Aleratec’s 1:3 DVD/CD Tower Publisher HLS; Pro-Quality Disc Duping And Label Printing
Sending out a CD/DVD to a duplicating service can cost hundreds of dollars--and requires a minimum order, usually in the neighborhood of several hundred copies, which is not a practical solution for most of us. Yes, there are inkjets capable of printing on pre-labeled discs, but one thing they can't do is duplicate CDs and DVDs--and the process is limited to one disc at a time. And in this day and age, when we're handing out discs with pictures, videos, and music like they were Halloween candy, it would really help to have some means of efficiently duplicating discs and printing labels at home, in our spare time--on the same machine. There are pricey machines that will do the job, but if you don't mind the no-frills approach and are willing to spend under $500, then consider the Aleratec 1:3 DVD/CD Tower Publisher HLS. This peripheral device lets you publish 1-3 discs at one and the same time, practically hassle-free. It was something I had to see for myself.
The Aleratec uses HP's LightScribe technology for imprinting on the surface of a CD or DVD. This is a monochrome (gray scale) process, producing silkscreen-quality labels. The process involves laser-etching into a specially embedded coating on the disc. The finer the setting, the deeper the etching, and the more pronounced the result. But this can take a while. Printing graphics could take upward of a half hour per disc, or longer. However, when you consider that you can imprint three discs simultaneously, the time it takes to burn the label becomes more manageable.
On the flip side, there are no cartridges to deal with or replace, since the device uses the same laser that is used for conventional disc burning. This means no running to the store at the last minute when you realize your printer is low on ink, and no added expense. For those of you who have been using adhesive disc labels, well, just think of all the work you'll no longer have to do. And you'll no longer have to worry about discs wobbling in the drive because you didn't center the label exactly.
How many times have you printed on a disc, only to realize you left something out? Well, if you print over an inkjet label a second or third time, all you're left with is mush. With LightScribe, you can preprint a whole bunch of discs, and then personalize them with additional text or graphics--without ruining your work! And the printing can't be marred by fingerprints (although continued exposure to strong sunlight may have adverse effects). But you can't undo it either--it's there to stay, kind of like a tattoo. What's more, the laser-etching process does not affect the life of the disc (at least that's what they say).
There are other external CD/DVD drives available with embedded LightScribe technology, including some home computers. But, again, with the Aleratec tower, you have the option of burning up to three discs at once. What's more, do the job in your computer (especially the printing), and you'll be tying up some of its resources and the CD/DVD drive for some time.
There is a wide range of media that can be used with this device when simply reading or writing to disc, including rewritable media. The media for label printing, however, is limited to LightScribe-compatible discs--CD and DVD. But if you're into Blu-ray, there's good news and bad: there is a Blu-ray-compatible version of this machine--but at a cost of $3000.
While the cost of LightScribe DVDs is not much more than CDs for this purpose ($89 vs. $75 per 100), the significantly faster write speeds for CD makes CD a more prudent choice than DVD, unless you really need the DVD's acreage for data-intense writes.