By Don Labriola
NTI may not be number one, but like a certain car rental company, it sure does try harder. Faced with formidable competition
from Nero 6 Ultra Edition 6.6, our reigning Editors" Choice, and from the ever-popular Roxio Easy Media Creator 7, NTI has
labored feverishly to make its NTI CD & DVD-Maker 7 Titanium Suite a solid upgrade. Despite lingering weaknesses in areas
like audio content creation and photo management, this latest version of this easy-to-use suite boasts major performance
improvements and plugs many of the holes we reported in Version 6.7.
In addition to enhancements like a fast AVI-to-MPEG converter, 16X and dual-layer DVD recording, and the ability to
compress each title independently when copying DVDs, Titanium offers unique features like a flashy automatic music video
and slide show creator, e-mail backup capabilities, and the ability to use more than one type of media when burning multidisc
Titanium"s deceptively simple interface looks like an optical disc overlaid with icons; each icon
represents one major class of features. Clicking on one displays a menu of tasks, such as creating a
Video CD, playing a DVD, or backing up your hard drive. Choosing any menu item automatically
configures and launches the appropriate module. The new version extends Version 6.7"s terrific wizardlike
EasySteps interface to all modules, guiding you through each task, and includes a comprehensive
selection of exceptionally detailed pop-up ToolTips. Our only complaints are that you can"t customize the
menu system and that you must use Windows" Start menu to launch modules by name.
Titanium offers most of the applications you"d expect to find in a digital-media suite, including an exceptional discmastering/
burning application, music and video players, a jewel-case art designer, a drag-and-drop packet-writing utility, and a
video-editing/disc-authoring application. Unlike Nero 6.6, Titanium has no image-editing and photo-organizing modules, and
aside from a spiffy direct-to-disc sound-recording function, its audio-editing capabilities are limited to a basic WAV-file editor.
The suite includes only a limited-use drive-imaging utility, but its robust file-backup component can archive Microsoft Outlook
and Outlook Express e-mail folders, contact listings, and settings, as well as save data to FTP sites. Titanium"s much-improved
HomeVideo-Maker module may not offer the advanced overlay and nested-timeline capabilities of Roxio"s powerful
VideoWave component, but it is now firmly in a class with NeroVision Express 3. HomeVideo-Maker"s easy-to-use discauthoring
features easily outdo Roxio"s rudimentary tools, but they suffer from a few constraints, such as the inability to create
menus with more than six buttons.
When evaluated on a 3.2-GHz Pentium 4 test bed, Titanium demonstrated dramatic speed improvements over prior versions,
transcoding a 30-minute DivX AVI movie into a Video CD in 13 minutes 21 seconds, compared with 36:53 for Version 6.7,
16:30 for Nero 6.6, and 27:16 for Roxio Easy Media Creator 7. Relative performance was similar when burning DVD-Video
projects, but Titanium took 12:09 to rip a 65-minute audio CD to MP3 files—abysmal compared with Nero"s 2:49 and Roxio"s
6:30. (NTI offers a faster MP3 encoder for $12.50.)
The Roxio and Nero products offer broader feature sets for only slightly more money, but Titanium includes most of the
features that people actually use. It"s also outstandingly easy to use, performs exceedingly well, and has the best file backup
module of the batch. Nero 6.6 remains our overall favorite in this category, but unless you require specific functions offered
only by one of its competitors, NTI CD & DVD-Maker 7 Titanium Suite will serve you well.