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Appeared on: Wednesday, June 09, 2004
NU Combo DBW-521

1. Retail Package - Installation

NU Combo DBW-521 - Page 1

Nu Technology Inc. was founded in May of 2003 by Quanta Computer and Quanta Storage Inc. Located in the center of Silicon Valley, the company produces a full range of internal and external, half-height and slim optical storage products, including IDE CD/DVD ROMs, CD re-writers, CDRW plus DVD combo drives, and DVD writers.

- Features

The DBW-521 is a half-height internal CD-R/RW & DVD-ROM drive, with IDE/ATAPI interface. The drive is able to write CD-R/RW discs and can also perform as a regular DVD-ROM drive. The DBW-521 offers 16X speed DVD-ROM disc reading, 52X speed CD-R disc writing, 24X speed CD-RW disc writing and 52X speed CD-ROM disc reading capabilities.

The NU combo is a four in one device supporting CD-R / CD-RW / CD-ROM / DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM media.

The drive uses SuperLink Buffer Under Run technology to prevent buffer underrun errors during the writing process.

- Specifications

Read Speed DVD Family

CD Family

Write Speed
CD Family
Writing speed 52x
Re-writing speed 24x
Read Formats
DVD Family
DVD-ROM(DVD-5, DVD-9, DVD-10, DVD-18),
Multi-Border DVD-R/DVD-RW, Multi-Session DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM

CD Family
Karaoke CD, Photo CD, Enhance CD, CD Plus,
CD Extra, i-trax CD, CD-Text, Mixed Mode CD-ROM, DVCD, CD-G, Bootable CD, CD-R, and CD-RW

Writing mode
CD Family
DAO(Disc at once), SAO(Session at once),
TAO(Track at once), Packet Writing,
Multi-Session, DAO-RAW Mode
Support OS
Windows 98SE/ Windows ME/ Windows 2000/ Windows XP
144.2 mm x 41.3 mm x 190.0 mm(cm)
965g +10g (with Bezel)
Minimum Systems Requirements PIII700 CPU, 256 MB memory.

The front of the NU drive has a nice design, a little different from the stock-standard design we have become used to. The drive is colored white and on the loading tray are the supported writing/reading speeds, the DVD-ROM logo and the CompactDisc logo. Also, as shown in the above picture, there are the Stop/Eject and Play/Skip buttons, the orange NU logo, the activity led indicator, a volume knob and a headphone jack.

- Retail package
The retail package includes the NU IDE interface drive, mounting screws, an audio cable and a CD-R 52X disc from NU.
For reading reference, the package includes a printed drive installation guide in three languages and a Sonic RecordNow Guide.
NU seems to have payed a lot of attention on the software. The user will find included on CD-ROM the following multi language programmes:
  • Sonic RecordNow for video and data recording
  • Sonic CinePlayer for DVD playback
  • Sonic DLA for packet
  • writing

    Removing the screws and opening the drive's cover voids the drive's warranty. For reference reasons, we post the following pictures.

    Click for Higher Resolution!

    - Installation

    Our test PC was a 1.8 GHz P4 configured with 512Mb RAM, an 80GB 7200rpm hard drive and Windows XP Professional SP1. The drive was connected to our test PC and was identified as "CDRW/DVD DBW-521". All reading tests were done with firmware vGX01.

    The following pages include test results for the NU drive in comparison with a well known combo drive from LiteOn, the SOHC-5232K



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    2. Data CD Reading Tests

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 2

    Data CD Reading Tests

    In order to measure the reading performance of the new NU combo drive with different types of media, we used the latest version of NeroCDSpeed.
    - Pressed CD results (Click for CDSpeed results)

    To check the reading performance of the NU with pressed CD media, we used NeroCDSpeed and a data pressed disc.

    The NU 4 in1 drive, returned acceptable results on the reading test. All reading speeds indicate that NU is a fast reader. The seek times graph shows that the drive managed to clock in times faster than the LiteOn drive, which is used here for comparison.

    - CD-R results (Click for CDSpeed results)

    To check the reading performance of the NU with CDR media, we used NeroCDSpeed and a clone of the previous tested pressed media.

    The performance of the NU with CD-R media is similar to that with pressed media. The drive uses CAV reading strategy, and again had seek times faster than the LiteOn drive.

    - ReWritable Media (Click for CDSpeed results)

    To check the reading performance of the NU with HS-RW media, we used NeroCDSpeed and a HSRW disc from Mitsubishi Chemicals.

    The above graph shows that both drives are about equal when reading HSRW media.

    3. CD Error Correction Tests

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 3

    Error Correction Tests

    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: 1491423
    Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
    Num: 165000
    Avg: -79.5 dB(A)
    Max:-35.5 dB(A)
    Error Muting Samples
    Num: 5204
    Avg: 1.0 Samples
    Max: 12 Samples
    Skips Samples
    Num: 0
    Avg: 0 Samples
    Max: 0 Samples
    Total Test Result
    75.0 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

    When NU finished the Abex 721R error correction test, EAC software award it with a total score of 75.0 points out of 100.0 maximum. The score can be considered as satisfactory. The total error count at 1,491,423 is quite high, as is the loudness error count, but the loudness level (-35.5 dB(A)) is quite low and there were no skipped samples.

