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This story was printed from CdrInfo.com,
located at http://www.cdrinfo.com.
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Appeared on: Friday, February 03, 2006
NEC ND-4550A


1. Introduction

When we received our ND-4550A burner from NEC, it had already been released onto the market a couple of months. We therefore decided to wait a little longer for the release of the new firmware for the burner, version 1.07. We are now ready to test the very popular NEC ND-4550A burner.

- Specifications

Product ND-4550A
Interface IDE/ATAPI (Ultra DMA33 compatible)
Speed Capabilities by Disc Disc Writing Reading
DVD RAM 5x ZCAV 5x ZCAV
DVD+R (SL) 16x CAV 16x CAV
DVD+R (DL) 8x ZCLV 7x CAV
DVD-R (SL) 16x CAV 16x CAV
DVD-R (DL) 8x ZCLV 7x CAV
DVD+RW 8x ZCLV 13x CAV
DVD-RW 6x ZCLV 13x CAV
CD-R 48x CAV 48x CAV
CD-RW 32x ZCLV 40x CAV
CD-ROM - 48x CAV
DVD-ROM(SL) - 16x CAV
DVD-ROM(DL) - 12x CAV
(SL):Single Layer, (DL):Double Layer
Tray color White or Black or Silver
LED color Green
Support Disc Recommended writable media (Only DVD)
Dimensions (HxWxD) 42 mm x 148.2mm x 190mm (with standard bezel loaded)
Weight Approx. 1 kg
Required OS environment Windows(R) 2000, Windows(R) XP Home, Professional(SP2)

Below are the main specs for the drive, as given by NeroInfoTool and DVDInfoPro:

- Nero InfoTool

- DVD InfoPro

The RPC II region control is used, allowing the user to change the drive's region no more than five times.

- Retail Package

Previous burners that we have received from NEC came in the bulk package. This time round, we received a retail version that includes:

These days, most of the retail packages that we receive do not include any blank media... and... NEC is not an exception here. :p

- The Drive

The front panel is no different to any other recent NEC drive such as the ND-4551A, with a typical NEC design. 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

- Top view

We do not recommend removing the drive's cover, since this will void the manufacturer's warranty. But you can take a look inside the drive with the pictures below. Click on the image for a larger, more detailed photograph.

The chipset is NEC's "D6364", the same one that is used in the previous ND 3540 model as well as the latest ND-4551A burner. The specific chipset will also be found in Pioneer's latest burners, the DVR-110 and DVR-110D.

- Installation

The drive came installed with firmware version 1.06. We upgraded it to version 1.07. The drive was identified as the "NEC DVD_RW ND-4550A" under WinXP. Below is a screenshot of Nero Burning Rom's specs for the drive.

In order to compare the performance of the ND-4550A, we provide the results of two other latest release burners, the BenQ DW-1655 and Plextor PX-755A.


2. Reading Tests

- CD Format

For our CD transfer rate tests, we used the Nero CD-Speed utility and a set of Pressed CDs. Let's take a look at how the drive performed compared to the other two drives.

The NEC and BenQ drives supports 48X CD reading speed while the Plextor 40X. The BenQ was slightly faster.

All drives reported similar average speeds with this media.

- AudioCD

In the case of AudioCDs, the NEC and Plextor support 40X DAE speed while the BenQ 48X. Unfortunately, the NEC drive was awarded a low score in the Advanced DAE Quality Test from Nero, while the two other drives had perfect scores.


- 90mins Audio disc

The NEC ND-4550A failed to read the 90min and 99min test discs.

- 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.

 

Similar performance from all three tested drives.

The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially with the drive starting reading from the inner part of the disc, which is the beginning of each layer, progressing towards its outer range. The NEC drive has the fastest starting speed but finishes off with the slowest end speed and clocks in the slowest average speed.

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. Here we see the NEC drive starting off very slowly in contrast to the PTP disc previously, but manages to finish up with an average speed that is only slightly slower than the other two drives.

