EZQuest Boa 16x DVD+/- FireWire Drive

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, November 2004, send e-mail
Manufactured by: EZQuest, go to the web site
Requires: PC - 600MHZ processor or higher, 256MB RAM, Windows 98SE or later; MAC - G4 500MHz or higher, 512MB RAM, OS X 10.2.8 or later
MSRP: US$199.00 (with basic software bundle for PC and MAC)

In the quest for backup, general data storage, CD audio ripping, CD & DVD copying and data portability solutions, we're confronted with a lot of choice in the marketplace these days. That's okay because choice means there's likely something which perfectly suits our particular needs, choice means competition and competition usually means reasonable prices. So far so good. But wasn't it just a few years ago that CD and DVD media and data throughput to external devices resulted in the production of a lot of 'coasters'? (For the uninitiated, in CD & DVD burning parlance a coaster is a ruined disc caused by buffer under/overrun, interrupted recording, etc. What you get it a useless piece of flat media which can't be rewritten, suitable only as a coaster for your coffee cup). It's true. But faster processor speeds, the availability of inexpensive RAM, Firewire and the reliability of related technology have improved dramatically along with the software used to created CDs and DVDs. The EZQuest Boa 16x DVD+/- FireWire Drive is the latest example of how good these external drives can be.

EZQuest has been around since 1994 and specializes in this sort of stuff. Their fast and furious Cobra external hard drives are well-known. EZQuest has also deeply penetrated the external optical drive market. We reviewed this particular model over a period of four weeks during which time we burned about 150 DVDs and CDs for a variety of purposes including backup, DVD copying, data transfer to other offices and clients, home movies (DVD authoring), project demonstrations (more DVD authoring), ripping audio CDs, copying audio CDs and so on. We used the drive with three machines: a) an AMD Athlon 3200+ system with 1GB RAM running Nero v6.5, b) an Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz system with 1GB RAM running Roxio Easy CD/DVD Creator v7, and c) an iMac G5 with 1GB RAM running Toast 6.

The Boa 16x DVD+/- writes to standard 4.7GB DVD media and is fully dual layer compatible as well, which means it's designed to write up to 8.5GB of data on the newest dual-layer DVD media. Rated speeds for the drive are:

  • DVD+/- R: 16x
  • DVD+R dual-layer: 4x
  • DVD+/- RW: 4x
  • CD-R: 32x
  • CD-RW: 24x

The drive supports the following disc formats:

  • DVD-R (4.7 GB For General Disc only)
  • DVD-RW
  • DVD+R/RW
  • DVD+R Dual Layer
  • DVD-RAM (Type 2 non-cartridge-Read Only )
  • CD-R, CD-RW
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-Rom XA Mode 1 & 2
  • CD-Text, Photo CD
  • Single session, Multi Session
  • CD-DA (Audio)
  • CD-Extra

The drive is a fast disc reader and is rated as follows:

  • DVD-ROM (single layer): 16x
  • DVD-ROM (dual layer): 12x
  • DVD+/-R/RW: 8x
  • CD-ROM/CD Audio: 40x
  • CD-R: 40x
  • CD-RW: 32x

The drive features two standard 6-pin Firewire ports, stereo RCA jacks for audio output, a 2MB internal buffer, extremely quiet operation and a rear power switch.

Technical specifications are somewhat interesting, but they don't tell the whole story. In actual use the drive consistently hit very close to rated speeds. In our experience, very few drives meet or exceed their specs and the EZQuest Boa is typical in that regard. However, and without putting too fine a point on it, rest assured that this drive is a good performer and very easy to use. Installation of any Firewire device is a breeze, and drive spinup, response to read & write requests, burn times and disc handling are excellent, placing the drive near the top of the class. We threw some really oddball, offshore media at it (and we're talking offshore even if you live in Indonesia), but the drive gobbled up everything and produced consistently good DVD and CD recordings. The only disc write problem we encountered turned out to have been caused by someone accessing the computer from across the network, which in turn caused a Windows XP hiccup, which in turn caused a cramp in Roxio Easy CD/DVD Creator v7. So again, it's all good. We did some basic disc writing timings using large batches of mixed data. The data included music (MP3 and WMA files), Microsoft Word documents, Adobe Photoshop files and MPEG & WMV video files. We use a 4.5GB bundle for single layer DVD writes, an 8.2GB bundle for dual layer DVD writes, and a similar but smaller (620MB) data bundle for the CD and CD/RW tests. Here are the recording times averaged for 7 different brands of media (Maxell, TDK, Sony, Memorex, HP, Hi Wei and Ritek):

  • DVD-R (single layer): 7:50
  • DVD+R (single layer): 7:10
  • DVD+R (dual layer): 28:30
  • CD-RW: 4:18
  • CD-R: 3:45

For those of you without any comparison speeds ready at hand, the EZQuest Boa rates as a solid performer with respectable recording speeds approximately equal to comparable internal IDE drives. That means it really no longer matters whether you purchase an internal or external drive. Firewire, like USB 2.0 High Speed, is fast. The Boa seemed to do best with Maxell and Memorex media. It did (surprisingly) almost as well with the discount Ritek media. Recording times lengthened about 5% when using the TDK, HP and Sony media. The results with Hi Wei media were terrible and in some cases the Boa couldn't even detect the media let alone write to it. We found the same problem with the Hi Wei media when we tried discs in two other DVD burners (LiteOn and Sony). Stick with name brand media or at least decent quality discount stuff like Ritek for which a review exists.

Cons: Nothing to do with EZQuest, but stay away from pre-recorded hybrid DVDs called DualDisc which have been released to consumers by some music companies and record labels. We noticed a warning on the EZQuest web site so we checked out a couple of DualDiscs. They appear to be a bonded combination of DVD on one side and non-DVD (which may incorrectly be referred to as a CD) on the other side. It appears that the non-DVD side is not compliant with the Compact Disc Digital Audio specification and does not bear the CD logo. We tried a DualDisc in the EZQuest Boa and the drive spit it out. We tried a different DualDisc in the Boa and two other DVD R/W drives (LiteOn and Sony), all of which spit it out. What is the music industry thinking about? Certainly not product testing. No complaints about the Boa 16x itself, but there's one omission in the software bundle—no DVD viewing software—which may not mean much because most computers already have DVD player software (and often more than one). Nothing to do with EZQuest (again), but we went through absolute grief trying to find 16x dual layer media. In fact, 8x single layer media is not exactly swamping the store shelves yet either in many areas. Hardware makers like EZQuest are producing great drives and the media makers should be carefully managing inventories of slower media still in the distribution and retail channels in order to effectively meet the consumer demand for faster media.

Pros: High quality and reliability during high-speed writing. The Boa 16x seems ideal for recording audio CDs and DVD movies and backing up or transferring up to 8.5GB of data. The large-ish external case will accept some serious abuse while protecting the electronics and transport mechanism and everything else inside. Very good quality Firewire cable supplied with drive. Reliable solution, fully compatible with Nero and Roxio software, for everyone who needs or wants flexible, high-capacity, high-speed storage. Handled all name brand media we tried as well as the widely distributed Ritek discount label (don't ask—it was too cheap to pass up). The Boa appears to be compatible with iTunes, Disc Burner and DVD Studio Pro though we hear that some drives may need a firmware update. The software bundle includes Retrospect Backup, a product we like a lot. The price is right and the drive performs well. How can you go wrong? Recommended.

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