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321StudiosDVDXCopy

Here I am again sitting at 5AM in the dimly lit Monster Hardware Secret Underground Labs. For the last month I have been thrashing out 321 Studios suite of DVD Software…this is a bit unusual since I consider myself a hardware guy but I really wanted the software so I justified begging for it with the “review” shtick. The only problem is you really gotta review it! Else the Demon Editor will smite thee. It all started when my mommy (HI MOMMY!) bought me an Emprex 4x DVD burner for Christmas. This is a decent burner and is also re-badged for Pioneers entry level model…but the burner software bundled with it truly sucked. This started me looking for sumthin mo’ bettah. I noticed that nearly all the Nerd Stores in my area carried the 321 Lineup prominently displayed so I contacted the fine people at 321 Studios and they shot me over a set of their wares.

DVD XCopy

Before we get all into the review let me save you some time and give you the skinny on the hardware as told to me by Russ McWaters of 321’s product development team. All your optical drives must have the newest firmware version…even the reader. Emprex has a neat little tool that does this for you; your DVD Reader might be a little more difficult…but it may mean the difference between a coaster and a good burn. The DVD Writer must be the Master and at the top of the IDE chain (Secondary) it is on. It must not be on the same circuit as the hard drive(s)…that can cause “Stuttering” in the burn. You must NOT use the computer while the burning part of the program is running, that will also cause dropped frames and clipped scenes. It would be best to disable automatic programs like antivirus software from running scans while burning...in fact, shut down as many of your background programs as possible since the burning engine will use 100% of your CPU’s cycles to burn your disk and background programs will slow or corrupt the burn. Use the best media you can get…the Japanese disks are reputedly the highest in quality. It is suggested that you use “Minus” disks but I had equal success with “Plus” RW disks. I had excellent results with the Finodisk lineup of DVD disks and discovered that using Memorex for me was kinda like Russian Roulette…sad for such a major brand name.

Most of you fellas must know about 321’s legal woes…I don’t wanna really get into it but I will say that you can still purchase the Physical software at your local retailer until it is sold out…the ban is only on 321 Studios to prevent shipping or downloads of the “ripper” version after a certain date. Retailers are NOT restricted…they just can’t get any more. 321 will now ship a version of their wares that does not contain the ripper (or the re-encryption or legalese nag screens) Rippers are widely available on the internet though, find and use them at your own peril.

XCopy Options

This is the premier software bundle from 321 Studios. DVD X Copy Gold includes a burning engine that circumvents CSS encryption and has generous optional features. Should you have problems with disk compatibility in commercial DVD players you can make use of the Nero burning engine…I found that this is a good option for use with the less expensive range of players (mine) while the higher quality players (not mine) are less picky. Additionally should you experience problems burning the second disk you don’t have to do the whole thing over again…the advanced options menu allows you to proceed straight to the second disk saving time and disks. Since I don’t really know a lot about how to copy DVDs I left the titlesets alone although Gold allows you to delete them at will. The neat thing is that all you really have to know is how to push the Big Green buttons! Someone with no knowledge whatsoever can operate this program just by clicking the “Copy Now” button and leave the rest to the program! There are (on this version) a few Nag screens asking whether you borrowed/rented this disk and if you understand that copying for anything other than personal and private use is illegal. In the author’s opinion 321Studios has more than shown that they don’t intend illegal use of this program…additionally you get this.

DVD-Backup

On each and every DVD that ANY of their programs copy! I was also told that there is a digital “Fingerprint” inserted into the DVD matrix allowing 321Studios to track down people selling their copies with an extreme degree of accuracy.

I found that this engine is great for a perfect 1:1 copy of a DVD but it is slow since it needs to write to two disks; currently DVD writable disks only hold 4.7GB while commercial disks hold twice as much data, meaning that a full copy requires 2 writable disks. A big plus is that it keeps all the menus and options intact though some options may be located on disk 2. The quality and sound of the copied disk is flawless. As said before you may wish to use the Nero engine for less expensive DVD players…I had a 30% coaster ratio before I did this…but then again my DVD player was a $35 Fry’s special.

XCopy Express

The Gold Boxed set includes DVD X Copy Express, This is about the neatest burning program there is bar none…I simply love it! All you need to do is insert your disk to be read (and the writable disk if you have two drives) then hit the Big Green Button. If you want to get fancy you can hit the green options bar and you will see this.