The NEC drive supports 16X for DVD±R and 12X for DVD±RW. The BenQ has the same specifications as the NEC while the Plextor supports 12X for all four formats.

Excellent ripping performance was reported from all the drives.

- DVD-RAM

The NEC ND-4550A can also read DVD-RAM discs at 5X.

-Appendix

Nero CD-DVD Speed Graphs

CD Pressed / US-RW / AudioCD

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 behavior when reading scratched / defective audio discs. The test discs used were the ABEX series from ALMEDIO.

- ABEX TCD-721R

Errors total Num: 1789689
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 115911 Avg: -77.4 dB(A) Max: -35.8 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 5585 Avg: 1.0 Samples Max: 40 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 75.3 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy 99.8 %

The performance with this specific test disc is very similar to what we saw from the ND-4551A. The total error count is very high but the error loudness is within the acceptable limits and most importantly, no samples were skipped. The Total Test Result score of 75.3 is quite good.

- ABEX TCD-726

Errors total Num: 781
Errors (Loudness) dB(A) Num: 1635 Avg: -81.7 dB(A) Max: -59.4 dB(A)
Error Muting Samples Num: 1 Avg: 1.0 Samples Max: 1 Samples
Skips Samples Num: 0 Avg: 0.0 Samples Max: 0 Samples
Total Test Result 88.2 points (out of 100.0 maximum)
C2 Accuracy 100.0 %

Usually the 726 test disc does not present much of a problem for the majority of the tested drives. But in the case of the ND-4550A, the performance was not as good as we would expect.

- 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-4550A 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 0/5

With this test disc, the drive reported quite good results, achieving 4 out of 5 tracks. This is a quite good performance.

- Summary

Overall, a mixed bag with similar performance to the NEC 4551A.


4. DVD Error Correction

In the following tests, we check the DVD reading capabilities of the NEC ND-4550A 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 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 just a clutter near the end but certainly no problems reading over the defects.

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. 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.

Again, not problem with the defects and a very smooth graph.

- 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-4550 shows a near perfect performance with the specific test disc.

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. Again, no errors 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.

Good error correction capabilities, but the layer switch isn't as good as it should be.

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.

- Summary

The NEC ND-4550A has a strong error correction mechanism and managed to read all of our discs successfully, without errors.


5. Protected Discs

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 to 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:

NEC ND-4550A Key2Audio CDS200
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-4550A managed to read/rip all of the above AudioCD protection schemes without any problems.

- 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 t he 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.

NEC ND-4550A CDS 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a
Reading performed without any errors.

- Games Protections

To create the 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 protection was not a problem for the ND-4550A drive. PSX ripping was a little on the slow side, however Safedisc protection continues to be problem for many drives and only Plextor burners appear capable of offering satisfactory results.

- Writing Tests

The NEC ND-4550A 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.

- Quake 4 SafeDisc v4.6

- Fifa 2004 - SafeDisc v3.1x

The drive failed to create working backups of the above protected games.


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 36.49X.

- 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 media. Below is a chart showing all recording times with various media.

As the above graph indicates, not all inserted media were burned at the max 48X speed. SKC media was burned at 32X in 3:38mins, while Traxadata is 40X certified but was burned at 48X in 3:06mins.

- Other features

According to Nero's CDSpeed and its overburning simulation test, the NEC drive is capable of recording 92min on a CD. Note that this test is done with a 99min disc. No such overburning is possible on an 80min CD, while not many burners can write to 99min discs.

- CD-RW Format

The ND-4550A 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 29.59X.


7. CD Writing Quality - Plextools
Untitled Document

We measured the C1 / C2 error rate 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.

