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Appeared on: Tuesday, December 21, 2004
NEC ND-3520A Preview


1. Introduction

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 1

NEC is known for developing high quality burners at a considerably low cost. Following the success of the ND-25x0 series and the ND-3500A model, rumors were heard around the Internet regarding a new NEC burner with more features than the NEC ND-3500A. Since 16X writing speed is the physical limit for DVD media, users were asking what this new burner had to offer. The answer is simple: higher Re-Writing speed.

Since most users will be eager to find out more about this drive, we decided to post this preview to share our first impressions, until the full review is released.

- Features

The new NEC model is capable of writing DVD media at 16X and re-writing DVD+RW media at 8X. DVD-RW media writing speed is raised from 4X to 6X. -R double layer upgradeability is an issue that will be discussed later on this preview. CD writing speed is not changed, already tuned at 48X for CD-R media and 24X for CD-RW media. It can also burn double layer media at 4X, and support anti-buffer underun protection system. WOPC is introduced to further improve burning quality.

- Specifications

Drive
NEC ND-3520A
Media
DVD
CD
Transfer Rate Write
+R

16x (9 - 22MBytes/sec)

-R
48x (3000-7200kBytes/sec)
+R9
4x (5.5 MBytes/sec)
2.4x (3.3 MByte/sec)
+RW
8x (11 MBytes/sec)
-RW
24x (3000-3600kBytes/sec)
-R
16x ( 9 - 22MBytes/sec)
-RW
6x (8.2MBytes/sec)
Transfer Rate Read
DVD-R 16x CAV (max 22000 kb/s)
CD-R 48x CAV (max 4800 kb/s)
DVD+R 16x CAV (max 22000 kb/s)
CD-RW 16x CLV (max 2400 kb/s)
DVD+R9 4X CLV (5500 KByte/s)
Mechanism
motorized Tray load mechanism for horizontal and vertical use
Interface
IDE / ATAPI
Burst Transfer Rate
PIO mode 4 / Ultra DMA 33
Cashe Memory
2MB
Audio
digital-out and line-out at the back (MPC compatible)
Modes supported
DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-Audio, CD Extra, CD Text, CD-IReady, CD-Bridge, Photo-CD, VideoCD, Hybrid CD
Writing methods
DAO(disc at once), SAO(session at once), TAO(track at once) with zero gap, variable or fixed packet, multisession
Compatibility
MPC Level 3, MultiRead, PC2001
Weight
1.01 kgr
Dimensions
148mm x 42mm x 190mm

The drive does not support Mount Rainier and it uses the well known RPC II region control, allowing a user to change the drive's region at most 5 times. Unfortunately, it cannot read or write DVD-RAM media. Below are the drive's main specs as given by NeroInfoTool, VSO Inspector and DVDInfoPro:

- The Drive

We received the bulk version of the drive in our labs, and we don't yet know what software will be included in the final retail package. Of course, this preview will be followed soon by the full review, with more detailed information providing a more complete picture of the drive and its capabilities.

The front panel does not introduce anything new from the previous ND-3500A model. You can see the eject button, the activity led and the eject hole.

On the rear panel you will find the analogue and digital audio outputs (SPDIF), the IDE selection pins, the IDE connector and the power input.

Opening the device case will void the warranty, so we advise against it. Instead, use the photos in this review for a closer look under the hood. Clicking on the image below will reveal a high resolution image.

click to enlarge!

The drive uses a new NEC D6364 chipset series, making it impossible to convert/update the previous ND-3500A models to this new ND-3520A.

click to enlarge!

The following picture shows the laser lens assembly of the NEC ND-3520A. By clicking on the picture, you can see a higher resolution image.

click to enlarge!

- Installation

The device was connected to our test PC and was identified as "NEC DVD_RW ND-3520A" under WinXP, with firmware version 1.04.

Below is a screenshot of Nero Burning Rom's specs for the drive.

- Testing software

In order to perform our tests, we used:

  1. Nero CD-DVD Speed v3.55
  2. CDVD Benchmark v1.21
  3. Nero Info Tool v2.27
  4. PlexTools v2.18
  5. DVDInfoPro v2.63
  6. Nero Burning Rom v6.6.0.3
  7. CopyToDVD 3.0.35

2. DVD Error Correction Tests

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 2

DVD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests we examined the DVD reading capabilities of the NEC ND-3520A drive with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests, we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed . The reference test media comes from ALMEDIO.

- Single Layer media
ABEX TDR-821

This is a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with a 4.7GB capacity, and its surface has an artificial scratch of dimensions varying from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

The following transfer rate picture comes from the CDVD Benchmark v1.21 transfer rate test.

The ND-3520A managed to read this test media without problems. It should be noted that the ND-3500A also managed to read this disc, but needed to lower its reading speed. This shows improved DVD error correction capabilities with the 3520A, since it did not lower reading speed.

ABEX TDR-825

This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM of 4.7GB capacity. The data structure of the disc is exactly the same as that of the TDR-821, with the difference that there are no scratches on it but instead, defective areas of dimensions ranging from 0.5 to 1.1 mm.

There are also fingerprints sized between 65 and 75 micrometers.

Small speed fluctuations were introduced, in order to succesfully read the entire test disc. On the other hand, the process was completed with no read errors. It should be noted that the burner reached 16X reading speed.

