After the retirement of Plextor from the enthusiast optical drive market, the Chinese manufacturer APR announced their intention to fill this gap with its new IL-2010 series DVD-writers. “The enthusiast market is small, but it is a big mistake to neglect this important, quality conscious group of customers”, Mr. Cheng, an APR spokesman said.
The new drive has some fascinating features: Not only has the maximum write speed been pushed to an incredible 26x (unfortunately read speed is 20x only), the drive is also supposed to support various disc labeling technologies including Lightscribe and Labelflash.
The drive’s tray is made of a titanium/aluminum alloy, which makes the drive much heavier than its competition. Overall weight of the unit is reportedly 1.5 kg.
“We chose this material in order to insure perfect recyclability and to minimize the usage of oil, which is getting rare in the near future” Mr. Cheng told us. “Also, we found a very innovative method to reduce the amount of drive repairs due to bad firmware updates. We have permanently fixed the core firmware of these drives into the read-only part of the chipset.”
After we expressed our disappointment concerning an optical drive with non-flashable firmware, Mr. Cheng smiled and showed us the real innovation of the IL-2010:
“We know that users want best performance from their drives, and of course, firmware updates are necessary in case new media requires better support. And that’s why we developed the FDD525 add-on unit. Install it into an empty 5.25″ drive bay and connect it to the IL-2010 using the cable that comes with the package. The firmware is stored on inexpensive, replaceable media in the FDD525, and thus prevents the DVD writer from being damaged by a bad firmware flash. Additionally, we have developed a software package that allows users to customize their firmware as they like. They can change the write strategy for all media supported, they even can add new media or enable certain other advanced features we don’t want to disclose yet. Apart from versions for Windows Vista and Windows 7, we also plan to release Mac OS and Linux variants of the software.”
Though we were impressed with the features, we wanted to know why the FDD525 looks like an ancient 5.25″ floppy disc drive. “Well,” Mr. Cheng said, “this technology is no longer patented, so we can offer our products for a more attractive price. Also, the required discs are easy to obtain for a good price. As an additional benefit, you can also read your old 5.25″ floppies with your brand new, legacy free computer.”
According to APR, this drive is expected to hit the shelves by the end of 2010. Mr. Cheng didn’t want to talk about the pricing yet, but to allow the user the chance to customize his equipment, the product is split into three modules:
– The retail IL-2010 including installation material, DVD writing and playback software.
– The FDD525 add-on unit.
– The customization software.Unfortunately, this unit will be sold in Europe only.
“We are unsure whether we will be able to offer the drive in the US also, since there are some licensing issues we haven’t resolved up to now. But we are working very hard on that”, Mr. Cheng said.
We can’t wait to get our hands on one of these units for a review, and we thank Mr. Cheng for taking the time for this interview. APR grants a 20% discount for the all-in-one package consisting of all three modules