Steve's Digicams

Apacer Disc Steno CP-100

Review posted 5/22/03
updated 4/23/04

Apacer Disc Steno

The Apacer Disc Steno CP-100 is a portable, battery-operated, multi-session CompactDisc recorder. Its main use is to transfer image files or other data from flash memory cards to CD-R or CD-R/W discs without a computer. This eliminates the need to buy multiple flash memory cards when vacationing or working out in the field and allows you to leave your laptop at home. The Disc Steno is an excellent tool for anyone that wants a simple way to archive their digital images on inexpensive and transportable CD media.

At home or in the office the Disc Steno can be connected to Windows and Macintosh computers via its high-speed USB 2.0 interface. It serves as a fast 24X CD-R recorder, 10X CD-RW recorder, a 24X CD-ROM drive and a high speed, multi-format card reader / writer.

The Disc Steno is compatible with CompactFlash Type I and II cards including IBM Microdrive, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card, and Memory Stick (not Memory Stick Pro) cards. It can be used with xD-Picture Card media with the appropriate xD-CF adapter. It is compatible with PCs running MS Windows 98, SE, 2000, Me, XP and Mac OS X equipped with a USB 1.1 or 2.0 interface.

The Disc Steno CP-100 package as sold by JOBO Digital retails for $249.95.

Apacer Disc Steno

Equipped with a CompactFlash Type II card slot and a multi-format card slot, the Disc Steno can read directly from CompactFlash Type I or II cards, Microdrives, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card and Memory Stick (not Memory Stick Pro). The newer xD-Picture Cards used by Fuji and Olympus can be read using an optional xD-CF adapter.

Using the Disc Steno

Apacer Disc Steno

Downloading Flash Cards

To download a memory card to a CD -- You insert the flash card, turn the unit on, press the Eject button and insert a CD-R or CD-R/W disc and then press either the "REC Only" or "REC w/check" button.

There is no LCD display, you really don't need one anyway. During the copy and CD burning (writing) process the Busy / Ready light blinks and so does the status LED on the CD drive door. When it's done these LEDs stop blinking.

Most CD-R discs holds 640MB of data, some hold 700MB to 800MB so the capacity depends on the media that you use. Data is recorded in multi-session mode so it doesn't matter if you have a big flash card or a small one, you can keep recording until the disc is filled.

Apacer Disc Steno

The copy and burn process is fairly robust if you select the REC Only option. Apacer claims the unit will copy 128MB in two minutes. In my testing I copied 486MB of data from a 512MB Ridata CF card in exactly five minutes.

That same process using the REC w/check option was extended to eighteen minutes and fifty seconds. This longer process adds error-checking during the copy and burn process but comes at the price of time and battery power (if operating away from a power source.) If neither of these concern you then I'd say to use this option for peace of mind as error-checking is always a good idea. I did make a number of discs using the REC Only option and none of them had any errors but your mileage may vary...

Connecting to your PC

Apacer Disc Steno

To connect to your PC you just plug in the USB cable and turn the unit on. Using Windows XP Pro, my computer beeped and then went through the usual process of recognizing 3 new USB devices, a CD-RW drive and two other Removable drives (one for each card slot).

It's Plug-n-Play with Windows Me and XP machines, drivers are included for Windows 98, SE and 2000. There are no drivers for Mac OS 9+ (under development?) and to use it with OS X you must already have Toast Titanium. The USB 2.0 interface is rated at up to 480Mbps throughout and is backwards compatible with USB 1.1 at the lower data rates.

Apacer Disc Steno

To get the full benefit of this CD-RW drive when connected to the PC you need to install the included Nero Burning ROM software. Windows XP does support CD-R and CD-RW drives but the builtin software is very basic and pardon my French, but it really sucks in comparison to Nero or Adaptec's Easy CD or most any other CD burning software.

Apacer Disc Steno

For portable use the Disc Steno is powered by a 7.4V 1800mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack. Apacer claims that this battery can power the unit for 60 minutes (approx. 20 downloads of a 128MB CF card) per charge.

The Disc Steno can be powered directly from its AC charger/power adapter or in the car with the included 12V car power plug. When the unit is not turned on the battery will be charged. Recharging time is 3 to 8 hours, charging status is indicated by an LED on the side of the unit.

Apacer Disc Steno

The JOBO Digital Apacer Disc Steno CP-100 package includes the Disc Steno CP-100, lithium-ion battery pack, padded carrying case, DC car cord, AC power adapter, USB cable, printed user manual, CD with driver software and PDF user manual, Nero Burning ROM software.

Steve's Conclusion

Now this is what I call a handy digi-gadget. It solves the "in the field" storage problems that vacationers and enthusiasts encounter and does so by using "cheap" CD-R technology. Blank CD-R discs are around $0.35 a disc when bought in lots of 100 or more. And the 640-800MB of data on those discs can be read in most any CD-ROM drive. If you use high- quality CD-R discs you can keep your precious memories safe for many, many years. Sooner or later something else "bigger and better" will replace CD-R and at that time you can transfer your data to the newer technology. In the meantime your pictures are protected from erasure as CD-R is a write-once technology so it is the digital equivalent to film negatives. You can use rewriteable CD-RW discs in the Disc Steno but my past experience has shown that CD-RW isn't nearly as portable (compatible) as CD-R between different drives.

And when the Disc Steno isn't in the field it's a great multi-purpose peripheral for your computer. Plug in the USB cable and it's now a CD-R and CD-RW recorder, a CD-ROM drive and a high-speed USB 2.0 card reader capable of reading/writing to six different popular media types. You can also use it at home to quickly and easily archive your flash cards to CD even without the computer. The hard drive-based portable storage units are good too but after the vacation is over just how much use do they really get?  I can see the consumer getting more use out of the Disc Steno, and at $299 it isn't all that expensive.

The only problem I see is if you have more data on the flash card (or Microdrive) than the capacity of the CD.   With the rapidly dropping prices of 1GB (and larger) CF cards and 1GB (and soon 4GB) Microdrives more people are using them. There is no option for spanning multiple discs -- or if there is I didn't see any mention of it. The lack of a data display other than blinking LEDs kind of rules this out too. But given that the market for this device is your average digi-photographer, I'm sure that most will be using 512MB or smaller flash cards so it won't really be much of a problem. For those semi-pro or pro users with larger cards I would recommend sticking to the portable hard drive type storage units.

Apacer Disc Steno Specifications

Capacity 650-800MB
Input Memory Card: CF Type I & II/SD/MMC/SM/MS
Switch Power On/Off
Button REC Only, REC w/check
LED Indicator Power On/Off, Battery, Busy/Ready, Error, USB 2.0
Power Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery 7.4V, 1800mAh
AC Power Adapter 100/240V, auto-switching
Write Speed Max. 24x-Speed (CD-R)
Max. 10x-Speed (high-speed CD-RW)
Read Speed Max. 24x-Speed
Formats Supported CD-DA, CD-ROM XA, Photo-CD (multiple sessions), Video CD, CD Extra, CD Text, CD-R, CD-RW, High-Speed-RW
Buffer Memory 2MB
Connection USB 2.0: 480Mbps

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