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This story was printed from CdrInfo.com,
located at http://www.cdrinfo.com.
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Appeared on: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
NEC ND-4551A


1. Introduction

NEC recently released a new burner, the ND-4550A. After only a short period, they released yet another, the ND-4551A. This is basically the same as the ND-4550A with the only difference being the addition of the LabelFlash feature, a technology that allows a consumer to burn pictures and/or write titles on the label side of the DVD discs specially developed for the Labelflash system with DVD writers with the Labelflash function. There is no need for printers and consumables for printing. To obtain high resolution and contrast pictures in blue and silver color, a consumer only needs to turn the disc upside down and insert it into the drive again after recording data. The unique technology burns the image 0.6mm deep into the media in as little as five minutes, creating a more stable and permanent image than traditional printable media that uses the top layer of a disc for labeling.

The technology marries the unique Yamaha DiscT@2 (Tattoo) technology for picture burning on CD-R data side with the photochemical expertise of Fuji Photo Film, which is a leading company in dye technologies for optical media.

Labelflash utilizes newly developed laser, pick up and rotation control, and high-speed signal processing system of image data. And newly developed Labelflash DVD disc structure realizes the optimal focusing setting because the picture-burning layer at 0.6mm deep into the media is the same depth as the data recording layer on the data side.

General Specifications of Labelflash System

- Laser wave length 655nm
- NA 0.65
- Picture-burning time 5min (Fast mode) - 20min (High Quality mode)

General Specifications of Labelflash Disc

- Depth of the picture-burning layer 0.6mm from the disc surface
- Dye for the picture-burning layer Organic Dye
- Picture-burning area (radius) 25mm - 58mm

Back to the drive, the ND-4551A supports the following speeds for reading and writing:

Read Write
DVD-ROM 16X
DVD+/-R 16X
DVD+/-R DL 7X
DVD+/-RW 12X
DVD-RAM 5X
CD-R 48X
CD-RW 40X
DVD+R 16X
DVD+R DL 8X
DVD+RW 8X
DVD-R 16X
DVD-R DL 6X
DVD-RW 8X
DVD-RAM 5X
CD-R 48X
CD-RW 32X

The RPC II region control is used, allowing the user to change the drive's region no more than five times. Below are the main specs for the drive as given by NeroInfoTool and DVDInfoPro:

- Nero InfoTool

- DVD InfoPro

- The Drive

We received the bulk version of the white blazed NEC ND-4551A. The only noticeable difference, in comparison to the ND-3540A, is the new MULTI recorder logo placed on the tray. On the rear panel you will find the analogue and digital audio outputs (SPDIF), the IDE master/slave/cs selector pins, the IDE connector and the power input.

- Front panel view

- Rear panel view

We don't recommend removing the drive's cover, since this will void the manufacturer's warrantee. Instead, you can take a look inside the drive with the pictures below. Click on the image below for a larger and more detailed photo.

The drive uses the same NEC D6364 chipset that is found in the previous model, the ND 3540, which is known for its good burning quality. The specific chipset can also be found in Pioneer's latest burners, the DVR-110 and DVR-110D.

- Installation

The drive came with firmware release 1-8T which happens to be the latest one, so no flashing was needed. It was identified as the "NEC DVD_RW ND-4551A" under WinXP. Below is a screenshot of Nero Burning Rom's specs for the drive.

Throughout this review and for the sake of comparison, we will be posting the test results for the 4551A along with the results of two other drives, the Philips DVDR1648P and the Pioneer DVR-110D.


2. Reading Tests

- CD Format

For our CD transfer speed tests, we used the Nero CD-Speed utility and a set of both Pressed and CDR media. Lets take a look at how the drive performed compared with the other two drives.

Although the NEC and Pioneer drives have the same chipset, NEC has chosen a higher CD reading speed at 48X, while Pioneer 40X. The Philips also supports 48X reading speed and reported the highest speeds.

Same applies here with a supported 40X reading speed for the NEC and Philips drives while the Pioneer supports 32X.

- AudioCD

For this tests we used a pressed AudioCD and its copy on a CD-R.

In the case of AudioCDs, both the NEC and Pioneer drives support 40X DAE speed while the Philips supports 48X. All drives reported a perfect score in the Advanced DAE Quality Test from Nero.