Verbatim 80min 52X @ 48X

SKC 80min 52X @ 32X

MMore 80min 52X @ 48X

Traxdata 80min 40X @ 48X

BenQ 80min 52X @ 48X

- Summary

According to the above scans produced with Plextools Q-check, the reported C1 levels were low while only a few C2 values were reported as in the case with BenQ and MMore media. Overall, good CD writing quality, even at 48X.


8. CD Writing Quality - Clover System
Untitled Document

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.

Verbatim 80min 52X @ 48X

SKC 80min 52X @ 32X

MMore 80min 52X @ 48X

Traxdata 80min 40X @ 48X

BenQ 80min 52X @ 48X

- Summary

The behavior of the drive that we saw in the previous page with Plextools, is not confirmed here, with the noticeable exception of Verbatim which was the only media awarded a PASS mark, while Traxdata media reported high E22 and E32 values.


9. DVD Writing Tests

- Writing Performance

Now we will check the burning performance with DVD media. Below, the available writing speeds, as reported by Nero Burning Rom.

Using Nero CDSpeed with DVD-R and DVD+R media, we are able to see the 16X writing strategies.

- DVD+R media @ 16X CAV

 

- DVD-R media @ 16X CAV

Many speed drops where reported when the NEC burned the DVD+R, while also a few speed drops where reported in the case of DVD-R.

- Burning Tests

DVD-R media

The drive has a large DVD-R compatibility list for 16X recording. Two of the 8X certified media allowed recording at up to 16X while two other 8X certified media allowed burning at 12X. Writing times at 8X are somewhat high where most burners need around 8 minutes or even less. The NEC burner needed a little under 10 minutes which resembles 6X more than 8X. At 12X, the reported times are reasonable.

Once again the compatibility list for 16X is large for DVD+R media, just as it was for DVD-R. Traxdata and BeALL media are 8X certified but they were recognized by the NEC burner as 4X media. We hope that a newer firmware will add 8X support for these media.

- Comparison with other drives

Good writing times from the NEC ND-4550A (the lower the better).

- DVD Overburning Tests

The NEC ND-4550A failed to overburn DVD-R and DVD+R media.

- DVD-RAM

The previous NEC models, supported only DVD-RAM reading. The ND-4550A as well as the ND-4551A support not only 5X reading, but also writing at the same speed.

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

Using NeroCDSpeed, we produced the following graph:

The drive started writing at 4.95X and using the CLV strategy, reached 5.01X max writing speed, reporting an average burning speed of 4.98X. The task was completed in 11:22mins.

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

The writing procedure ended after 26:56mins. Normally, the time needed would be much less were it not for the "Write and Verify" feature used when writing DVD-RAM media.


10. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Verbatim 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- ProdiscR05 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- BenQ 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- CMC 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Plextor 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Philips 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- ProdiscR04 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Traxdata 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Optodisc 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- Ricoh 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- RiDisc 16X DVD+R @ 16X

- TDK 8X DVD+R @ 16X

- Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD+R @ 16X

- Summary

Most of the tested media reported very good writing quality, with the only exception of Optodisc and Traxdata media. NEC is still an excellent burner, at least with DVD+R media at 16X. Also note that two of the media (TY and TDK) are 8X certified and NEC managed to burn them at 16X.


11. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Ricoh 8X DVD+R @ 12X

- Summary

These media are 8X certified but surprisingly enough, the NEC ND-4550A allowed us to burn them at 12X. The quality is excellent with both Ricoh and BenQ media.


12. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Datawrite 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- BeAll 8X DVD+R @ 4X

- Maxell 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Opto 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- CMC Magnetics 8X DVD+R @ 8X

- Summary

Quite low error rates but erratic speed graphs in some cases. The exception here is the Mitsubishi Chemicals and Optodisc media which had smooth speed graphs and CMC media with very good Plextools scan.


13. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- ProdiscF02 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Optodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- BenQ 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Traxdata 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Philips 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- ProdiscS05 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- TDK 8X DVD-R @ 16X

- Maxell 8X DVD-R @ 16X

- Summary

With DVD-R media, the scene is very different from +R at 16X. The reported error levels in Plextools were low in almost all cases, but our LiteOn reader had problems with specific media, while in some cases, it failed to complete the reading. To make sure that it was not our LiteOn drive at fault, we repeated the reading procedure with a second LiteOn drive, but the results were the same. Nevertheless, this is something that we had also seen with the ND-4551A.


14. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Taiyo Yuden 8X DVD-R @ 12X

- Summary

The Mitsubishi Chemicals disc reported better writing quality than the Taiyo Yuden. Also keep in mind that these media, were burned at a higher speed than their certified.


15. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Datawrite 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- BenQ 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Memorex 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Optodisc 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- CMC Magnetics 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Traxdata 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- ProdiscF01 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Bulkpaq 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- RiDisc 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Summary

Low error rates according to Plextools in most cases but with some media, the LiteOn reader failed miserably. Once again we repeated the CDSpeed reading tests with a second LiteOn reader, but the results were the same.


16. DVD Writing Quality - 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

- Traxdata 6X DVD-RW @ 6X

- MKM 6X DVD-RW @ 6X

- Summary

The ND-4550A burner seems to prefer the Traxdata RW disc, which reported the best quality. The two MKM discs reported high error levels and counts coupled with erratic speed graphs.


17. DVD Writing Quality - Almedio

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 that where unable to be read by the LiteON drive.

- 3A 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Traxdata 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- ProdiscF01 8X DVD-R @ 8X

- Mitsubishi Chemicals 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- ProdiscF02 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Optodisc 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Philips 16X DVD-R @ 16X

- Summary

According to the Almedio AEC-1000 error checker, the drive has good writing quality. The media we chose to measure were those which failed in CDSpeed with the LiteOn reader. Nothing to comment on here, since all tests finished successfully. :p


18. DVDR 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 8X 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, but fortunately the ND-4550A does, since it is a relatively new burner.

According to the above graph, the writing strategy is Z-CLV. The reported time of 18:45 mins is high. The drive starts the burning process at 4X and then speeds up to 6X. After 2.2Gb the ND-4550A reached the maximum 8X which it didn't retain for a long, where just before the layer change it dropped back down to 6X only to hit 8X again in the second layer, then down to 8X and finishing at 4X.

Traxdata 8X DVD+R DL @ 6X

The 20:25 mins that the NEC took to burn the Traxdata 8X DVD+R DL disc is too long, being recognized and burned at 6X. The media is certified for 8X writing, so an update is required in the supported media list...

Mitsubishi Chemicals DVD-R DL 4X @ 6X

This DVD-R DL media, according to the manufacturer, is certified for 4X recording while the ND-4550A burned it at 6X. The writing strategy according to CDSpeed is Z-CLV. Most of the disc was burned at 6X and only a small portion at the beginning and at the end was the speed 4X.

We also tried with the only DVD-R DL certified for 8X, from Mitsubishi Chemicals, the MKM 03RD30, which the drive couldn't burn at 8X, but only at 2X.


19. DVDR 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.

- MKM DVD+R DL 8X @ 8X

- MKM DVD-R DL 4X @ 6X

- Traxdata DVD+R DL 8X @ 6X

The writing quality with DL media is good. The exception here is MKM DVD-R DL 4X media which although it reported reasonable performance with Plextools, presented problems for the LiteON drive and CDSpeed. Again, we repeated the test with another LiteON drive and again, the results were the same.


20. Booktype Setting

The BookType setting feature is a "must", which all the latest model on the market should be equipped with. Until now, NEC with previous models had supported this feature only for the DVD+R DL format. This has changed with the ND-4551A, but unfortunately not with the ND-4550A.

The drive by default, is set to DVD-ROM for DVD+R and DVD+RW. With the contribution of some helpful utilities, you can change the booktype for DVD+R DL. Below, you can see some screenshots from DVDInfoPro and Nero CD/DVD Speed. Both can be used to change the default booktype setting for the ND-4550A.