XCopy Express

This allows you to manipulate the language, subtitles, screen type, etc. But you do not NEED to do any of that. The huge happy factor of this program is that it can copy the whole DVD to a single writable disk (unless you select the option for entire disk) it does this by stripping out all the menus, Easter eggs and goodies…leaving you with just the movie. You save time and money with this feature. After clicking on the Green Button just sit back and relax…of course you must clear the requisite Nag screens informing you about the illegality of copying DVDs for other than personal use, etc. But once through those Nags the program does it all for you automatically. My only beef with this program is that you play Hit-And-Miss with the cheaper DVD players…my player only plays about 50% of the DVDs burnt with XPress…but it will play them 100% of the time on my computer! Remember that my DVD player was bought for this test and was the absolute cheapest one available (I is poor) When played on my friends fancier and higher quality DVD player the disks created with XPress never fail to work.

Matrix Image     Matrix Image

Just for fun I captured the same frame from The Matrix – one is from the dupe and one is from the original…can you tell which is which? Neither could I…XCXPress does a great job with image quality (mmmTrinitymmmmyummy…)

DVD X Copy Platinum comes with three programs bundled…Advanced…Simple and DVD Rescue. In my opinion this is the best buy of the two bundles reviewed here. XCPlatinum allows you to edit the chapters and all that but more importantly it lets you copy the entire disk onto a SINGLE DVD writable disk. Using a form of compression you get the entire disk that seems to play in any DVD player available (yes even my cheap-azz DVD player!) On a high resolution PC Monitor you can see the compression as a light blocking and shading stepping affects…but on your average television it is almost unnoticeable unless you are looking for it.

Select Titles

Once the disk is inserted and you get past the Legalese Nag screens you get to see this screen where you can edit the chapters you want to copy…Should you select them all the program will determine the amount of compression to be used and you are shown this.

Compression

All you need to do is press “NEXT” and copying will commence! Simple as that. You don’t need to do anything else to get your copy and as I said before nearly every dupe burned will play in my cheap-azz $35 Fry’s special DVD player…cool. I don’t think wee need to go into X Copy Platinum Simple since it is nearly identical in appearance and execution to X Copy Express…except that for some odd reason movies copied with the Platinum version of Express seem to have a higher success ratio playing in my cheap-azz player. Odd…

XCopy Rescue

DVD X Rescue takes scratched or otherwise unplayable DVDs and “repairs” them by making a playable copy. I was told to take a DVD and run it lightly over a cinderblock to produce the required flaws/scratches…well…I didn’t want to mess any of mine up so I borrowed one from a friend.

XCopy Disc     XCopy Disc

Then I did this to it.

XCopy Disc Scratched

Wow…looks a mess huh? Well…it was and DVD X Rescue could not resuscitate it…in fact my system wouldn’t even recognize it as a disk. Guess I went a little too far eh? My friend wouldn’t let me borrow another disk (I wonder why?) so all I can say is that this program can save your damaged DVDs but didn’t do so for me…sadness.

Conclusion:

Once again, you know 321Studios has received a court order to stop selling ripper enabled copies and they have done this BUT their original ripper enabled software is still widely available in retail stores and should be for several weeks to come…I personally went to Best Buy, Fry’s, etc. and found a healthy supply of them displayed…healthy since retailers bought truckloads of them just prior to the ban! Most of the people I talked with said they will continue to be able to sell them for 10 to 14 days at the current sales rate…so go get yours today! 321 Studios has the best DVD backup software around.

Hopefully with appeals the legal system will reverse the ban and then some of the minor bugs can be worked out. I would like to see Express’ compatibility issues addressed and the whole product suite matured…but I tell you what…I am hanging onto the copies I have (HISSSSS! Mine! My Precious!) since they represent what I believe to be the current state of the art in DVD burning software. Yes there are other programs that are cheaper but none that are as easy to use or show as much promise as 321’s products..

I would like to thank Russ McWaters and Laina Talimatasi for answering all my questions and helping me learn more about DVD burning in general. You guys rock!

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Product activation is unobtrusive
  • Very intuitive interface
  • Can back up CSS encrypted disks
  • Near 100% burning success when played on PC

Cons:

  • Expensive (not factoring rebates here)
  • Express ripped disks have problems with cheaper DVD players
  • Ripper enabled software is still available from retailers but for how long?
  • DVD X Rescue didn’t work for me

Added: March 12th 2004
Reviewer: Outcast
Score: 8  
Hits: 10318
Language: english

  

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