Toast Titanium 5.0

Think about burning a CD on a Mac and the word Toast instantly springs to mind. It’s certainly synonymous with CD writing. Under Astarte’s development (until early 1997), it offered bulletproof performance but few bells and whistles, with even the likes of drag-&-drop and a RAM cache (to fight against buffer underrun) being late additions. But Adaptec’s $7.5 million investment four years ago signalled the start of a feature bonanza with Toast 4 Deluxe adding support for the MP3 format and a slew of useful audio and multimedia utilities. On the back of this, it is difficult to imagine how Toast Titanium 5.0 can offer more – but it does, and then some. For starters, the look is entirely different. Apart from a number of skins in version 4 that provided a superficial facelift, Toast’s appearance had remained largely unchanged from its original incarnation. Titanium 5.0 has a real aqua look to it with a larger, resizeable window, semi-transparent graphics and a pseudo brushed-aluminium face. The user interface has changed too. Roxio (Adaptec’s digital-media arm) carried out research into what Toast is actually used for, resulting in three large buttons for accessing the common data, audio and copy functions – plus a fourth for everything else. Even better, the content window that used to be accessed through the on-screen data button is now incorporated into the main one – no more switching views to change characteristics such as CD name or folder titles. A click on the Data button brings up the four combinations of HFS or HFS+ with or without a PC hybrid partition. Drag-&-drop a mastered CD, or a set of files and folders, and the contents immediately appear in the central window, which is now like the standard Mac Finder. Folders show up with icons, and their contents can be inspected easily through the traditional hierarchical filing system. Even file and folder content sizes are shown. Move items between folders, rename them, make visible/invisible, and delete by a simple click on the Remove button. Very intuitive. Titanium 5.0‘s Audio facilities are essentially the same as its predecessor, except that it uses QuickTime to convert audio files so providing support for some formats that Toast 4 couldn’t handle. CD info, such as track names, is provided courtesy of www.freedb.org – though this can be changed in the preferences. Copy that
The CD Copy function of Toast 5 has been improved. It will now copy all compliant, non-copy-protected single session CDs and DVDs – including certain protected discs, such as Playstation and Karaoke CDs. In my review of Toast 4 Deluxe towards the tail end of 1999, I mentioned that background burning was possible through turning on the powerkey/rebound compatible preference. Toast 5.0 takes this a step further, supporting proper background writing by allocating the necessary system resources. While Toast 4 failed if opening, say, a 200MB file in Photoshop, Titanium 5.0 copes admirably, even with a non-”burn-proof” CD writer. A number of test CDs were burnt without any failures while carrying out various processor-intensive tasks including Photoshop filtering. The only penalty is the slowing down of a non-powerful machine: a G3-upgraded 8500 suffered, while a 400MHz G4 barely felt the strain. Roxio has taken the bold step of integrating Toast DVD into Titanium 5.0; a single product will now handle all forms of DVD mastering including DVD-ROM. Linked to this is the ability to prepare Video CDs for playback on many current consumer DVD players. To this end, Titanium 5.0 encodes digital video into MPEG-1 format via a QuickTime codec that can be accessed from Final Cut Pro, the QuickTime Player, or even by just dropping QuickTime movies into Titanium 5.0’s window. There’s even an iMovie plug-in included. With MP3 CD-ROM audio players starting to appear, Titanium 5.0 can now create playable MP3 CDs. Previously, MP3 files could be burnt only as CD Audio tracks rather than data ones. As might be expected, the package comes with a host of extra goodies, most of which appeared with Toast 4 Deluxe – such as Toast Audio Extractor 1.1 and CD Spin Doctor 1.0. It also includes the QDesign MVP 1.2 digital media file player, Magic Mouse Discus RE 2.28 CD label creator with templates for FreeHand, QuarkXPress and AppleWorks, iView Multimedia 1.0 and a selection of so-so MP3 tracks and photos.

OUR VERDICT

It may be an oft-used cliché, but the best really has just got better. With no competition to speak of, Adaptec could have sat on its laurels and still have had a major seller. Instead, Titanium 5.0 has kept the best of Toast 4 Deluxe in terms of functionality, but now sports a superb user interface and bristles with extra features including online help via Apple’s Help Viewer – and an Abort Burn button. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wished for the latter, especially when testing with a simulated burn. Add in the selection of third-party utilities and this is the closest Mac users have seen to the complete CD mastering package. A Carbonized update will be freely available upon the release of Mac OS X and Toast 5 Lite (with reduced format support that excludes DVD and Video CD) is likely to be the bundled version. With a US price of $99, the UK pricing is likely to be slightly less than the £59 Toast 4 Deluxe. An extra bonus, as Titanium 5.0 has to be one of the most highly recommended products ever.

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