90min test disc

The NEC ND-4551A failed to read the 90min test disc while it couldn't recognize or access the 99min.

- DVD Format

Now let's have a look at how the drive performs with DVD media. This time, a set of DVD media was used, both SL and DL.

 

Same specifications for all drives and hence, similar performance.

The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially with the drive starting the reading process from the inner part of the disc, which is the beginning of each layer, progressing towards its outer range. Once again the supported reading speeds were the same for all drives. However, the Pioneer was slightly faster.

The first layer of an OTP dual layer DVD-ROM is read exactly the same way as the first layer of the PTP disc we tested previously, the main difference being the reading strategy of the second layer on the disc. The beginning of the second layer is located in the outer part of the disc, so the drive starts reading from the outer tracks towards the inner part of the disc. The same performance was achieved with the PTP reading test.

The supported reading speeds for DVD±R/RW media are something very important since these are the most common formats. Here, the NEC drive gives excellent results, supporting 16X for DVD±R and 12X for DVD±RW. The Philips drive has the most consistent performance, supporting 12X for all formats. While the Pioneer drive has the lowest supported DVD±RW reading speeds of the three drives at 8X, which is quite noticeable in the tests...

Unfortunately, the NEC drive is not as fast with the DVD-Video format. The rip lock feature that we had seen with past models is not in use but still, the drive cannot rip this format at a fast rate. Using DVD Decrypter, the NEC drive reported 5.9X average ripping speed while the maximum was 7.3X. Philips and Pioneer dominate in this test.

- DVD-RAM

The NEC ND-4551A can also read DVD-RAM discs at 5X.

-Appendix

Nero CD-DVD Speed Graphs

CD Pressed / CD-R / US-RW / AudioCD / AudioCD-R

DVD Pressed SL / DVD Pressed DL PTP / DVD Pressed DL OTP / DVD-R / DVD-RW / DVD+R / DVD+RW / DVD-RAM


3. CD Error Correction

In the following tests, we check the drive's behaviour when reading scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total Num: 1861716
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 120763 Avg: -77.3 dB(A) Max: -35.8 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 5964 Avg: 1.1 Samples Max: 40 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 75.2 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy 99.8 %

The overall performance with the specific disc for the ND-4551A has been improved in comparison to the previous ND-3540A. The drive has good performance here but it could still be better. The total error count is high but fortunately, the maximum error loudness is at acceptable limits and this time, no samples were skipped.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total Num: 2036
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 3018 Avg: -83.3 dB(A) Max: -55.9 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 34 Avg: 1.0 Samples Max: 1 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 84.0 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy 100.0 %

The 726 test media does not present any problems with the majority of the tested drives. In the case of our ND-4551A, the performance was not perfect as we are used to with most drives and there were some errors reported.

- CD-Check Audio Test Disc

The CD-Check Test Disc is a very useful tool for evaluating the Sound Reproduction / Error correction capabilities of a CD player. The disc offers a signal combination with disc error patterns to rate the drive's abilities to read music and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a sequence of progressively more difficult tests. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

The tracks are reproduced through a software multimedia player (i.e. Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone is smooth, continuous without interruptions, skipping or looping. The higher the Check Level passed, the more reliable the sound reproduction of the tested drive.

Error Level 1 2 3 4 5
NEC ND-4551A
5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5

With this test disc, the drive reported better than average performance, achieving flawless reading with 4 out of 5 tracks.

- Summary

Performance with the 721 test disc was good but we had hoped for better results with the 726 test disc. Certainly the CD-Check Audio Test Disc results place it in a category with the better drives and overall, the NEC drive is a device with better than average CD error correction capabilities.


4. DVD Error Correction Tests

In the following tests, we checked the DVD reading capabilities of the NEC ND-4551A drive with scratched / defective DVD media. For our 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 varying in dimensions from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

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

A very smooth reading graph with no errors. A few speed drops over the fifth step in the defects area but nothing to be concerned about.

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, the only difference being that there are no scratches on it. Instead, there are defective areas, ranging in dimensions from 0.5 to 1.1 mm.

There are also fingerprints sized between 65 and 75 micrometers.

Excellent reading, no problems over the defect areas.

- Dual Layer media

ABEX TDR-841

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

The NEC ND-4551A has been improved over its predecessor in coping with DVD defects and the tests confirm this. Excellent behavior with the specific test disc. Artificial scratches are not a problem for the drive.

