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August 26, 2004

Labeling your CDs and DVDs need not be a messy, sticky job

Printing CD and DVD labels and then sticking them onto the disc is time-consuming and messy. Peeling the sticky label from the slick backing usually causes the label to curl up, making it hard to handle. And if you're not careful handling it, the label can touch and stick to itself, thus rendering it totally useless.

Using one of those label presses adds to the messiness, because the label usually never lies flat enough on the press so that you can apply the disc's surface onto the curled label. Too many times you'll find yourself with a label that's either off-center or creased. You wind up with a disc that looks home-brewed and amateurish.

And once the label has been applied, it's almost impossible to remove it so you can try sticking another label onto the same disc again. Basically, you have to toss the disc and burn another one.

But there is a better way. Optical discs are available with printable surfaces. These discs amazingly cost no more than their nonprintable counterparts, and you can find them almost anyplace that sells computer media.

Until recently, printers that print directly onto printable discs were a bit pricey. But now there's a brand-new disc printer that sells for $139.95, and it's from Primera, the same people that make the Bravo II optical media burner and printer.

The Signature Z1 is Primera's first low-cost CD and DVD printer that's small enough to easily fit on most desktops. Using a thermal transfer process, the Signature Z1 prints a 200 dots-per-inch resolution image directly onto a printable disc. Simply open the printer's transparent lid and drop the CD or DVD inside. In about 26 seconds, the Signature Z1 prints a monochrome image including text and graphics directly onto the disc's surface. You can use the included black ribbon or choose from several optional colored ribbons such as red, blue and green.

The included software lets you use any font that's already installed on your computer. You can also use graphic images and logos. As the Signature Z1 begins its printing process, the disc is automatically rotated so that the images can be printed in any of four areas on the printable optical media.

The results are very professional-looking. After seeing a disk printed with the Signature Z1, you'll toss out your labels and never think of using a marking pen again.

The Signature Z1 connects to your computer via a USB 2.0 connection that also supports the older USB 1.1 standard. A Windows-based computer is required.

If you are looking for a better way to label your optical media discs so that they appear to come from a professional mastering source, then the Signature Z1 is a great way to go. If you are looking for an automated and unattended way to burn and print directly onto a stack of discs all at once and in full color, then the Bravo II reigns supreme.

But it's good to see that Primera continues to create innovative products that provide solutions to everyday problems. The Signature Z1 fills the gap between the highly automated Bravo II and trying to label a disc with handwritten marker pens or sticky labels.

Craig Crossman, Knight Ridder/Tribune

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