I use Idera's SQLSafe backup utility. It has worked well for me as far as speed and compression of files. You can adjust the number of backup threads that run concurrently. The more threads, the quicker it gets done, providing that your disks can keep up. However, I'm sure this puts a significant load on the system during the backup process but we do our db backups in off peak hours so it's not an issue for me.
3rd party utilities will certainly reduce your time window - but I'm not sure what will happen to your app performance. In the final analysis, it probably all comes down to disk io and who gets it - the app or the backup.