ABEX TDR-845

The disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-ROM disc of a 8.5GBcapacity. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the former 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.

Very good performance with smooth reading speed. Again, no errors were reported.

ABEX TDV-541

The TDV-541 is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc, with a capacity of 8.5GB. The disc is based on the TDV-540 series which was designed to inspect and adjust DVD-VIDEO players. The disc checks the layer switch operation from layer 0 to layer 1 and also includes test pictures and test signals on DVD sound files.

The current TDV-541 also checks the error correcting capabilities of the drive. It also includes scratches from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

Very good error correction capabilities, although the drop in speed over the second layer is there, just as it was with the ND 3540A.

ABEX TDV-545

The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer DVD-VIDEO disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the data surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It has also 65 - 75 micro meter fingerprints.

Excellent reading from the NEC drive. The artificially embedded dots and fingerprints were not a problem for the drive's error correction mechanism.

- Summary

The NEC ND-4551A has a very strong error correction mechanism and it managed to read all of our discs successfully without any errors being reported.


5. Protected Disc Tests

At this point we will check the drive's ability to read and backup protected CDs.

- AudioCD protections

For the test procedure we used three audio discs with different audio copy protections. The ripping process on all protected audio discs was carried out with Exact Audio Copy v0.9 beta5.

The protected Audio discs tested, were:

Audio Discs Protection
Celine Dion - New Day Has Come Sony's Key2Audio
Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island Cactus Data Shield 200
Aiko Katsukino - The Love Letter Cactus Data Shield 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a

The Cactus Data Shield 200 contains artificial errors that are not easily bypassed by the reader, while the Key2Audio contains a second session causing problems for readers when trying to read the Table Of Contents (TOC).

The tested tasks are:

- Recognition of the inserted disc (Yes/No).

- Ripping all wav files(with EAC's Burst Mode) to the hard disk through copy&compare function.

- Listening to the produced wav files to detect any possible click/skips.

The drive recognized up to the 12th Audio track in the CDS200 disc,

and with the "Retrieve Native TOC" option removed, the drive recognized the 13th track.

The test results are shown in the following table:

Key2Audio CDS200
NEC ND-4551A Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison successful for all tracks Ripping process completed, EAC reports no problems, Read&Test CRC comparison successful for all tracks

The NEC ND-4551A managed to read/rip both of the above AudioCD protections without any problem.

- Cactus Data Shield 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a (Aiko Katsukino - The Love Letter)

This is a "special" CDS200 build, since it doesn't contain any artificial errors which create problems during the ripping process. Most problems occur when trying to write the ripped wav files, since the produced CD-R disc contains C2 and CU errors! This "problem" is rumored to be connected to specific chipset weaknesses.

CDS 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a
NEC ND-4551A Reading performed without any errors.

- Games Protections

To create an image of the various protected titles onto the hard disk, we used Alcohol 120% software and the appropriate settings, in accordance with the protection type of the inserted discs. Below you can see the duration of each process as well as the transfer rate in each case.

SecuROM and PSX ripping posed no problem for the NEC drive. The Safedisc protection proved to be quite a handful for all of the tested drives, with the NEC drive being the fastest of the three drives. Overall we could say that the performance is similar for all three drives.

- Writing Tests

The NEC ND-4551A supports the DAO-RAW writing mode. To check the drive's EFM correction status we used 5 different game titles with different SafeDisc 2 versions, having the latest software patches installed. After making the images of the various titles onto the hard disk, we burned them (at maximum speed) with Alcohol 120% v1.9.2.3105. Two different discs were recorded for each title - one with the "Rectify Sub-Channel Data" enabled and one with the function disabled.

- Fifa 2004 - Safe Disc v3.1x

- The Sims Superstar - Safe Disc v2.9x

- The Sims Unleashed - Safe Disc v2.8x

The table below displays the results of the attempted backups including whether they worked (game installed / played normally) or not.

Drive

Fifa 2004
SD v3.1

Sims Superstar SD v2.9 Sims Unleashed SD v2.8
EFM OFF EFM ON EFM OFF EFM ON EFM OFF EFM ON
NEC ND-4551A No

Like most NEC based drives, the ND-4551A still cannot produce working backups with the v2.8x, v2.9x and v3.1x builds. We have stopped tests with pre v2.8 versions since we believe there are no more games available that use those versions.


