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PC Reviews: Nero Burning Rom 5.5

"We test run one of the greats and find that it indeed does hit the spot!"

It's funny but this review has taken almost the longest ever since we started this site all that time ago. Why? There were hiccups and help along the way that I needed to have clarified by Nero in the States, and a big shout out goes to Craig on the Nero support desk for being of so much assistance with all the queries that I had. It was a necessary evil that was required that I bring to you the facts and nothing but the facts.

For many years now for the home and professional user, Nero and Easy CD have long been regarded as the two best products on the market to burn discs and make backups of existing software. I found the installation of the software to be a breeze and the Nero interface attempts to ensure that the whole process is as painless as possible. A few minutes later, my software was installed and I was ready to go.

There are two ways of using this software, either using the standard version of Nero that a lot of us would be familiar with, or the easy yet powerful Nero Express interface. Nero Express is extremely easy to use and at any time that you like, you can switch quite readily to the more powerful full Nero interface. Nero Express features many of the same options however it is dumbed down a bit for ease of use.

It's funny but the majority of users may never explore this powerful package to it's full potential though will gain a lot of use of the features that are used. Your average home user will most likely use this as their primary software for burning backups (hopefully) or for turning .mp3 files into cd audio, something that Nero does with ease and is renowned for.

The beauty behind the software is that almost everyone should be able to operate it with a slight learning curve involved. I would recommend that if this is your first time using the software that you take a few minutes to read the manual that will give you a brief rundown on the product and use the Nero Express interface until your confidence is up to using the standard Nero menu system. One of the faults with this software is that it leads you right up to the point of no return in some cases and then you are wondering what to do next. Take your time with the software and explore the menu options. The Express interface will alleviate some of these problems for users, but robs you of the ability to use some of the more powerful options provided.

Nero provides .mp3 encoding from audio cds as well using mp3pro or standard mp3 encoding. This is locked to encoding only 30 times to give you a feel for that part of the software however you may purchase the plugin from www.nero.com to unlock this functionality. Australian users should be delighted to know however the Comm-Unique, being the good sports that they are have included the full encoder in the box for you to use immediately which I thought was outstanding service from this company. Some users may not understand why it is locked however Nero do not own mp3 encoding technology, it is licensed to them for a limited use by their customers. So when you purchase the plugin you are merely paying the royalty for that part of the software. Perfectly understandable. However, I do repeat that if you are an Australian user of this software, then there should be an extra disc in your box with the full encoder.

I must confess that this was my first time playing with the mp3pro format and I was impressed by it. For those not in the know, mp3pro files are the next generation of encoding music files. As a rule of thumb, standard mp3 files are 1/10 the size of the original music file, normally recorded to the hard disk as a .wav file. It's a great way to store multiple albums on a single cd. mp3pro files take that to the next level and are able to lower the bit rate again on the mp3 file to almost halve it from the average mp3 file size. As a rule when backing up my music however, I do encode at a minimum of 192kbps, so even with the advances made with mp3pro, I was too fussy about sound quality and won't be using it too much just yet. For those of you who are happy with 128kbps, make sure you do invest in mp3pro as it does create music files at 64kbps that you would swear were encoded at 128. Even now they are working on supporting higher bit rates which is excellent news indeed.

A nice touch with Nero when converting the other way (from mp3 to cd audio) is that you can highlight your selection, right click, select properties and then change the amount of silent time between tracks (you can also do this with .wav files) to 0 seconds so that the music flows from one track to another. I've found over time that many cds actually have the start of a song on the end of the track before it. This method of allowing 0 seconds between tracks means no hiccups. It's useful for making backups of cds that you play constantly so that you don't risk scratching up the source material. I make backups of my cds, then put the original someplace safe where the kids can't get it. Having access to both a car stereo that plays mp3s and standard cd audio, this is perfect for me.

Nero also helps you make Video CDs (VCD) that you can view home movies on either your PC or a compliant DVD player. Using this function is ridiculously simple: Tell Nero that you want to make a VCD, choose add files and then drag and drop almost any media file into Nero. It will then be encoded into VCD format for you, it is the sheer simplicity of this procedure that is a joy to use. There is also the option to make Super Video CDs which are greater quality again and the average movie will span two of these CDS to account for the greater quality. To access this part of the software you will need to purchase the SVCD plugin from Nero.

During this process I must confess that I had problems with my home videos and converting them to VCD. I had transferred them to my PC as PAL mpeg2 files and when I dropped them into Nero, it flipped them and also mirror imaged them on the final product so everything was back to front which was most annoying. This may have been something I was doing however, as I have put a number of other files that I have downloaded from the internet through the process and they worked out just fine. I have sent a CD with the problem files to Nero in California, USA and when and if we get some results with those problems, I will be sure to update this review.

Nero also has the ability to produce hybrid CDs that will work with both Mac OS and PC's. Whilst this was not tested in depth, the few discs that we did produce worked just fine on both machines and certainly could be read by both operating systems.

System Requirements

Windows XP Home
Edition / Professional

 

Windows 2000
Professional/NT4

 

Windows  ME/
98/95

 

REQUIRED FOR ALL
INSTALLATIONS

- 25MB of available hard
drive space
- DVD or CD-ROM drive

Whilst Nero has many other wonderful features such as it's own media player and label designer, for the sake of this review I am covering only those areas in which we thought you, our readers might have questions. I thoroughly recommend Nero as my personal burning software of choice for now, although there are a number of areas in which it is a bit amiss. One of these, and this feature is widely requested, is the ability to record from cassette players and turntables, which Roxio Easy CD Creator certainly does. This is the only part of Nero where I am lowering the score on the product as I have had such a blast using it and have found it to be almost perfect in every other way.

I have heard user complaints with Nero where the consumer had received the software with a burner they had purchased. This is not the full version of Nero, it's more of a courtesy version to let you use the software and actually utilise the burner you have just bought. I am not certain if these versions allow you to use Nero customer service or not, however for the record, I am pleased to state that I found the team at Nero, especially Craig to be excellent to deal with. They were fast, efficient and polite, and it was at that point that they did not know I was writing a review on the software. I was just Joe Public asking for some help with a full version of the software.

If Nero did have the ability to burn from turntables and cassettes, I would seriously considering scoring it at about 9.9 or even a 10. As it stands, this is outstanding software that I am very pleased to recommend to you for almost any burning application and am scoring it 9.6/10.

Recommended!

 

- Tory Favro

The Final Say!

Installation
9.8/10
Interface
9.4/10
Value
9.6/10

Nero 5.5 reviewed by Tory Favro
Review Date: 20 March 2003
Review Score: 9.6/10 
Distributor: Comm-Unique

Copyright 2003 www.impulsegamer.com