The Iomega Zip CD 650 may not win any prizes for having a short and catchy name, but it is certainly competent enough where it matters, in CD writing, strangely enough. If you’re looking for a review blinding you with technical information on the device, I’m not the man to look for because I’m just not the nerdy type. This review is firmly laid out in layman’s terms. Most PCs come with CD writers as a standard accessory these days anyway, so the Zip 650 is an interesting product because Iomega have found a target market quite intelligently. I presume that a lot of the people who buy CD Writers these days are adding them to their old machines, so they will need a writer that meets the requirements of their PC. My PC has a Pentium 233 processor and while I don’t know exactly what that means, I know that most new CD writers on the market need a minimum of a Pentium 300 processor speed to run with. The Zip 650 can run on a minimum of only a Pentium 200. Installation is something that I can do without a problem, but the fact is that most of us could do it if we tried, but often people are too afraid to go inside their PC. If you disconnect the plug there is no chance of you killing yourself and it is only if you have no grasp of electronics that I advise you don’t try to install it yourself. In what must be a first for an electronics product, Iomega have written out installation instructions in a manner very easy to understand. It may surprise you how easy it is to install something like this and it doesn’t do you any harm to learn a new skill. I did it with minimum fuss and frustration, but if you really are no good at this, ask a friend or professional. Like most things to do with the Personal Computer, the Zip 650 will win no awards for design beauty. Iomega make wonderfully sculptured external drives but there is certainly nothing in the aesthetics of their internal drives. It will nestle snugly
into your PC and fit in with the grey blandness of its surroundings, however. My writer is a pretty fast 8x writer, 4x rewriter and a perfectly acceptable 32x reader. The writer on my family’s PC was a 2x writer so the new one is a revelation. Nowadays the top of the range writers can do 12x or even 16x so the Zip CD is by no means a top of the range product, but if you’re like me and have a slow PC 8x is probably the best you can run without running the risk of every CD you try to write mucking up. The Zip 650 is a very reliable machine to use. I have only encountered 4 times in about 50 CD creations when it failed to make a CD successfully and it doesn’t take a mathematician to tell you that this represents a 92% success rate. You can’t do that much on your PC while the writer burns away, but word processing and other small tasks will not have adverse effects on the writing process. Just make sure you don’t try to load up the internet or big programs like graphics software or any games while you are making CDs. According to PC Pro magazine, the Plextor Plexwriter is the machine that will let you do anything while you burn CDs, but that is well out of my price range. The software bundled with the writer is pretty good. Adapter Easy CD Creator 4 (not the deluxe version) is one of the best programs around, although it isn’t as good as Nero Burning ROM 5 (www.nero.de) or the software I now use, Cakewalk Pyro (www.cakewalk.com). Adaptec Direct CD is excellent though. It lets you create your CD by using Windows Explorer and just dragging and dropping folders and files. This is excellent for quick backup of important files. Value for money is excellent. My writer only cost £95 from Dabs (www.dabs.com). Most new writers are twice the price of this and in terms of relative value this is a steal. The last time I checked it was £5 more expensive at PC World, but as 8x writers are now seen as old hat,
the price may have dropped further, so shop around to see what sort of deal you can get. And there isn’t much more to be said really. This drive is great for those of you strapped for cash (i.e. students like me), someone who doesn’t really care about top-of-the-range accessories or those of you with a less than fast antique PC. It’s a superb little machine that is saving me money already with copied albums, I’ve backed up all my most important files, all my MP3s and created a few excellent compilation CDs. It’s also created an external outlet for my new demos (which could be considered a bad effect by some, or many). If you want to buy the best thing on the market, you don’t want this, but if you want the cheap and cheerful, it’s your best option. Believe me, I spent ages researching the best machine for me.
It?s another product from Iomega that has nothing to do with the Zip drive or Zip disks, yet are labelled with the Zip name by Iomega, who hope that they can trade off their reputation and sell a few units to people who?ve heard that the Zip drive is quite good, but want a CD-RW drive. You should understand, though, that this is pretty much just a regular CD-RW drive. The fact that it?s from Iomega means that it looks absolutely great (check out the pictures on their web site), but how important is that in a drive like this? While I can see the point of stylish looks in many computer products, this is different. Assuming that you?ve got a built in CD-ROM Drive as well, a CD-RW drive is something that you?re only going to be using for practical reasons. It?s purely a tool, and once you?ve finished utilising it?s functionality, you can just put it out of the way again. Once you?ve got the Zip 650 out of its box, setting it up is a dream. Iomega have been making various popular drives for years, and have clearly been taking notice of the feedback that they?ve been given on how the process of hooking a drive up to a computer should work. It?s a USB drive, so you just plug it in and you?re off. On many computers, you don?t even need to restart before it?s in action! Though you will need to restart to get the bundled software to work, once it?s installed you can ?plug and play?; connect or disconnect the drive while your computer is running. Because the drive is a USB one, it means that you can use the same drive with a PC or a Mac. There is also software for both Mac and PC on the CD that comes with the drive. If you?ve got both types of the machine in the same house, it?s very comforting to know that you can just buy one rather than having to buy one for each machine. The bundled software is fairly fine. There?s nothing original or novel in the collection, though Toast does its job well enough as a CD burning applica
tion. I don?t know whether it?s the software or the hardware, but this drive has an extremely large problem with what sort of media you want to feed it. When I started using it, I realised that many of the discs I was attempting to burn were being completely destroyed. After speaking with some people and checking internet sites, I realised that this problem could be solved by using higher quality media. This has a severe impact on the value for money of this drive. Most other drives aren?t so picky about what media you use in them, which makes them much cheaper to operate. You can find some adverts for very cheap ?no brand? CDs at the back of most computer magazines. Although they always sound fairly dodgy, they usually work well in most other CD Drives. If you try to use them in the Iomega drive, you?ll just be wasting your time and money. Oh yes, time. While there are faster drives out there, they are usually in a different price range. At it?s top speed, I?ve been able to burn a CD in about 8 minutes with this drive. Unfortunately, at this speed it has a reasonable chance of corrupting just about any media. While this occurance is rare enough for it to still be worthwhile to burn quickly from the point of view of time (it?s quicker to burn 8 CDs like this than 7 in a slower mode), it does mean that you?re wasting a lot of media. In slower modes, the drive is much more reliable. If you?re burning high quality audio, you have to use a slower mode anyway, and with good quality media at 1x speed, you?re almost guaranteed to end up with a working CD. Another problem is the specifications needed to run the drive. Iomega say that you need at least a 166 MHz PC or a G3 Mac and at least 16 Mb of RAM to run it. That means that if your computer is more than a couple of years old, you may have trouble. There doesn?t seem to be much of a reason for these high specifications, as if you?re burning at a slow speed you shouldn?t need t
hat fast a processor. Many CD-RW drives suffer from the problem that they?re not as fast when just being used as a CD-ROM drive as they should be. This is not a problem with the Iomega drive. It?s nice and easy to play a game from a CD while also listening to another CD in the other drive without any problems (at least none with the drives... your processor might not be able to cope). This is a cheap drive, but not the option if all you?re looking for is the cheapest drive that you can get without losing too much in quality; it?s still not at the very bottom of the price range for such drives. In conclusion, the fact that it corrupts so much media and the number of cheaper alternatives mean that I?m unable to recommend this drive, despite the fact that it has so much going for it.