    - ABEX TCD-726



    Errors total
    Num: 141
    Errors (Loudness) dB(A)
    Num: 391
    Avg: -84.0 dB(A)
    Max: -60.5 dB(A)
    Error Muting Samples
    Num: 0
    Avg: 0 Samples
    Max: 0 Samples
    Skips Samples
    Num: 0
    Avg: 0 Samples
    Max: 0 Samples
    Total Test Result
    89.6 points (out of 100.0 maximum)

    The 726 test disc is a much easier disc for most drives to read than the previous 721R test disc. The total score for the drive, 89.6 points out of 100.0 maximum, is not as high as we normally see, even for an average drive.

    - 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 reading music abilities and reproduce it completely. Five tracks on the disc contain a progressively difficult sequence. These tracks are referred to as Check Level-1 through Check Level-5.

    The tracks are reproduced (played) through a software multimedia player (i.e. Winamp, PowerDVD, Windows Media Player). Each level is considered as passed, if the tone coming out from the speakers is clear and continuous without interruptions, skipping or looping. The higher the Check Level passed, the more reliable the sound reproduction of the drive.

    Error Level
    NU DBW-521

    The NU drive performed slightly better than average. The drive managed to playback the first three levels without problems as is the case with most drives. With the fourth track, the drive managed one out of five plays and none for the fifth track. Only the better drives manage to play the fourth or fifth tracks.

    - Summary

    Test Disc
    Reading Speed
    ABEX TCD-721R
    ABEX TCD-726
    Average Score

    The overall performance of the NU combo DBW-521 in the CD error correction tests can be considered as acceptable. The average score for the drive was 82.30.

    4. DVD reading tests

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 4

    DVD reading tests

    - Single Layer DVD-ROM (Click for CDSpeed results)

    To check the reading performance of NU with single layer DVD-ROM media, we used NeroCDSpeed and the 820A test disc from Abex.

    Both the LiteOn and the NU combo writer, returned similar results, as shown on the above graph. The NU started off relatively fast at 6,72x ( CAV reading strategy), and finished with an end speed of 16.42X.

    Again, both drives had similar times.

    - Dual Layer PTP DVD-ROM (Click for CDSpeed results)

    The two layers of a PTP DVD-ROM disc are read sequentially, with the drive starting the read process from the inner tracks on the disc, where lies the beginning of each layer and progressing outwards towards to the outer tracks for each layer. The tools for this test are Nero CDSpeed and Abex 840 test disc.

    The NU combo drive, used CAV reading strategy for the Dual layer DVD-ROM reading process. The drive finished the task with an end speed of 8.27X.

    The seek times for the NU drive with dual layer DVD-ROM media are quite fast.

    - Dual Layer OTP DVD-ROM

    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 difference here is 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 inwards towards the inner tracks of the disc.

    Click for CDSpeed details

    The NU used CAV reading strategy and reached 8.19X reading speed at the end of the first layer. The above screenshot shows smooth reading and no problems during the layer switch operation

    - DVD-RAM

    Click for CDSpeed details

    The above test shows that the NU supports 2X DVD-RAM reading speed and used CLV reading strategy during the test.

    - DVD Ripping Tests

    We measured the DVD-Video ripping speed of the drive using the latest version of DVD Decrypter. The DVD Video title is the "Matrix" pressed DVD-Video.

    The previous DVD-ROM media tests reported similar reading speeds for both the NU and LiteOn drives. Nonetheless, the above graph shows that the LiteOn is by far faster (almost twice as fast) than the NU with DVD ripping tasks. According to DVD Decrypter, the NU combo drive finished the ripping task with an Average Read Rate of 4.573 KB/s (3.3x) while the - Maximum Read Rate was 5.733 KB/s (4.1x)

    - DVD Recordable / Rewritable reading Tests

    The chart below shows the Nero CDSpeed average reading speed results for the following formats with media from MC:

    We ran several tests in order to give the most accurate results regarding the reading speed of the NU with writable and rewrittable DVD media. Firstly, we ran the tests with firmware vGX01 and the drive returned only 3.03X average reading speed for the -RW format. This was simply a firmware issue since the drive managed more appropriate reading speeds with latest firmware at 6.2X.

    5. DVD Error Correction Tests

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 5

    DVD Error Correction Tests

    In the following tests we examined the DVD reading capabilities of the NU with scratched / defective DVD media. For the tests we used CDVD Benchmark and Nero CDSpeed. The reference test media came 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 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 first test with the NU combo drive indicates that the device may be weak in the area of DVD error correction. The drive logged in read errors during the reading process of this relatively simple test disc from Abex, the 821 test disc. The tested NU device had problems reading the first stages of the defective area, in the inner part of the disc where the read errors occurred (red dot on the graph). Despite the read error, the overall strategy of the drive was not affected, with the drive changing reading speeds to overcome this initial hurdle. The CAV reading strategy was maintained with no other errors occurring.