6. CD Recording Tests

- CD-R Format

The drive supports 8X, 16X, 24X, 32X, 40X and 48X (CAV) writing speeds.

According to Nero CDSpeed, the reported average speed when recording at 48X is 36.47X.

- CD-R Recording Times

We created an 80min data compilation with Nero Burning Rom and recorded it on a 700MB disc. The writing performance varies according to the inserted media. Below is a chart depicting all recording times with various media.

As the above graph indicates, not all four inserted media were burned at the max 48X speed. TY media was burned at 32X in 3:37mins, while BenQ CDR media was burned at 48X in exactly 3:00mins.

- Other features

Overburning writing Up to 92min
CD text reading/writing Yes

- CD-RW Format

The ND-4551A supports 4X, 10X, 16X (CLV), 24X (Z-CLV) and 32X (Z-CLV) rewriting speeds, with Ultra Speed Rewritable Media (US-RW).

Below you can see the Nero CD-DVD Speed writing simulation test with blank 32x US-RW media from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

The drive, when recording at 32X , reported an average writing speed of 29.6X.


7. Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

We measured the C1 / C2 error rates on the recorded discs we burned at the various supported writing speeds. The software we used is the latest PleXTools Professional, and in particular the built-in Q-Check utility. The Plextor PX-716A was the reader used.

BenQ 80min 52X @ 48X

Intenso 80min 52X @ 48X

MMore 80min 52X @ 48X

TY 80min 48X @ 32X

Traxdata 80min 52X @ 48X

- Summary

The CD writing quality is good according to Plextools for all tested media with the only exception that of BenQ which reported too many C2 errors. Now let us see how the Clover Systems CDX utility reports on the above burned media.


8. Writing Quality Tests - Clover System Tests

The Clover System CDX Compact Disc Analyzer is a high-speed tool to quantitatively measure the quality of a CD. It will analyze CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-I, CD-R, Photo-CD, Enhanced CD and CD-RW discs at 4X, 8X, 24X, 32X or 40X speeds. It effectively measures disc quality by examining the quantity and severity of CIRC errors generated during playback. It also provides the capability to measure signal parameters related to pit geometry, such as asymmetry and reflectivity. When put together, all these facts provide a thorough analysis of disc quality. The Clover System Analyzers can also perform various format-checking tests on data discs, and do bit-for-bit data comparison on all types of CDs. All tests are carried out at a maximum speed of 40X.

CIRC error correction uses two principles to detect and correct errors. The first is redundancy (extra information is added, which gives an extra chance to read the disc), and the second is interleaving (data is distributed over a relatively large physical area). The CIRC error correction used in CD players uses two stages of error correction, the well known C1 and C2, with de-interleaving of the data between the stages.

The error type E11 means one bad symbol was corrected in the C1 stage. E21means two bad symbols were corrected in the C1 stage. E31 means that there were three or more bad symbols at the C1 stage. This block is uncorrectable at the C1 stage, and is passed to the C2 stage. Respectively, E12 means one bad symbol was corrected in the C2 stage and E22 means two bad symbols were corrected in the C2 stage. E32 means that there were three or more bad symbols in one block at the C2 stage, and therefore this error is not correctable.

BLER (Block Error Rate) is defined as the number of data blocks per second that contain detectable errors, at the input of the C1 decoder. Since this is the most general measurement of the quality of a disc, you will find BLER graphs for all media tested below. If you click on the images you can see a more detailed table, indicating error levels. The Red Book specification (IEC 908) calls for a maximum BLER of 220 per second averaged over ten seconds. Discs with higher BLER are likely to produce uncorrectable errors. Al low BLER shows that the system as a whole is performing well, and the pit geometry is good. However, BLER only tells us how many errors were generated per second, and it does not tell us anything about the severity of those errors.

BenQ 80min 52X @ 48X

Intenso 80min 52X @ 48X

MMore 80min 52X @ 48X

Traxdata 80min 52X @ 48X

TY 80min 52X @ 32X

- Summary

A more professional as well as reliable look at the burned media is accomplished through the CDX system provided by Clover Systems. In comparison to Plextools, BenQ seems to be better while the Intenso disc reported extremely high E32 levels. The rest of the media have good writing quality. We strongly believe that a newer firmware will fix this. NEC is generally good with firmware updates :-)


9. DVD Recording Tests

- Writing Performance

Now we will check the burning performance with DVD media. Below, the available writing speed graph can be seen, as reported by Nero Burning Rom.

