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Mac users demand 'slow SuperDrive' fix

Petitioners claim 2x performance on 8x-rated drive

Evidence is mounting that a major write-performance problem is affecting certain Mac-mounted optical drives and troubled Mac users have begun petitioning Apple in the hope of a fix.

So far, users claim, the Mac maker has been unwilling to acknowledge the issue, let alone provide a solution.

According to Steven Haigh, the issue is centred on the Matsushita UJ-835E DVD-R built into all SuperDrive-equipped PowerBook G4s and Mac Minis. Irrespective of the make of discs used in the drive, Steven's machines refuse to burn at any speed approaching the 8x performance Apple claims the drive is capable of. The best he can get is 2x performance.

Steven's website links through to a number of discussions on Apple's own support forums in which dozens of other Mac users complain of similar problems. A number claim they can get 8x performance, but only by using Apple-branded media, believed to be manufactured by Verbatim.

Long-established Mac website MacInTouch followed up on the users' claims and found its own 12in PowerBook G4's Matsushita UJ-835E would only burn Maxell and Taiyo Yuden DVD-Rs - rated for 8x and 16x usage, respectively - would not burn faster than 2x.

The same discs achieved 12x and 16x performance on an external Pioneer DVR-109 drive, MacInTouch claimed.

Steven's petition asking Apple to provide a firmware fix for the alleged glitch has thus far gained 282 signatories.

Apple describes the drive in its latest PowerBooks as "the phenomenal 8x SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW)" but its technical specifications says it "writes DVD-R discs at up to 8x" (our italics).

The caveat is there because DVD writers are notoriously quirky when it comes to recording on certain media. However, the number of different media which are alleged to run well below par on the SuperDrive suggest Apple may have a particular problem to address.

In a recent roundup of 16x DVD-R drives, hardware-oriented website AnandTech notes: "The two things that help create a great performing DVD-R drive are the hardware (laser, DSP, motor, etc.) and the drive's firmware. A drive's firmware can be the final deciding factor of its overall performance, or even the performance of a single area."

We suspect Apple may have coded its own firmware strongly to favour burn reliability over performance, but users certainly appear to want a balance tilted more toward the latter. The question is, will Apple respond? ®

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