review: OWC Mercury Pro Dual Layer DVD-/+RW Samsung Super Writemaster 20X

At a Glance
  • Other World Computing Mercury Pro Dual Layer DVD-/+RW Samsung Super Writemaster 20X External

    Macworld Rating

The DVD burners in the iMac (8X write speed for DVD±R) and the Mac Pro (16X write speed for DVD±R) aren’t the fastest on the market. There’s actually a mechanism created by Samsung that can write DVD±R at 20X, and it’s found in OWC’s Mercury Pro DVD-/+RW Samsung Super Writemaster 20X External DVD burner.

While 20X DVD media isn’t readily available, the Mercury Pro can burn certain 16X DVD±R media at 20X; not all 16X DVD±R media can handle the 20X speed. The Mercury Pro also adds LightScribe to the mix, a feature that allows you to etch a monochrome label onto your discs. The catch is that it can take some time to complete the etching process—up to half an hour—and you can only etch labels onto LightScribe-compatible media. According to OWC, LightScribe in the Mercury Pro works only when the drive is connected to your Mac via USB.

OWC Mercury Pro Dual Layer DVD-/+RW Samsung Super Writemaster 20X
OWC's Mercury Pro Dual Layer DVD-/+RW Samsung Super Writemaster 20X.

The Mercury Pro comes in a metallic gray plastic enclosure and features two FireWire 400 ports and a single USB port, with power provided by a small AC adapter. The enclosure employs a cooling fan that will add a slight bit of background noise to your work environment when the drive is not actually accessing a disc.

The OWC software bundle includes NTI’s Dragon Burn 4.1.6, ProSoft’s Data Backup 3.0.4, and a demo version of SmileOnMyMac’s DiscLabel 5.2.3 (the full version is $36). Informal testing using 16X DVD-R media at 20X burning delivered a seven percent speed boost over the same media burned at 16X.

Macworld’s buying advice

All told, the OWC Mercury Pro is a decent value. But while OWC throws in a starter kit of blanks (25 CD-Rs and 5 LightScribe-compatible DVDs), they only ship the demo version of SmileOnMyMac's DiscLabel 5.2.3, which you need to create the LightScribe labels. For $130, LaCie offers the d2 DVD±RW with LightScribe ( ). It’s $17 more than the OWC drive, but the d2 can also burn certain DVD±R discs at 20X and also comes with LaCie’s fully-functional LightScribe Labeler software, and, unlike the OWC drive, is able to etch LightScribe discs using either the FireWire or USB ports.

Timed trials

16x +R Burn 5:48
DL Burn 13:46
DL Copy 655MB to Hard Drive 1:32

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

How we tested: We ran all tests with the FireWire drives connected to a dual-2.66GHz Mac Pro with Mac OS X 10.5.3 installed and 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took each drive to burn 8GB of data onto dual-layer DVD+R media using Toast Titanium 8, and also the time it took to burn 4.4GB of data onto 16x DVD+R media. We then timed the copy of a 655MB file from a burned dual-layer DVD to the internal hard drive. —Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

Specifications

Drive Mechanism Samsung SH-S202N
Connectors FireWire 400 (2), USB 2.0
Rated Burn Speeds DVD-R 20X, DVD+R 20X, DVD+R DL 12X, CD-R 48X
Included Software Smile On My Mac's DiscLabel Software with Lightscribe labeling, NTI DragonBurn OEM, and Prosoft Data Backup 3 OEM

[Jeffy Milstead is a former Macworld lab analyst and a writer living in San Francisco.]

To comment on this article and other Macworld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Can burn certain 16X DVD±R discs at 20X

    Cons

    • LightScribe only works with USB port
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.