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Real World Review: BravoPro Disc Publisher

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: Real World Review

Real World Review: BravoPro Disc Publisher

DVD/CD Disc Publishing System, Integrated duplication and printing

by Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Disc Publishing Systems


BravoPro Disc Publishing System

Today, optical media has become so inexpensive that we don't think about it — burning CDs or DVDs are commonplace. But what about creating copies of a software distribution for your company, or creating presentations on DVD or CD with a professional look and feel? Your answer could be to get a disc publishing system.

We put the BravoPro Disc Publisher to real world tests over the past few months, and used it as any user would. Now, if you're familiar with the original Bravo design, then you know what this kind of technology is capable of. BravoPro has more in it than the original Bravo design, and Primera has definitely updated it as well.

Primera touts its original Bravo Disc Publisher as the world's first automated CD/DVD duplication and printing system. What we can tell you is BravoPro comes with a 50-disc capacity (100-disc in "kiosk mode"), and here's what we love to hear — it is both Mac and PC compatible. It uses a robotic arm to automatically transport discs from bins to drives to the printer and then to the output stack. BravoPro uses a built-in Lexmark printer, and it's definitely fast. While it's not a high-end photo printer (e.g., with photo paper, multiple ink sources, etc...), it produces full color, photo-quality images at 4800 dpi resolution that look quite professional. And, line art is very striking. Far better than what you see from thermal printing processes that many dupication services use.

BravoPro, however, maximizes throughput by integrating either two 52x CD-R drives or two Plextor DVD±R/CD-R drives that record DVD±Rs at 16x and CD-Rs at 48x. The unit we tested had two DVD±R/CD-R drives. Dual layer DVDs burn at 4x and allow 8.5GB of data onto a single side of Dual Layer media, which is equivalent to four hours of standard video.

The BravoPro is a serious piece of hardware. The CD-R only version is available at a suggested retail price of US$3,495. The combination DVD±R/CD-R version is priced at US$3,995. Street prices are considerably lower (as low as $2500).

If you are looking for a lower price tag, Primera has their new Bravo SE Disc Publisher. At a suggested retail price of $1495, this is an incredibly affordable automated disc publishing solution. This product uses a Pioneer DVR-111 DVD±R/CD-R recorder, and has a capacity of 20 discs per job.

Bigger and Faster

BravoPro has raised the bar on even its predecessor, the Bravo II Disc publisher — which many considered to be one of the world's best CD/DVD publishing systems. Its larger size doubles the disk production rate of Bravo II. While the Bravo II is configured to work with 50 discs at a time, the Kiosk mode (kit included in every box) takes BravoPro's capacity up to 100 discs. Metal tray and output tray to catch finished discs included. See below on our results in using the Kiosk mode.


Bravo SE Disc Publisher

The BravoPro is fast. Primera has optimized BravoPro's robotics speed, tray in/tray out speed, print speed, and DVD recording speed. This includes Primera's Afterburner Print Technology (APT) which uses an advanced print head technology to double the width of the print swath, and significantly increases print speed.

If you also want to burn and print business card size media, a business card adapter kit priced at US$199, is also available for BravoPro. This kit allows you to copy and print 80mm mini-discs, rounded "hockey rink" mini-discs, and business-card-shaped CDs.

The Software

On the Mac, CharisMac Discribe 5.2 Mastering Software is the only option to operate a robotic disc publishing system. By far, this is the weakest part of the Primera solution — they have no option at this point but to license and use the software published by CharisMac. In our experience, you should not expect great tech support from CharisMac. Also, you should expect a confusing user interface with somewhat confusing terminology. But once you get past this, it gets the job done and you can save off jobs for future or repetitive use, in addition to burning from a variety of different sources.

Hopefully, someday, Primera will produce their own software for the BravoPro, or there will be alternatives to CharisMac's offerings. In the mean time, don't let this stop you ... it's the only option on the Mac anyway.

On the Windows side, you have more options, and you should check the Primera web site for more information on these solutions.

While Primera does ship disc layout templates for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, we found that SmileOnMyMac's DiscLabel software did a terrific job of helping us to design disc labels, especially when wanting to integrate in text and pictures. And, at $32.95, it's well worth the price. For more information on DiscLabel, see http://www.smileonmymac.com/DiscLabel/.