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


21. 4550A vs SA300 - Page 1

For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4550A 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-4550A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4550A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

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


Click on the image for details

Different PI values were reported from the NEC, whereas the PIF values are quite similar.


22. 4550A vs SA300 - Page 2

For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4550A, 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-4550A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4550A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

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


Click on the image for details

Once again, different PI but similar PIF.


23. 4550A vs SA300 - Page 3

For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4550A, 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-4550A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4550A, 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 between the NEC and the SA300 for both PI and PIF.


24. 4550A vs SA300 - Page 4
For checking exactly what the NEC ND-4550A 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-4550A drive. Using other drives, even another NEC ND-4550A, can produce totally different results. Be aware!

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


Click on the image for details

From the graphs above, the error trend line follows the same pattern as the CATS system's scans, but error values are different.


25. Conclusion

NEC recently released the ND-4550A, with 16X DVD burning support and 8X DVDR DL as well as DVD-RAM writing. Other than that, the ND-4550A was released before the ND-4551A and the only difference between them is the LabelFlash technology offered on the ND-4551 (with a firmware update). The ND-4550A that we received was with an outdated firmware and we flashed it with the latest available firmware.

The ND-4550A is a rather good CD/DVD reader, offering high reading speeds. The 48X speed for CD reading is something common to all DVD burners, while the 16X reading support for DVD+R and DVD-R formats is also the highest available, along with 13X for the DVD+RW and DVD-RW, and 5X for DVD-RAM are something you won't easily find in other DVD recorders. Also, the 4550A offers high ripping speeds with the DVD-Video format. When it comes to DVD error correction, the performance was good with all of our DVD test media.

In the DAE tests, the drive actually confirmed 40X reading but unfortunately it did not manage to succeed 100% in the Advance DAE Quality Test, where the 79.4 score that the drive achieved is low. The ND-4550A failed to read both of our 90/99min test discs. Further work would be welcomed on this.

When it comes to AudioCD protection schemes, the drive managed to bypass all of our Audio protections. But unfortunately, when it comes to games protections, as with most NEC drives, the ND-4550A was unable to make working back-ups of the latest games, so if you are planning to purchase this drive for games back-up, it will not do your job.

The 48X CD writing speed that most of the burners support is generally too fast from which to expect high quality, however the NEC burner was quite good here with the exception of Traxdata media where the Clover Systems utility reported high error rates. We believe that this issue could be fixed with a newer firmware release. Nevertheless, we recommend lower than 48X speed for better and safer results.

The 16X burning speed with DVD±R media is the highest available DVD writings speed and is supported by the NEC burner. But we saw writing times with Nero when recording at 8X. Nevertheless, according to Plextools and Almedio, the drive has very good DVD writing quality and in contrast, our LiteON drive with Nero CDSpeed produced erratic speed graphs and in many cases, failure to read the disc, which is something that we have also faced with the ND-4551A. With DVD+R, almost all media reported low error levels while the CDSpeed graphs were in most cases almost excellent. In conclusion, we could say that the drive has average to good writing quality and we think that any problems could be fixed with a newer firmware release. Although we tried 4X and 8X certified DVD-R DL media from Mitsubishi Chemicals, we didn't manage to confirm the 8X speed media.

Unfortunately, we noticed that the booktype is not able to change DVD+R / RW media, but only DVD+R DL. A firmware revision could fix this. In the drive's features list, we shouldn't forget the drive's ability to measure the quality of burned media.

At the time of this review, the price for the drive on the e-market was around US€48.

- The Good

- Fast DVD±R/RW reading speed
- 8X 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 disc ripping
- Writing quality with most media
- Can overspeed with many media
- Can measure the quality on 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
- 8X DVD-R DL

Retail Package
Reading
Error Correction
Protected Discs
Writing
Features


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