By using Nero CDSpeed with DVD-R and DVD+R media, we are able to see the 16X, 12X and 8X writing strategies. One can clearly see that WOPC is activated.

- DVD+R media @ 16X CAV

- DVD+R media @ 12X Z-CLV

- DVD+R media @ 8X Z-CLV

- DVD-R media @ 16X CAV

- DVD-R media @ 12X Z-CLV

- DVD-R media @ 8X Z-CLV

Due to the Z-CLV strategy reported by Nero CDSpeed, we are expecting slightly higher recording times...

- Burning Tests

DVD-R media

Taking a quick look, it seems that the drive has a large DVD-R compatibility list for 16X recording, which is indeed the case. Two known 8X certified media allowed recording up to 16X while two others, 12X. NEC has a reputation for this. Other than that, the writing times are higher in almost all cases. We have seen many burners taking less than 6 minutes to complete a 16X writing process while the NEC drive is above this time. At 8X also, most burners are close to 8 minutes or in some cases, even lower. The NEC needed somewhere under 10 minutes which seems to be closer to 6X rather than 8X. The excuse however for this is the Z-CLV writing strategy we mentioned before, where half the disc is burned at 4X and 6X speeds. At 12X, the reported times are reasonable as is also the case with DVD-RW media.

Once again the compatibility list for 16X is large for DVD+R media. The recording times are again high, especially when burning at 8X. The Z-CLV writing strategy is the culprit once more. With DVD+RW media though, the times are very good.

- Comparison with other drives

The graphs speak for themselves. The lower, the better...

- DVD Overburning Tests

The NEC ND-4551A failed to overburn with both DVD-R and DVD+R formats.

- DVD-RAM

The previous NEC models supported only DVD-RAM reading. The new ND-4551A, according to manufacturer, supports not only 5X reading, but also writing at the same speed! However when the NEC chipset was released there were rumours about 16X support with DVD-RAM media.

As Maxell stated: "DVD-RAM is an advanced recording media format that offers a range of digital data applications. Its phase-change recording material allows discs to be re-recordable and erasable, and a superior defect management system ensures accurate recording and playback. DVD-RAM allows instant, random access to any location on the disc for fast and easy data reading and writing. Because DVD-RAM supports fast formatting and no finalizing, it is an extremely easy-to-use media. And with DVD-RAM, changes can be made directly on the disc without the need to transfer data to a hard drive first, speeding up the editing tasks..."

- Burning Tests

Due to lack of 16X DVD-RAM media we cannot test the drive if can burn at 16X speed. Using NeroCDSpeed, we got the following graph:

The drive started writing at 4.97X and using the CLV technology, reached 5.01X max writing speed, reporting an average burning speed of 4.97X. The task was completed in 11:27mins.

Using the latest Nero version, we burned our usual Single Layer DVD compilation.

The writing procedure ended in 26:11mins. Normally, the time needed would be much lower, but the "Write and Verify" feature used when writing DVD-RAM media extends the writing times.


10. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 1

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

16X DVD+R Writing Speed

- TDK 8X DVD+R @ 16X

- BenQ 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- CMC Magnetics 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- MMore 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Optodisc 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Philips 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Prodisc 16X DVD+R @ 16X (Prodisc R05)

- Prodisc 16X DVD+R @ 16X (Prodisc R04)

- Ricoh 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Ridisc 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD+R @ 16X

- Traxdata 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Summary

Perfect writing quality with all media tested. Simply great performance. NEC continues to produce excellent burners, at least with DVD+R media at 16X.


11. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 2

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion for the burning quality, but as an indication level.

12X DVD+R Writing Speed

- BenQ 8X DVD+R @ 12X

- Prodisc 8X DVD+R @ 12X

- Ricoh 8X DVD+R @ 12X

- Summary

All of the three above media are 8X certified but the NEC ND-4551A allowed up to 12X recording. The quality is excellent with the Prodisc and Ricoh media while in the case of BenQ, the error levels are high and there was also difficulty with the LiteOn drive when reading the disc.


12. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 3

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

8X DVD+R Writing Speed

- MMore 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- CMC Magnetics 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Maxell 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Philips 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Traxdata 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Summary

Very low error levels and smooth CDSpeed graphs means excellent writing quality.


13. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 4

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

16X DVD-R Writing Speed

- BenQ 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Maxell 8X DVD-R @ 16X

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Optodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Philips 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Prodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Prodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD-R @ 16X

- TDK 8X DVD-R @ 16X

- Traxdata 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Summary

It seems that with DVD-R media at 16X, the scene is quite different. Although the reported error levels from Plextools were low in almost all cases, our LiteOn reader had problems with specific media while in some cases failed to complete the reading process. Just to be sure that it was not the drive, we repeated the process with a second LiteOn drive, but the results were the same.


14. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 5

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion for the burning quality, but as an indication level.

12X DVD-R Writing Speed

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 8X DVD-R @ 12X

- Ridisc 8X DVD-R @ 12X

- Summary

The Mitsubishi Chemicals disc reported slightly better writing quality than the Ridisc although both discs have the same code ID.


15. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 6

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

8X DVD-R Writing Speed

- 3A 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- BenQ 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Bulkpaq 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Datawrite 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- MMore 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Prodisc 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Prodisc 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Ridisc Red 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Summary

Low error rates in almost all cases, but with specific media the LiteOn reader found it hard going, hence the speed drops in the CDSpeed graphs. Once again we repeated the CDSpeed reading tests with a second LiteOn reader, but still the same performance.


16. CDSpeed/PlexTools Scans - Page 7

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-712A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

DVD+RW and DVD-RW Media

- MKM 8X DVD+RW @ 8X

- Ricoh 8X DVD+RW @ 8X

- MKM 6X DVD-RW @ 6X

- Traxdata 6X DVD-RW @ 6X

- Summary

The NEC burner seems to prefer the Mitsubishi Chemicals disc with which it reported the best quality. The rest of the media reported fairly good quality except for Ricoh where the PIE errors were very high.


17. Writing Quality Tests - Almedio AEC-1000

The AEC-1000 consists of a DVD Drive and the "ALChecker" error measurement application which can check the written data quality. The application is capable of 1X CLV measurement as well as 4X CLV on DVD-Video/ROM and finalized DVD+R/-R media.

There are three measurement modes:

- Fine Mode: checks a series of eight consecutive ECC blocks,

- Rough Mode: checks eight consecutive ECC blocks every 100h ECC blocks

- Quick Mode: checks three specified areas

The checking status is shown graphically in real time while you can save the error graph at the end of the test. The reported errors are the PI and the UncPO. The PI counts the number of rows corrected by the PI error correction in each group of eight consecutive ECC blocks. The UncPO counts the number of ECC blocks in which more than one bytes are uncorrectable in eight consecutive ECC blocks. For our quality scans, we set for 1X CLV and Fine Mode which is the slowest and produces the safest results. Also, we chose to measure all the media burned at the maximum available writing speed, namely 16X.

- BenQ 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- MMore 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Ricoh 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- BenQ 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Optodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Philips 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Prodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Summary

According to Almedio AEC-1000 error checker, the drive has good writing quality. Amongst the media we chose to measure, are those which failed in CDSpeed with the LiteOn reader. No such errors were confirmed here and all tests were finished successfully.


18. DVD+R DL - Page 1

- Writing Tests

We burned some DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL discs with data content. For this task we used "Create Data Disc" from Nero CDSpeed in order to fully burn the discs.

Mitsubishi Chemicals DVD+R DL 8X

The specific DL disc from Mitsubishi Chemicals is certified for 8X burning, one of the few if not the only one. Since it is new, most burners don't support it at 8X although the NEC drive does, which isn't unusual since the ND-4551A is also new.

According to the reported graph, the writing strategy is Z-CLV. The reported time of 19:43min is high. The drive starts the burning process at 4X and then speeds up to 6X. After 2.2Gb the NEC reached the maximum 8X which it doesn't maintain for long, no more than 1.8GB. Just before the layer change, it reduced seed back down to 6X and continue until the last 800MB which were burned at 4X.

Traxdata DVD+R DL 2.4X

The specific disc is certified for 2.4X writing and this is the speed that the NEC drive will burn it at. According to CDSpeed, the selected writing strategy was CLV.