ADL-MAX Disc Autoloader

Recently, Primera released the ADL-MAX Disc Autoloader which attaches to any Bravo II or BravoPro Disc Publisher to produce hundreds of discs at a time. The ADL-MAX Disc Autoloader attaches to any of Primera's Bravo II or BravoPro Disc Publishers. It uses robotics to transport discs from the four integrated input bins into and out of the burning and printing mechanisms of the Bravo II or BravoPro. The ADL-MAX increases the Bravo II's capacity from 50 discs to 325 discs, and the BravoPro's capacity increases from 100 discs to 350 discs. The ADL-MAX Disc Autoloader is priced at US$1995 MSRP.

Consumables

We've printed several hundred discs as part of our testing and are no where near close to using half the first set of the ink cartridges. That said, these are consumables, so it's a good idea to know what you are in for in costs. In the Lexmark printer, there are two cartridges — a black cartridge, and a color cartridge. Most of all the discs that we printed used primarily the color ink.

Color Ink Cartridge, High-Yield: $47.95. Black Ink Cartridge, High-Yield: $42.95.

Primera's Media Options

As for media, Primera doesn't make their own, they OEM it from other manufacturers. Their products work with any inkjet printable CD/DVDs. Primera does have a couple of options, however, with different features.

TuffCoat with AquaGuard surface is water resistant with a matte finish. The discs are made by Imation. A 45-disc spindle of CDs is $30.95. A 45-disc spindle of DVDs is $37.95.

TuffCoat with WaterShield is water resistant with a glossy finish and may be better for photographs. The discs are made by Taiyo Yuden. A 50-disc spindle of CDs is $34.95. A 50-disc spindle of DVDs is $42.95.

TuffCoat Plus CDs, which is Primera's older line of media, have silver reflective or white matte finish. A 100-disc spindle of CDs is $48.00. TuffCoat Plus DVDs have a white matte finish (only). A 100-disc spindle of DVDs is $92.00.

We used the array of these products, and they are solid quality. There was not a single bad disc in the several hundred we had tested with as well.

AccuDisc

Primera prides itself on their patent-pending AccuDisc Technology. In short, through the use of advanced LED optics, AccuDisc allows the robotics to accurately "pick" and move the discs. This may seem simple on the surface ... it is for humans ... but it's tougher for a robot.

By making use of LED optics, instead of mechanical components, Primera is able to eliminate misalignment of the picking mechanism and prevent the feeding of double discs into the recordable drive. The robot literally measures the thickness of each disc, and then goes back to check the stack, to make sure that it has only picked up a single disc.

The robotics, drives and media are all protected under a smoked transparent cover. So, while everything is protected from accidental contact with moving parts, and the blank and printed discs are protected from dust, liquids, etc, you can still watch the robot arm do its stuff. Why a smoked color cover? To keep harsh lighting out so as not to interfere with the LED optics.

Conclusions and Real World Results

First, we're not fond of the CharisMac software, but it does get the job done. Our biggest complaint about it is that it's not intuitive and "Mac-like", but again, it does work. Hopefully, CharisMac will release a more intuitive product, or Primera will some day have other options. But for now, CharisMac's solution is the only solution available for any hardware manufacturer.

We ran all kinds of jobs to test out this unit in a real world environment. CDs, DVDs, text labels, photo labels, small jobs, larger jobs, regular mode, kiosk mode, and more. We found that for most jobs, the BravoPro is very reliable. You should feel good about setting it and then walking away especially in its "normal" mode. We did experience more problems when in the larger "kiosk mode" capacity, but it looks like Primera will have this fixed in the next version of the software. But, other than when we were doing things that we shouldn't have been (e.g., opening the top while running, pulling out discs while running, etc...) we only had one time that the BravoPro stopped (it thought that it placed two discs in the drive instead of just one, and waited for instructions.)

Bottom line: the thing just works, tirelessly and fast and produces great looking CDs and DVDs with the built-in ink jet printer.

For more information, contact Primera Technology, Inc., Toll-Free: 1-800-797-2772, http://www.primera.com

 
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