Toshiba multi-use drive plays, records and handles DVD...

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January 01, 2001

Toshiba multi-use drive plays, records and handles DVD

With so many discs out there and so many formats on them, ranging from MP3 to DVD to standard CD audio, it's tough to figure out just what kind of disc drive you're going to need to run a program or listen to a song. You may pop a disc in only to be greeted by an error message instead of your favorite music.

Enter the Toshiba SD-R1002 combination drive. It reads and plays several formats.

While installation of a new disc drive on any PC is a bit tricky and may make you decide to just have it installed at your local computer store, the benefits are many. The drive reads and writes in CD-rewritable format, plays DVD movies, and runs regular CDs in 24x speed. (Rewritable and DVD reads in 4x speed, plenty fast enough.)

Once installed, the drive worked flawlessly on our test system. I liked the DVD capabilities, although you should keep in mind that the number of DVD software titles on the market today is limited.

At $229, this isn't a cheap addition to your computer. Prices may come down in coming months as other manufacturers introduce similar 3-in-1 drives. But for now, the Toshiba is the hottest drive on the block, and you won't be disappointed by its performance.

One other note: Make sure you've got a computer with a little bit of processor punch if you want to use the DVD component of the drive. A 266 MHz Pentium II with 32MB of RAM is the minimum system requirement for DVD use, but in tests we found that sound is a little choppy on the minimum system. DVD looks and sounds better on a 300 MHz Pentium II with 64MB of RAM.

Information: 800-316-0920 or www.toshiba.com- Michael James

Iomega's HipZip stores songs cheaply and easily

The trouble with a lot of digital music players is that the media used to store songs tend to be expensive. Memory sticks, Compact Flash and Smart Media cards all cost between $50 and $80 for 32 megabytes of memory - roughly the amount of space for an hour's worth of music (depending upon the compression level of the MP3s you play).

The HipZip Digital Audio Player by Iomega ($299) has tried to break that media price barrier by using a rewritable mini-CD called a PocketZip disk (known as the Clik! disk in its old incarnation) with 40 megabytes that costs about $10 each.

While it appears that Iomega is trying to add one more memory device to an already crowded market, the company may be on to something.

The HipZip itself is a respectable player that will store MP3s, WMA (Windows Media) format music files and non-music files such as documents and photographs. Getting files onto the PocketZip disks through the HipZip player couldn't have been smoother thanks to its software and USB (Universal Serial Bus) connection. It operates like Iomega's other Zip drives.

Both Windows Media Player for creating WMAs and MusicMatch Jukebox Plus for ripping MP3s are included on the installation CD. My wife and I liked the skip-free CD-quality sound as well as the 12 hours of play that we could get out of the device after charging it.

My only trouble with this neat little MP3 player is that devices geared toward playing CD-Rs burned with MP3s have crossed the horizon. Sure, you can cram upwards of 80 minutes of music onto the 40 Mb PocketZip. But with a non-rewritable CD-R, you can save 10 hours of music at 75 cents a disk.

If you never plan to carry a bulky MP3 player that has to swallow a big CD-R and don't mind buying a bunch of PocketZip disks so you don't have to keep re-recording disks, then the HipZip could be your ticket to cheaper MP3 listening.

Information: 800-697-8833 or www.iomega.com/hipzip/- Kevin Washington

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