Mitsubishi Chemicals DVD-R DL 4X

This disc, according to the manufacturer, is certified for 4X recording but the ND-4551A will burn it at 6X. The writing strategy according to CDSpeed, is Z-CLV but this time, most of the speed remains at 6X. Only for 900MB at the beginning and the end of recording, does the speed go to 4X.

We also tried the latest DVD-R DL disc from Traxdata but it seems that the drive with the current firmware, doesn't support it. The next firmware revision should add it.


19. DVD+R DL - Page 2

- Writing Quality

In order to test the writing quality and readability of the burned media we used two readers equipped with two software applications:

- The LiteON SOHD-167T with patched firmware being able to read DVD5 up to 16X CAV and DVD9 up to 10X CAV. For the transfer rate tests we used the latest Nero CDSpeed version.

- The Plextor PX-716A with the latest available firmware. For scanning the disc, we used the latest PlexTools version at 2X CLV reading speed, BURST mode, with middle accuracy.

In general, a "perfect" disc should have a smooth reading curve, very low PIE/POE and zero (0) POF error rates. Most times however, even though a disc has very low PIE/POE error rates, the reading curve may not be smooth containing 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 not be taken as the absolute criterion of the burning quality, but as an indication level.

- Verbatim DVD+R DL 8X @ 8X

- MKM DVD-R DL 4X @ 6X

- Traxdata DVD+R DL 2.4X @ 2.4X

The writing quality with DL media is rather good with a small speed drop in CDSpeed with the LiteOn drive over the layer change. The error levels in Plextools were within the acceptable levels.


20. BookType Setting

The BookType setting feature is a "must", which all the latest models released on the market should be equipped with. Until now, NEC with its previous models has supported this feature only for the DVD+R DL format. Hopefully, this has been changed with the 4550 and the 4551 burners. The ND-4551A can change the booktype to DVD-ROM for DVD+R, DVD+RW and DVD+R DL formats.

The drive by default is set to DVD-ROM for all media. With the contribution of some helpful utilities, you can change the booktype. Below you can see some screenshots from DVDInfoPro software and Nero CD/DVD Speed. Both can be used to change the default booktype setting of the ND-4551A.

Even with Nero Burning Rom, you can set the booktype for the discs you are about to burn.


21. 4551A vs SA300 - Page 1

For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4551A reports, we used three different media, burned with other recorders. The three media have been measured with the well known AudioDev SA300 DVD CATS system at 1X.

The drive is capable of reporting PI/PIF errors, so we will compare those measurements at 4X reading speed.

Please note that the posted results are only valid for the specific tested NEC ND-4551A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4551A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

#2nd Test Disc - PISum8/PIF Comparison - 4X Reading speed


Click on the image for details

If you ignore the absolute values, which differ from software to software, the error trend lines are quite similar for both PI and PIF. The measuring speed of 4X was indeed 4X.


22. 4551A vs SA300 - Page 2

For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4551A, we used three different media, burned with other recorders. The three media have been measured with the well known AudioDev SA300 DVD CATS system at 1X.

The drive is capable of reporting PI/PIF errors, so we will compare those measurements at 4X reading speed.

Please note that the posted results are only valid for the specific tested NEC ND-4551A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4551A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

#2nd Test Disc - PISum8/PIF Comparison - 4X Reading speed


Click on the image for details

Similar scans from the NEC burner and the CATS system in terms of trend lines.


23. 4551A vs SA300 - Page 3

For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4551A, we used three different media, burned with other recorders. The three media have been measured using the well known AudioDev SA300 DVD CATS system at 1X.

The drive is capable of reporting PI/PIF errors, so we will compare those measurements at 4X reading speed.

Please note that the posted results are only valid for the specific tested NEC ND-4551A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4551A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

#3rd Test Disc - PISum8/PIF Comparison - 4X Reading speed


Click on the image for details

The error trend lines are quite similar for the NEC and the SA300 for both PI and PIF. Actual 4X reading speed...


24. 4551A vs SA300 - Page 4
For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4551A reports, we used four different media, burned with other recorders. The three media have been measured with the well known AudioDev SA300 DVD CATS system at 1X.

The drive is capable of reporting PI/PIF errors, so we will compare those measurements at 4X reading speed.

