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Life is a carousel old chum

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You might remember when optical disks were first launched how they were going to alter the way we stored and used data forever. Wholesale data storage would at last be cheap and fast and, best of all, archived almost indefinitely with no degradation over long periods of time. How different we now know things to be with scratched disks that refuse to read and CDs that begin to flake and risk leaving bits behind in your drive. Cheap disks may mean data storage has never been so cost effective but it's becoming increasingly difficult to store them safely enough to keep your data accessible and it was this very problem that left us feeling so enthusiastic about the original Dacal DC300 when we reviewed it some time back.

The DC300 was an effective carousel style disc storage system which, combined with a PC database, allowed you to store and access your disc collection automatically at the click of a mouse. It not only kept the disks safe from scratches and away from most of the harmful effects of UV light, it also allowed you to catalogue them in a fairly rudimentary way so making it easier to find the one you needed at any given time. It worked a treat but there was still the chance for discs to get damaged in the time between them being spat out for use and being safely returned to their allocated slot when finished. The less handling you have to do with a CD or DVD the safer it's likely to be. How great would it be to have something like the DC300 that, in addition to storing discs, could also read them and write to them without them ever having to see the light of day? Can you guess where I'm going with this one?

When Bruce over at The CD Manager emailed me asking if I'd like to take a look at Dacal's latest and greatest disc storage systems my interest was immediately piqued and by the time he's finished telling me what had been added I was itching to get a look at it.

To be fair it's been five years since we looked at the original DC300 and in that respect it could be argued that Dacal's progress has been pretty pedestrian but with so few alternatives on the market it could be argued they've not exactly been challenged to do things quickly. What's more important is that the changes have been worthwhile and that's what I hope to find out here.

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Externally the new PowerDrive looks strikingly similar to the DC300. The manual entry keypad is still there as is the LED display above it. In fact it's only the slightly flatter front face and the lack of a disc collection arm in front of the disc slot that differentiates the PowerDrive from its older brother below. What has changed is the disc capacity. Whereas the DC300 could handle 150 discs the Powerdrive is limited just 100 discs.

At 370mm X 430mm X 186mm the PowerDrive is only marginally bigger that the DC300 was (370 x 390 x 180mm) but the extra space han't been wasted. Inside the new powerdrive is an integral optical drive that let's you access or even write discs over a fast USB2.0 connection. At last you can store and use your most treasured discs without ever needing to sully them with the your greasy paws.

Before I get into the workings of the device let's have a quick look over its external features. It's clear from the placement of the rubber feet and the corresponding recesses on the top surface that the PowerDrive is made with stacking in mind. The linking of units is limited only by the limits of the USB specification with a potential of 127 separate units working happily in tandem.

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The larger round access window can be removed, with a little difficulty, though this is only likely to be needed to free a jammed disc which we obviously hope will never happen. With this removed you can see the two rubber rollers which feed your discs into and out of the internal optical drive.

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The smaller window actually has a blue LED behind it and this flashes as a disc is being transported to or from the internal drive. This makes for a great at-a-glance confirmation that your command is being obeyed. Further information is relayed to you via the two-digit blue LED display on the front of the unit.

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The back of the PowerDrive features only the power connector and Type B USB port. The PowerDrive is crying out for a couple of additional USB connectors on the front so adding the option to use it as a hub, in fact courtesy of the 7.5v DC feed as a powered hub ideally, but alas this hasn't been done.

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A pair of optical position sensors halp the PowerDrive to know where it's carousel is position at any given time allowing for speedy disc positioning without constant reference point setting. "1" below shows the simple sensor which works by having its beam broken until it passes an opening "2" which lets the beam pass. One of these reads an outer track and another reads an inner track on the carousel.

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By cracking the unit open we can see the two position sensors towards the top of the picture below.

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Over to the right of the picture above you can also see the two rubber rollers behind the load/eject slot. A few inches from each pair of rollers you can probably make out the small, white wheel responsible for lifting the disc into the jaws of the roller, either when ejecting a disc or loading one into the optical drive. The more observant of you will notice there's actually no optical drive behind the rear internal rollers. This is because I'd removed it for a closer look.

The optical drive is actually a Sony NEC Optiarc AD-7640A. Full details on the drive can be found thanks to those very nice people at Dell on THIS PAGE.

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In a nutshell however it offers 8X DVD, 24X CD, 8X DVD-R, 8X DVD-RW, 6X DVD-RDL and 5X DVD-RAM. I've heard complaints about noise levels from the AD-7640A but must confess that the one I have here is virtually silent.

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Easy and simple operation
Powerful Management software included
One-port USB Hub included
Linked up to 127 units for Maximum
Stackable design for saving space
Keypad featured for manual selection

Capacity 100 CD / DVD / DVD +R / DVD +RW / DVD DL / DVD-RAM(12cm)
Dimension 370mm X 430mm X 186mm
Weight 3.5 KG
Interface USB 2.0 (B type port)
Cable length Approximately 170 cm
Operation System WindowsR 98 / ME / 2000 / XP / Vista or later
Drive Maximum 8X DVD / 24X CD / 8X DVDˇÓR / 8X DVDˇÓRW / 6X DVDˇÓRDL / 5X DVD-RAM
Software Dacal CD Library
Power Source Input 100~240V, Output 7.5V 2.5A

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