- Review Price: £33.00
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.
The ND-4551A is basically the same drive as the ND-4550A with LabelFlash added, so the performance should be identical to the ND-4550A. This of course is no bad thing, since the ND-4550A is the fastest DVD writer I’ve ever tested.
Specification wise, the ND-4551A will burn DVD-R/+R discs at 16x, DVD+R DL at 8x, DVD-R DL at 8x, DVD+RW at 8x, DVD-RW at 6x, DVD-RAM at 5x, CD-R discs at 48x and finally CD-RW media at 32x. This puts the ND-4551A at the forefront of DVD writer technology, so much so that there still isn’t 8x DVD+RW media available to test its ability to the full yet.
There’s no doubt that NEC is trying to cover every base with its DVD writers. The ND-4550A introduced DVD-RAM support to the NEC portfolio, while the addition of LabelFlash in the ND-4551A means that you can do pretty much everything with this drive.
Whether you think LabelFlash looks better than LightScribe is a matter of personal taste, but LightScribe discs definitely seem to be more durable. That said, if you keep your discs in a wallet or jewel case then they’re unlikely to get scratched anyway. Of course LabelFlash discs seem to cost more than LightScribe ones, but that’s to be expected since LightScribe has been around for longer – but it’s also worth noting that the LabelFlash DVD-R discs are rated faster than the LightScribe DVD+R discs.
Despite the amazing versatility of the ND-4551A the price is still unbelievably low. A quick look around the web showed that you can pick up this drive for as little as £32.94 including VAT, making it a complete bargain.
The NEC ND-4551A is all the DVD writer you’ll ever need. It boasts write speeds that humble the competition, the ability to burn every type of media available and “in drive” label burning. Considering the incredibly low price, I have no hesitation in labelling the ND-4551A as the best DVD writer currently available.
Score in detail
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