HP's LightScribe Etches DVD Labels

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At a Glance
  • HP DVD Writer 640i

HP's DVD Writer 640i uses LightScribe technology to burn custom labels onto discs.
HP's DVD Writer 640i uses LightScribe technology to burn custom labels onto discs.
If you're like me, labeling your freshly burned discs is usually a matter of pulling out a marker and scribbling. It works--but with my chicken scratch, it ain't pretty. Unfortunately, other options haven't worked for me: I've tried stick-on labels, but they can unbalance discs; and inkjet disc printers are too pricey.

When I heard about HP's new LightScribe technology--used first in the company's $130 DVD Writer 640i, a 16X recordable/4X rewritable/2.4X double-layer burner--I was all ears. Use a DVD burner's laser to etch labels on specially coated discs? Sounded perfect to me--and, in fact, it comes pretty darn close.

Here's how it works: First you burn the disc, then you flip the disc over, fire up your favorite labeling program, and let LightScribe do its thing. My shipping model burned discs well (to see how it fared against other drives, read "DVD on the Edge"). And creating LightScribe labels with the bundled Sonic Express Labeling program was a simple operation.

LightScribe currently etches at a sluggish, 1X speed (a firmware update to 2X is in the works), so it can take upward of 30 minutes to produce a disc label with complex graphics. However, simple titles and track lists take only about 5 minutes--a wait I can easily live with. I'm not partial to the dirty-gold surface color, but that's a minor quibble.

All of HP's future drives will have LightScribe technology, and the company says the drive will work with most existing labeling programs. Plenty of other vendors are on board, too: Imation, Memorex, TDK, and Verbatim say they'll offer media (expect to pay an extra few pennies per disc); and BenQ, Hitachi, Lite-On, Philips, and Toshiba all say they'll offer drives.

LightScribe is the best way I've found to neatly label discs. No more chicken scratch.

HP DVD Writer 640i

Solid DVD burning plus unique LightScribe labeling capability make this drive hard to beat.
Street: $130
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At a Glance
  • HP DVD Writer 640i

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