PROS / If you're familiar with building and burning disc images, this product has a lot of great tools for you.
CONS / This is an extremely complicated piece of software that most users won't immediately understand.
VERDICT / Novice users should avoid this product, but more advanced users will appreciate the tools this software offers.
Alcohol 120% is a CD-burning software application that does a great job duplicating CDs and DVDs, but it doesn't have many tools for creating a new disc from scratch. It's also quite difficult to use. In fact, its steep learning curve is its largest stumbling block. Most people looking to burn an audio CD or a data disc will most likely find themselves hopelessly lost and unable to perform the software's most basic tasks.
The first thing to understand about this application is that you cannot make a custom audio disc. So, if you're planning to burn a mix CD to play in your car or give to your girlfriend, you should look for another program, because this software doesn't do that. The only thing you can do with CDs is extract the disc image, or ISO file, and burn new copies. So, if you want to copy a CD you already own, this program could be a decent choice.
The features found in this CD-burning software are a series of wizards geared toward copying discs as well as extracting and building ISO files. When we tested the program, we used the Copy Wizard to duplicate an audio album. The whole process took slightly over four minutes, which is a respectable time - but the best CD-burning applications accomplish this same task in half the time.
The other program wizards are centered around extracting and creating disc images (ISO files). These files are the blueprint of a disc. Once you have a disc image on your computer you can use it to create as many discs as you want with it – be it a movie, music album or even a video game disc. This software is great for people who are looking to mass produce the discs they create.
However, if you want to copy an already-existing disc (audio, data or otherwise), then Alcohol 120% is a decent choice. The Copy Wizard is more straightforward than the rest of the program's tools, but it's still not as intuitive as it would need to be to attract a wide user base. You can copy both CDs and DVDs, but, unfortunately, it doesn't have the necessary CSS decryption algorithms to copy commercial DVDs.
If you want to compose an original data disc file on your computer, you must launch what is called the "Xtra Wizard." This module allows you to add files from your computer to an original disc image. Once that's done, you come back to the "Burning Wizard" which is the module where you burn the image to a blank disc.
Given that Alcohol Soft, the manufacturer, has buried this functionality and most users don't understand what a disc image is, this is not an effective way to make a data CD – especially since the other products we reviewed make it much easier. This is just one example of the overcomplicated nature of Alcohol 120%. When we burned our original data disc with this application, it took about three minutes, which was an average burn time for CD-burning products in our lineup.
Alcohol 120% simply isn't usable enough for the average person wanting to burn a CD. The interface is complicated, and the tools most people use CD-burning software for are buried in the application and are counterintuitive. This software may appeal to some people but not enough for it to rank very high on our list.