d2 DVD±RW with LightScribe 16x full review

The only advantage that floppy disks have over optical discs is the ability to be labelled easily. LightScribe is now going to change the way we label optical media.

Options for labelling CDs are fairly limited: you can go down the printed-label route, which is expensive, easy to screw up and generally awkward. If you have a printer that’s capable, there are printable discs available – less messy than the sticky label route, but still a cumbersome solution. Finally the most popular solution is the indelible marker, which isn’t very professional looking, indelible or convenient.

The solution is LightScribe, a new technology developed by HP, and brought to the Mac market by LaCie. It uses the same laser that records the disc to etch a label on the other side of the special disc. Simply burn your disc, then flip it over and burn the label on the other side. The discs are only slightly more expensive than regular blanks – but no ink, paper, pens or labels are needed.

In theory, this seems like the ideal solution, but there are limitations: it is a monochrome process, burning dark images on a matte-gold finish on the discs. The results look like a screen-printed image, impressive and easier than any other printed solution.

The drive is an otherwise regular all-singing all-dancing LaCie DVD±R drive, so performs perfectly well burning almost any kind of optical media. The drive is no slouch either, burning DVDs at 16x. However, the image-burning capabilities are less impressive when it comes to speed. A full-disc image takes 31 minutes to burn, which is in almost all situations longer than the data would take to burn. I would say for a home user this might be acceptable for the occasional disc. But if you were to try burning a dozen discs for clients, it would take all day.

In fairness, image-burn times can be reduced to four minutes if you’re happy to keep your label to a narrow strip, but it still takes two or three minutes to convert the image to the right format.

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