- Dual Layer media

ABEX TDR-841

This is an 8.5GB dual layer single sided DVD-ROM disc with artificial scratches of dimensions ranging from 0.4 to 3.0mm, on both layers.

Again, the ND-3520A proved to be a very good reader, giving no errors and no speed drops.

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc of a capacity of 8.5GB. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the first includes defective areas and fingerprints.

The dimensions of the defective areas range from 0.5 to 1.1 mm and the fingerprints are sized from 65 to 75 micro meters.

Excellent performance once again from the NEC drive.

In the complete review we will add more DVD error correction tests as well as CD error correction tests.


3. DVD Recording Test

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 3

DVD Recording Test

The new ND-3520A can burn at 16X maximum speed, DVD+R and DVD-R media. DVD+RW media can be burned at 8X, while DVD-RW media can be burned at 6X. Unfortunately, there are no available DVD-RW media at 6X.

The writing strategies are illustrated below:

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The writing times for the media we burned are given below:

DVD +R/+RW media
Disc Label
Disc Information
Max Allowed Writing Speed
Total Recording Time (mins)
Datawrite 8X Orange
MCC 003
8X
9:34
Datawrite Printable
MCC 003
8X
9:38
Verbatim 16X
MCC 004
16X
5:58
Datawrite +RW
PRODISC W02
4X
14:34
Mitsubishi Chemicals 8X +RW
MKM A03
8X
8:21
DVD -R/-RW media
Disc Label
Disc Information
Max Allowed Writing Speed
Total Recording Time (mins)
Datawrite Printable
Fujifilm03
8X
9:39
Datawrite Grey
CMC MAG AE1
8X
9:59
Datawrite Printable
CMC MAG AE1
8X
9:36
TDK 16X
TTH02
16X
5:54

The ND-3520A reported very good recording times with various media. As this is only a preview of the drive, more media will be burned in the near future to further investigate recording performance. Stay tuned for the final review.


4. PlexTools/CDSpeed Scans - Page 1

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 4

PlexTools/CDSpeed Scans - Page 1

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media, we used two readers in combination with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times, even when a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth with dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

- DVD+R/+RW media format

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The NEC ND-3520A performed very well with +R media format. Even low priced media, like Datawrite, showed excellent performance. Writing at 16X with Verbatim media did not produce any PO failures, and PI error levels were considerably low.

Writing +RW media at 8X reported higher PI error values, but again, error levels did not exceed the 280 limit.


5. PlexTools/CDSpeed Scans - Page 2

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 5

PlexTools/CDSpeed Scans - Page 2

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media, we used two readers in combination with two software packages:

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times, even when a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth with dropoffs. Due to the fact that we oversped the reading capabilities of the LiteON SOHD-167T, such drops are expected, especially near the outer area of the disc.

The measurements below should be taken not as the absolute criteria of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

- DVD-R media format

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge!

DVD-R media performed worse than DVD+R media. On the other hand, TDK 16X media reported very low error levels, while Datawrite media reported higher. Some media could not be read by the LiteOn reader or the Plextor burner.


6. DVD+R DL - Page 1

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 6

DVD+R DL - Page 1

- Writing Tests

We burned one DVD+R DL disc with DVD-Video content. The source disc was "Gladiator Movie - Special Edition" disc1 with a total size of 6.86GB. First we transferred the movie to the hard disc with DVD Decrypter as ISO format (single file). We used Double Layer media provided by Traxdata and Verbatim (MKM). The following picture shows the media code of these Double Layer discs. Of course, more double layer media will be burned in the full review.

We then used the latest version of CopyToDVD. The software prompts us to select Video_TS/ISO image folder. We chose the "GLADIATOR.ISO" image and we selected the NEC ND-3520A burner.

We did not make any bitsetting changes, in order to see what booktype setting the drive uses as default for DVD+R9 media.

The drive needed 22:35mins to finish the burning process. The default booktype setting of the ND-3520A for double layer media is set to DVD-ROM.

- Bitsetting

As usual, the drive supports booktype setting changes, but only for double layer media.


7. DVD+R DL - Page 2

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 7

DVD+R DL - Page 2

- Writing Quality

In order to check the NEC ND-3520A's DVD+R DL writing quality, we used the LiteOn SOHD-167T and the Plextor PX-712SA drives.

click to enlarge!

Very good performance, indeed. It should be noted that Verbatim double layer media is 2.4x certified media, but the NEC burner, just as the ND-3500A model, could burn the media at 4x while maintaining very low error levels.


8. Conclusion

NEC ND-3520A Burner - Page 8

Conclusion

Although this is just a preview and no conclusions should be taken for granted, we could post our first impressions for this new burner.

First of all, NEC uses a new chipset for this new burner. Although the burner itself cannot burn -R double layer media, the new D6364 chipset supports -R DL writing at 2X and 4X. Talk from NEC refers to a new firmware release that will add -R DL writing, but it will not be available until March. It is good to know that users can simply apply firmware upgrades to add -R DL feature.

NEC has already built a good and trusted reputation with DVD burners through their former models, and even if some of them were not good readers, they were very good burners. The ND-3520A has very good DVD error correction capabilities and has proven to be a fast reader.

The drive performed very well with DVD+R and DVD+RW media so far, but some further improvements could be made with DVD-R writing quality. However, we cannot see the full picture without further investigating writing quality.

*Updated - The complete review is available here.



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