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Primera Bravo SE Disc PublisherAutomated DVD and CD production system
Manufacturer: Primera (http://www.primera.com)
Platform: Mac OS X and Windows
Users: Audio producers (demo CDs and the like), post houses, wedding/event/corporate videographers, church and school users, photographers, etc.
Recommendation: Strong Buy
The cost of entry for disc production systems has just been lowered drastically. The Bravo SE, the latest in Primera's Bravo Line of Disc Publishers, offers all of the functionality of its predecessors, but with a reduced disc capacity and a price point that's $1,200 less than the Bravo II, its nearest competitor.
Like all Bravo Disc Publishers, the Bravo SE is an automated disc production system. It combines both disc burning and direct printing on inkjet-printable media. Tying these two functions together is an innovative robotic mechanism that picks up a disc, inserts it into the burner, removes it from the burner, inserts it into the printer and then, finally, places the disc in the out bin--or, rather, out tray in the case of the SE.
This means completely hands-free operation during the multi-disc production process. And with the precision of this robotic mechanism, it also means worry-free operation. This is Primera's sixth-generation mechanism, and it's accurate and even a bit faster than mechanisms I've experienced in previous Bravo models.
There are other differences as well. The Bravo SE is lighter (11.5 lbs.) and more compact (15" W x 7" H x 14.75" D) than its predecessors. And it's configured a bit differently. With a smaller disc capacity (maximum of 20 discs per run), it offers an integrated output tray that can slide out of the unit for easy access. It can also be operated with the tray open when using the unit for single-disc runs. And unlike other Bravo models, there is no hanging external output bin. The entire thing can fit on your desktop, taking up about the same space as a regular printer.
As for the printer itself, this is a Lexmark 4,800 DPI mechanism. Generally, in the past, I have not been a fan of Lexmark printers. But this particular one uses the latest technology for smaller droplet sizes (3 picoliters), resulting in much smoother gradations and much improved detail in dark areas.
This unit also uses a new high-capacity single ink cartridge that can handle about 114 full-coverage disc labels (maximum outer diameter of 12 cm) at full quality and saturation. Replacement cartridges run about $38.
The burner included in the Bravo SE at this time is the Pioneer DVR-111 DVD±R DL/CD-R (16x DVD±R, 8x DVD-R DL, 40x CD-R).
In terms of software, the Bravo SE offers something new for Windows users: Primera PT Publisher, as well as SureThing CD Label Software Primera Edition. I'm not running Windows, so I have nothing to say about that. For Mac users, the Bravo SE ships with CharisMac Discribe Robotics Version (currently at version 5.3.19). This is your basic Discribe CD/DVD mastering/copying suite with some additional features designed specifically for Bravo systems: the ability to queue jobs, robotics testing and, of course, the ability to print and burn multiple copies of a disc.
For label design on the Mac, it includes EPS templates, which can be used in most popular graphics applications. (The image for the label is imported into Discribe just prior to burning.)
The performance of the Bravo SE is what you would expect. That is, the robotic arm takes a little bit of time to move the disc around and make sure everything is where it should be (say a total of 30 seconds to 1 minute per disc), but, beyond that, it prints and burns in the same amount of time it would take with a standalone burner or a standalone label printer. The advantage with the Bravo in this regard is that, once the first disc is burned, it can print a label while it's working on burning the next disc, saving you some time there. The speed of the disc burning will, of course, depend largely on the media type and the amount of data that needs to be recorded. Print speeds vary by coverage. But a full-coverage label at highest quality will take about 90 seconds.
In terms of reliability, I encountered absolutely no problems working with the Bravo SE. The robotic arm is accurate owing to a special sensor built into the mechanism to detect discs. (You don't have to worry about this thing picking up two discs accidentally and trying to cram them both into the drive--or picking up no disc at all. It knows when it has a disc in its clutches.)
I should also mention print accuracy here--not color accuracy, which, like just about any inkjet, will vary with the media you use (and require trial and error), but image placement accuracy. I've used disc printers in the past that needed to be calibrated repeatedly to avoid shifting the image off to one side of the disc. But the Bravo SE comes from the factory calibrated to a high degree of accuracy. In fact, in one test, I noticed a sliver of white surface showing on one side of the inner and outer edges. But after careful examination, I realized that it wasn't the Bravo SE that was off; the surface had actually been applied unevenly in the manufacturing process.
As for quality, I already mentioned that the printer in the Bravo SE is superior to printers I've used in other Bravo models. The degree of quality you get will depend largely on the media you use. A silver surface always looks great. But Primera also has some new water-resistant media. I had a chance to test out the new Tuff Coat Watershield CD media type, and it was fantastic. Not only did the prints come out like nothing I've sen from a Lexmark printer before, but the ink stayed on even when I intentionally tried to wipe it off with a damp tissue. (You will see some ink come off on the tissue, but it doesn't smear on the disc.)
The bottom line
So, in short, the Bravo SE is a great tool for automating the CD and DVD production process. It doesn't have anywhere near the disc capacity of it's elder siblings (Bravo II and Bravo Pro), but, if you regularly need to print and burn 20 or fewer discs at a time, it will save you a ton of hassle over standalone disc labelers and burners. I think this unit is just ideal for wedding and event videographers, project studios, post houses, churches and schools--those who may not need to print more than 20 discs at a time but who don't want to waste time hovering over a burner and printer for a couple hours just to make 10 or 20 finished discs. And best of all, the price is really right. For about $1,500, you're not going to find anything else in the same league as the Bravo SE. I give it a Strong Buy recommendation.
The Bravo SE Disc Publisher is available now for $1,495.95 (list). It supports Mac OS X and Windows. For more information, visit http://www.primera.com.
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