Please note that the posted results are only valid for the specific tested NEC ND-4551A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4551A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

#1st Test Disc - PISum8/PIF Comparison - 8X Reading speed


Click on the image for details

As you can easily see in the graphs above, the error trend line follows the same pattern as the CATS system's scans, but value levels are different.


25. Conclusion

NEC has introduced a new generation of 16X DVD burner, offering higher DVD-R DL speed at 6X instead of 4X that the ND-3540A has and DVD-RAM writing support. After the release of the new ND-4550 burner, a more recent drive was announced, the ND-4551A, with the only difference being the LabelFlash feature and the DVD-RAM 5X writing support. According to some rumours NEC's chipset would support 16X write/read with DVD-RAM media. A rather interesting addition for the optical market.

The new drive is a good CD/DVD reader with high supported speeds although increased seek times. The supported 48X speed for CD reading is the highest available in the DVD burner market while the 16X reading support for DVD+R and DVD-R formats, the 12X for the DVD+RW and DVD-RW and the 5X DVD-RAM are something you don't see with many burners. The only thing that detracts a little from the good image of the drive, is the low ripping speed for the DVD-Video format, which is about average. Speed is better though when it is combined with quality. The DVD error correction is very strong and all of our tested DVD media did not pose a problem for the NEC drive. In the case of CD error correction, the drive has nothing special to add, just a typical, average performance.

According to our DAE tests, the drive confirmed its 40X reading speed while it managed to produce a perfect score in the Advanced DAE Quality Test. Unfortunately, The ND-4551A belongs to those drives that failed to read both of our 90/99min test discs.

AudioCD protection, such as Key2Audio and CDS200, are not a problem for the ND-4551A which will playback and rip them flawlessly. The scene is different when it comes to games protection. If you are planning to get a drive to backup your favorite games, the NEC ND-4551A is not the drive of choice. We checked the drive's ability with Safedisc v2.9 protection and our NEC didn't manage to create a working backup while it proved to slow when ripping the same protection.

Keep in mind that the drive, at the time of this review, is flashed with the original firmware from the manufacturer and no other version was currently available. Moreover, the 48X CD writing speed is too high to expect high quality. Nevertheless, the NEC drive proved good on this with an exception in its performance with the Intenso disc where the Clover Systems utility reported too many errors. This is something that can be easily fixed with a newer firmware revision. However, we still recommend using speeds lower than 48X for better and safer results.

The writing speed for the DVD formats supported by the NEC ND-4551A are the highest available, except for 6X for the DVD-R DL format where Pioneer supports up to 8X. The burner also supports 5X DVD-RAM recording, but we would like also to test it at 16X, something we didn't, since there are no 16X DVD-RAM media currently available in the market. DVD writing with Nero reported increased burning times, especially when recording at 8X. Apart from this, according to Plextools and Almedio, the drive has very good DVD writing quality, although the CDSpeed reading graphs have a different opinion for the DVD-R format. In all cases, the reported error levels were rather low while the CDSpeed graphs with all the DVD+R media we tried were just fantastic.

*Update 12/12/2005
After close collaboration with NEC, who provided us with the appropriate firmware, software and media, we finally managed to test the LabelFlash Technology with the NEC ND-4551A. For more details visit this link.

So, concluding we could say that the drive has a good to very good overall writing quality and we hope any minor issues we had will be fixed as soon as possible with a newer firmware update.

One thing we noticed and we liked is the fact that NEC finally decided to add support for bitsetting of all plus formats. Using utilities such as DVDinfoPro, CDSpeed or even with Nero, the user can easily set the booktype for DVD+R, DVD+RW and DVD+R DL media to DVD-ROM. In the features list for the drive, we should also add its ability to measure media quality.

- The Good

- High DVD±r/RW reading speed
- 6X DVD-R DL and 8X DVD+R DL support
- Very good DVD error correction capabilities
- 5X DVD-RAM read/write support
- Can burn DVD+RW media at 8X, and DVD-RW media at 6X
- Supports audio protected discs
- Writing quality with most media

- The Bad

- Performance with 90/99min Audio CD's
- Cannot create working backups with SafeDisc protected games over v2.60
- Cannot overburn DVD recordable media

- Like To be fixed

- Writing quality with specific media

Retail Package
Reading
Error Correction
Protected Discs
Writing
Features


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