NEC ND-3500A

This NEC was the first 16x DVD writer that we looked at and we reviewed it way back in September. However, we had to include it in this roundup, because despite the competition having time to catch up and supersede the ND-3500A, this wonder drive from NEC still manages to wipe the floor with every other product on test.

As far as specifications go, the ND-3500A can boast some pretty impressive numbers. It will burn DVD+R and DVD-R discs at 16x, while it can write DVD+RW and DVD-RW media at 4x. What’s really impressive is that this drive will burn DVD+R Dual Layer discs at 4x, and even though there is no 4x rated DVD+R DL media available, the NEC managed to write to 2.4x rated discs at 4x – something that no other drive on test could manage. Finally, CD-R discs are written at 48x while CD-RW media will burn at 24x.

So, how do these specifications equate to real world performance? The answer is, very well indeed. Let’s look at Dual Layer performance first, because this is the test that really highlights how fast the NEC is. Because of its ability to write at 4x to 2.4x Dual Layer media, the NEC streaks ahead of the competition – the 7.9GB burn of an MPEG2 file and a large ISO file was done in 25 minutes 39 seconds, with the nearest competitor coming in at over 41 minutes. Likewise, the 8.1GB burn of digital images took 27 minutes 24 seconds on the NEC, with the nearest competitor taking over 44 minutes.

The DVD-R results were also very impressive due to the NEC’s ability to burn at 12x to 8x media. However here, the NEC came second in all the tests, because the MSI drive was also able to pull off this particular trick.

Strangely, the 16x DVD+R performance was nothing to write home about, but then this was the first 16x drive to hit the market, so we would expect the competition to have a slightly better grip on this technology by now.

But moving onto the DVD-RW tests we can see that the NEC has grabbed top spot on every single graph, a feat that it repeats across the board on the DVD+RW tests as well. Given, it’s not miles ahead on the DVD+/-RW tests like it is in the Dual Layer tests, but it’s still an achievement to top every graph.

Looking at CD-R performance you can see that the ND-3500A comes second in both tests, while also topping the CD-RW Format test graph. Strangely, the NEC finds itself at the bottom of the 600MB MP3 file burn to CD-RW media, but on the whole it looks like CD performance is very solid on this drive.

So, out of 20 different tests, the ND-3500A from NEC has managed to top 11 of the graphs, while grabbing second place in a further five of the tests. With all this in mind, there’s no doubt that this is the best performing DVD writer in this group test.

When we originally looked at the ND-3500A it was a bare drive, but since all the other units on test are retail boxes, we thought we should put the NEC on a level playing field. The retail box version of the NEC is obviously more expensive than the bare drive, but you do get a few extras thrown in. In the box you’ll find an IDE cable, an audio cable and mounting screws to fit the drive inside your PC. There’s also a Nero software suite that includes NeroExpress 6, Nero Back IT-Up and Nero Showtime. All in all a pretty average bundle, but it’s the drive itself that’s the jewel in this particular crown.

Buying the retail box does add a fair bit to the price of the ND-3500A, but even with a retail price of £57.98 it’s still an absolute bargain considering the performance.


Despite being the oldest drive on test, the NEC ND-3500A just races away from the competition. If you’re planning on doing a lot of Dual Layer burning the NEC should be top of your list, knocking over a quarter of an hour off the other drives’ times. When we reviewed this drive originally it grabbed an Editor’s Choice award and nothing has changed since then.


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