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IntroductionGEAR DVD 7 is about making audio and video discs, burned to CDs and DVDs. The concept is easy: round up some files and GEAR DVD will package them up on a disc. However, as with some other computer software, the expereince of transforming files from their original formats into enjoyable listening and viewing discs for your stereo and big screen TV can be frustrating and problem-laden. GEAR DVD falls into that category.
GEAR DVD 7 runs on Vista although the manual covers installations from Windows 98 through XP SP2. The manual states that "GEAR DVD 7 includes all the features of GEAR CD-RW, plus powerful and accurate DVD recording. Besides various types of CD projects, GEAR DVD supports the creation and writing of DVD-ROM and DVD Video discs. Writing to DVD-R, DVD+R DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM is supported. For DVD-Video projects, importing of VIDEO_TS files is supported. CDs and DVDs can be copied with a one-button command."
It took me a while to learn that the main steps to make a disc are:
- Create a project and call it a volume.
- Drag and drop files into the volume. GEAR DVD 7 will convert audio files to WAV format if the project is an audio CD. For a video DVD, you'll need DVD compliant MPEG-2 files to start with, from DVDs or other sources.
- Convert the video DVD volume to a physical image. This is a step not applicable to an audio CD with its multiple tracks.
- Verify the volume to be sure it will burn alright, until you gain a level of confidence. I never became comfortable with this.
- Write the physical image or audio tracks on the disc.
- Enjoy your discs.
For me, things fell short of that elusive final step.
I'm a 'plug-n-play' sort of guy and like to take advantage of today's great computers and software. If you're more of a grease monkey who likes to tinker with the settings of each little gear, maybe you can make the gears turn smoothly. I had to give up.
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Price to ValueRating What's Not:
If you're not a gear-tinkering grease-monkey, use your money for something other than GEAR DVD 7.
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Installation & SetupRating What's Hot:
The purchased download was a fairly small 31 MB setup file. Using it to do the installation was easy and quick on both XP and Vista systems.
The minimum system requirements are easily met with most of today's computers but I perked up when reading this note in the manual: "If you are delivering DVD masters for replication, a DLT drive is recommended. This will require a SCSI controller."
Here's a personal note that relates to the manual's comment about replication. I made a video DVD for a customer once using Sonic's MyDVD software. He turned it over to a professional replication service to make thousands of copies. I got involved because the replicator's testing indicated an issue with the disc that might result in the copies not playing right. After burning three more discs with the same results, my customer gave up and scrapped the project. What I learned was the difference between making fun home video discs that play on my computer and DVD player versus making the master of a disc for commercial distribution.
GEAR DVD 7 might be the tool to master a disc but I didn't get that far in my review.
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User InterfaceRating What's Hot:
When burning discs there are long periods of time when you either look mindlessly at the screen, swithch over to other programs, or walk away to get a mocha. Progress information is critical so you know what's happening.
GEAR DVD 7 has just the right touch in the three little meters that show total progress, track progress, and how full the critical buffer is. I tend to do other things with the computer as a disc is burned, therefore being able to monitor the buffer is a great feature. You don't want it to run out of data feeding the burning process.
Things look pretty geeky, as you would expect of software that evolved over decades. The manual covers setting up hardware and drivers, delving heavily into the detailed settings that one had to work with in pre-plug-n-play days.
I thought I'd first try something simple, like rip the tracks off an audio CD and then use them as the source files for a new audio disc. I got the tracks off alright, saved them to MP3 files and then staged them for the writing of the new disc. However, with a new CD-R disc in the drive and all seemingly okay, the burn icon was grayed out, as was the menu option to Write a GEAR Project.
The Help manual and context sensitive Help didn't help. I turned to Windows Media Player to verify my disc drive was working okay, and it was.
A day later, and with a CD-RW disc instead of the CD-R, the burn feature was active and worked fine to make an audio disc at 4x speed.
For what seems like a fairly straight forward process, the user interface takes a bit long to learn.
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Product FeaturesRating What's Hot:
GEAR DVD 7 can erase re-writeable discs by quickly erasing or doing a longer disc formatting.
Making an audio CD was fairly easy once I got over the initial learning curve and the system accepted my disc.
The main steps to making a video DVD using the files on the disc I had created with GEAR Video were:
- Start a new DVD project then point to the VIDEO_TS folder on the disc as the source of the files for the volume.
- Use the menu Project > Convert Volume to Physical to make an image of the new DVD on the hard drive. That let me remove the disc from my single disc drive to put in a blank one.
- Click the icon to Write image to disc.
The features are alright, it's in the performance area that some things didn't go well.
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PerformanceRating What's Hot:
GEAR DVD 7 successfully created and burned an audio CD but note the comment in the 'What's Not' section about the track titles not showing up during playback.
When I created the audio CD project, GEAR DVD 7 had the titles of the tracks from the professional disc I had ripped them from. I assumed the titles would show up in Windows Media Player, but they didn't. The disc sounded fine.
When I tried to make a new project from the DVD made with GEAR Video, an error message was detected and I couldn't continue.
I tried a different DVD and ran into the same issues. I had GEAR DVD 7 use the files from it to build a physical image, and then verified it. GEAR DVD 7 stated that the verification was successful yet the attempted burn wouldn't start due to a "Verify" error. The information provided about the error wasn't enough for me to figure it out.
Rather than creating a new DVD, I next tested the more simple process of copying an existing disc that played well. It got through the initial steps but something bad happened during the writing. I received a driver error code 02023A02h. The second attempt started over by copying the files again from the original disc. I didn't touch the computer but instead just sat back and watched the progress and buffer meters. The process aborted with the same error message and code.
As a cross check, I left GEAR DVD 7 open and used Sonic's MyDVD software to copy the disc, which it did without issue.
For one last attempt in making a disc copy, I used a professionally made DVD. Still no luck.
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Help & SupportRating What's Hot:
Start with the GEAR DVD 7 PDF Manual, which is a 216 page pdf file.
Then there is online help at www.gearsoftware.com. There you'll find how-to guides, tech support and information about how to contact GEAR directly.
When I searched the help manual for the things I needed I didn't get any hits. For example:
- GEAR DVD 7 informed me that the disc drive status was 'locked' but the word' locked' wasn't found in the manual. The context sensitive help offered nothing about the drive status.
- The CD Settings window has a field to enter the Media Catalog Code (UPCEAN). Searching for UPCEAN produces no hits even though I found it on page 167 when I searched for 'media catalog code'.
Could it be that I needed some sort of catalog code for the audio CD to include the track names? I thought it would do it automatically like Windows Media Player does, receiving such information from the source files.
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Suggested FeaturesThe user interface of GEAR DVD 7 is needlessly complicated. A wizard that walks one through the steps of copying or making a disc would be great.
Performance issues should also be fixed within the software.
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ConclusionI wish I could say great things about all the software I review. Luckily I don't need to, as the software publisher's marketing arms via the developers and distributors do that well. Mostly what I owe you, the reader and potential customer, is an unbiased review.
I do my reviews using the full software versions on my personal computers, The computers are various brands running different versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems. They each have their own personal quirks that change by the session or day. To be fair to GEAR DVD 7, I first consider any issue to be caused by my computer. Then I cross-check it on other systems or with comparable software.
GEAR DVD 7 has a few basic purposes. Having wrestled with it over many days to do this review, my bottom line is to steer clear of it. The gears just don't mesh enough to make your disc making efforts easy and fun.
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