The purchase price of the Primera Composer would get you the services of a tea-drinking robot for about seven weeks, in which time the Composer could burn and verify over 3000 CDs. The hoppers for blank CDs and finished product hold 50 discs, so the humans aren't obsolete just yet. There is also the matter of packaging the discs.
The arm on the top of the unit picks up blanks from a hopper on the right, places them in the burner at the front, picks them up when they're finished and drops them in the hopper to the left. There are two variations in this routine: with a matching printer, it also places the discs in the printer for labelling, and, if a disc fails to burn correctly, it will drop it on the table in front. Primera has been manufacturing a bubblejet printer for CDs for some time, and an adaptor plate is available to mate it with the Composer. A thermal printer recently has been released which is also compatible with this machine, and is expected to produce a more professional finish to the disks.
Testing the unit, one problem came to light. Our cheap blanks have a lacquer coating on the top which can cause two discs to stick together. No sensor is provided to detect this, and on two occasions the mechanism put two discs at once into the burner, from which they were promptly removed! Some method of unsticking them first, akin to riffling paper, is recommended.
The robot is also quite noisy. It seems that the unit tested at PC World was one of the very first imported from the US, and that the vertical screw which moves the arm up and down was not properly greased. Units already distributed have had this fault remedied, as will future units. If the vertical motion is now as quiet as the rotation, the robotics should be no louder than a drive door opening.
The CD burner inside is a 12x PlexWriter, a well-respected brand. It connects to a PC using a 50-pin external SCSI cable. The software provided is a customised version of Prassi PrimoCD Pro which recognises the robotics of the Composer. It communicates with this by serial cable, and the printer by parallel cable. One advantage of this arrangement is that the CD writer can be upgraded to a DVD writer if that becomes necessary or economical.
Price: Composer $5170, inkjet printer $3069, thermal printer $5995Supplier: Verbatim Phone: (03) 9823 0999URL: www.verbatim.com.au