- Review Price: £54.00
I’m not sure how NEC does it, but whenever there’s a new DVD writing standard, it’s always an NEC drive that lands on my desk first. So, picking up where the very capable ND-2510A left off, is the ND-3500A. Now, the ND-2510A was the first dual layer compatible drive that I got my hands on, but other than that, the specs were pretty much identical to the older ND-2500A. The ND-3500A on the other hand, is a much more revolutionary device.
Although I’ve looked at a couple of DVD writers that sported 12-speed DVD+R capability, NEC chose to skip 12-speed altogether and jump straight onto 16-speed. But the ND-3500A isn’t just rated at 16-speed for DVD+R writing, it can also write at 16-speed to DVD-R discs, if you can find any fast enough media. But it doesn’t end there either – this is also the first drive I’ve looked at that can burn DVD+R DL dual layer discs at four-speed, instead of the excruciatingly slow 2.4-speed that keeps you waiting for over 40 minutes.
So, running down the full specification – the ND-3500A will burn DVD+R/-R discs at 16-speed, DVD+RW/-RW media at four-speed, DVD+R DL discs at four-speed. NEC has also beefed up the CD performance, with CD-R writing now up to 48-speed from the previous generation drive’s 40-speed, while CD-RW performance is up from 16-speed to 24-speed.
Physically, the ND-3500A looks very plain. The headphone socket and volume wheel seen on previous NEC drives have disappeared, and now there’s just a single eject button, an indicator light and a manual eject hole in evidence.
The drive I looked at was a bare unit, but NEC will be offering a retail boxed version for a price premium. Inside the box you’ll find an IDE cable, an audio cable, mounting screws and a full suite of software including NeroExpress 6, Nero Back-IT-Up and Showtime. Personally, I’d go for the bare drive, since I’ve already got all the software and cables that I need.
Luckily, the ND-3500A arrived on the same day that I received a package of 16-speed DVD+R media from Verbatim. This meant that I could test the drive properly, rather than just assuming that it would be fast writing DVD+R discs. As it turned out though, the ND-3500A wasn’t any faster writing at 16-speed than the Plextor PX-712A was writing at 12-speed. In fact, burning 4.3GB of digital images at 16-speed took over a minute longer than it did on the Plextor at 12-speed. I wasn’t happy with this result, but unfortunately I’d used my last 16-speed disc, so I couldn’t run the test again. However, it’s worth remembering that Plextor drives have a reputation for being very fast, and their price reflects this.
Although the ND-3500A supports 16-speed DVD-R writing, I couldn’t get hold of any 16-speed media to test this. However, it came as a pleasant surprise that the drive was happy to write at 12-speed to eight-speed DVD-R media, and once again the times were not far off the 16-speed results. In fact all three of the DVD-R tests came in well under seven minutes, making this the fastest DVD-R drive I’ve seen.
Again, I was unable to get fast enough media to test the four-speed DVD+R DL capability of the drive. But once again, I was happy to note that the ND-3500A will write at four-speed to 2.4-speed media. This meant that I could burn 8GB of data in around 25 minutes instead of over 40 minutes. This is a major breakthrough for the dual layer format, and has pretty much convinced me to put my money on the table for a new DVD writer now. The ND-3500A managed to burn two files making up a total of 7.9GB in 25 minutes 39 seconds, while the same test took 41 minutes eight seconds on the previous generation ND-2510A drive.
There’s a significant improvement in CD performance over the outgoing drive. The ND-2510A took three minutes 29 seconds to burn a single 700MB file to CD-R, while the ND-3500A shaved almost a minute off that, turning in a time of two minutes 31 seconds. CD-RW writing didn’t show quite such an impressive gain, where writing 600MB of MP3 files took four minutes five seconds, compared to four minutes 41 seconds on the old drive. However, formatting a CD-RW disc proved to be very quick indeed – at three minutes 29 seconds, the ND-3500A is a whole two minutes faster than its older sibling.
Strangely, despite the fact that the ND-3500A will write at 12-speed to eight-speed media, when I put a 12-speed rated DVD+R disc in the drive, not only would it not write to it at 16-speed, but it wouldn’t even write to it at 12-speed. Now, to be fair, the ND-3500A is not rated as a 12-speed DVD+R drive, but then it’s not rated as a 12-speed DVD-R drive either.
Despite its reluctance to write to 12-speed DVD+R discs above eight-speed, the ND-3500A is probably the fastest and most versatile DVD writer that I’ve ever seen. Ok, it doesn’t write to DVD-RAM discs like the LG drives, but DVD-RAM is becoming more and more of a niche market.
Of course price is still a factor, but in the past NEC hasn’t allowed cutting edge technology to push the price of its products up. Thankfully, once more NEC has managed to push the performance envelope, without slapping on a high price tag. With a street price of only £54.04, the ND-3500A offers outstanding value, providing truly cutting edge specifications at a bargain basement price.
If you’re in the market for a fast DVD writer, look no further than the ND-3500A. Not only is it rated at the highest speeds available, but its ability to write above the rated speed of slower media means you can save yourself a few pennies when buying blank discs.
I don’t know how NEC does it, but once again it has produced a superb DVD writer at a truly stunning price. The ND-3500A is a real bargain, and the specification is ahead of the available media at present. If you’re looking for a cutting edge DVD writer, this is the one to go for.
All tests performed using Verbatim branded media. To find out more aboure Verbatim and its products, click here.
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