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Back in November 2005 I did a roundup of DVD writers and once again NEC swept the competition aside to grab the Editor’s Choice award. Only the LG managed to edge ahead of the NEC ND-4550A in the features category - it boasted LightScribe technology enabling it to burn labels directly to compatible discs. But now NEC has hit back with the ND-4551A, which comes equipped with LabelFlash technology.
LabelFlash was developed by FujiFilm and Yamaha as a competitor to HP’s LightScribe. Like LightScribe media, a LabelFlash disc can be flipped over in the drive – the laser will then burn text or graphics to the disc surface. There’s no denying that this kind of technology is very cool and allows you to label your discs without the need for stickers or inkjet printers.
LabelFlash discs look very different from LightScribe discs – LightScribe discs are a matt gold colour, while LabelFlash are glossy blue. The resulting images couldn’t look any more different either – the glossy finish of LabelFlash does make it look that bit more professional, but the downside is that LabelFlash discs seem far more prone to scratches than LightScribe media.
A quick poll around the TrustedReviews office determined that we all preferred the look of LightScribe, but ultimately there’s a degree of personal taste involved. What is interesting is that with the glossy nature of LabelFlash, if you catch the light right, then the image and contrast looks great, but if you don’t, you’ll be looking at a reflection of your face rather than the image burned on it. Since LightScribe uses a matt finish, this problem doesn’t present itself.
Burning a reasonably complicated image to a LabelFlash disc using the NEC ND-4551A took 27 minutes and 12 seconds, which is pretty much on a par with LightScribe. At present only FujiFilm is manufacturing LabelFlash media and a 16x DVD-R disc will set you back 85p from SVP – comparatively a blank Verbatim LightScribe DVD+R disc only costs 56p, although these are only rated at 8x.
To test LabelFlash I had to install a special version of Nero that NEC supplied with the drive. This meant rolling back a version, since I had previously been testing with Nero 7. Just as with LightScribe, you’re offered a “Burn Label” option within Nero Suite – then you can just add any image you like, resize it and burn. You can choose which quality level you wish to burn at – obviously the lower quality levels will burn quicker, but it’s worth the wait to go for the best quality.