    ABEX TDR-825
    This is also a single sided, single layer DVD-ROM with 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 the surface and instead defective areas ranging in dimensions from 0.5 to 1.1 mm. There are also fingerprints with height between 65 and 75 micrometers.

    The above screenshot defies the initial indications as to the drives capabilities when it comes to DVD error correction. The 825 Abex test disc is more difficult than the previous test disc, but it posed no problems for the NU. The drive read all defective areas without problems and the test finished without read errors.

    - 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.


    The NU managed to read the first dual layer test disc without problems. Both layers were read quickly, and without read errors.

    ABEX TDR-845
    This disc is a single sided, dual layer DVD-Rom disc with capacity of 8.5GB. The only difference between the TDR-845 and the TDR-841 is that the first includes both defective areas and fingerprints. The dimensions of the defective areas range from 0.5 to 1.1 mm and the fingerprints have height sized from 65 to 75 microns (micrometres).

    Once again very good reading performance. Fast reading speed without errors throughout the test.

    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 is designed for inspection and adjustment of DVD-VIDEO players. The disc checks the layer switch operation from layer 0 to layer 1 and also includes test pictures and test signals for DVD sound files. The current TDV-541 also checks the error correcting capabilities of the drive and includes scratches sized from 0.4 to 3.0 mm.

    Click for CDSpeed details

    The drive managed to read and finish the 541 ABex test discs without errors and without problems during the layer switch.

    ABEX TDV-545
    The TDV-545 disc is based on the TDV-540 series. It is a single sided, dual layer Video/S-2 disc with a capacity of 8.5GB. The TDV-545 includes artificial black dots on the disc's surface, sized from 0.4 to 1.0 mm. It also has 65 - 75 micrometres high fingerprints.

    Click for CDSpeed details

    This disc was not problem for the NU drive.

    6. Protected Disc Tests

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 6

    Protected Disc Tests
    - Reading Tests

    To create an image of the various protected titles onto a hard disk, we used Alcohol 120% and the appropriate settings, depending on the protection type of the inserted discs. Below are summarized the capabilities of tested device, according to CloneCD software. The summary below shows that the drive supports writing of CD+G under RAW DAO:

    The game titles we used to test the reading speed for each protection scheme are given in the table below:

    Game Title
    Protection Scheme
    PSX "NBA Jam Extreme"
    Serious Sam The Second Encounter v1.07
    SafeDisc v.2.60.052
    VRally II
    SecuROM v.2
    PSX Pressed Media

    SafeDisc v.2

    SecuROM v.2

    - Writing Tests

    The NU supports the DAO-RAW writing mode. For checking the drive's EFM correction status, we used 3 different game titles with different SafeDisc versions. After making the image files of the various titles to the hard disk, we burnt them (maximum speed) with Alcohol. Two different discs were created for each title; one with the "Amplify Weak Sectors" enabled and one more with the function disabled.

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

    Tested Device
    Game Title / Protection
    Max Payne
    Serious Sam The Second
    Encounter v.2.60.052
    The Sims Unleashed
    The Sims Superstar
    Fifa 2004
    Bypass EFM error
    NU COMBI DBW 521

    The NU proved a reliable device for games backups. The drive managed to make valid images up to, but not including Safedisc v3.10.

    7. DAE Tests

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 7

    DAE Tests

    - Pressed and CDR AudioCD results

    The NU drive supports 40x maximum reading speed for DAE media and uses CAV reading strategy. Nero CDSpeed confirmed these specifications.

    Click for CDSpeed details

    To test the ripping speed of the drive, we ripped the contents of the same audio disc to our hard disk, using the CDDAE software. For CD-R media we used a clone of the pressed disc.

    After the end of the ripping process with EAC, the software reported 25.5X and 28.1X average ripping speeds for the pressed and CDR media respectively. Although both devices support 40X DAE speed according to the graph, the LiteOn drive was faster.

    - Advanced DAE Quality

    CDSpeed advanced DAE quality test awards the NU drive with a quality score of 100 (perfect) while for the same test, the LiteOn drive received only 50. On the other hand, the LiteOn proved to be about 5X faster than the NU in the ripping speed test. CDSpeed also confirmed that the NU Combo drive is able to read Subchanneel Data and Leadin informations but it does not support, as shown on the Advanced features tab, Leadout information.

    - Support of 90/99mins AudioCDs

    The NU ripped up to 81:24min of the tested 99mins AudioCD.

    - Reading/Ripping Protected AudioCDs

    For this test procedure, we used two audio discs with different audio protection schemes. We tested for both recognition and ripping to the hard disk. The software used was Exact Audio Copy.

    * Pressed Audio disc protected by Sony Key2Audio (Celine Dion - New Day Has Come)

    * Pressed Audio disc protected by Cactus Data Shield 200 (Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island)

    NU DBW-521
    Recognize the disc but cannot rip or play the contents
    LiteOn SOHC-5232K
    Audible playback problems
    Audible playback problems

    Both the NU and LiteOn drives, as the above table shows, have several problems with protected audio titles.

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

    CDS 200.0.4 - 3.0 build 16a
    NU DBW-521

    8. CD Recording Tests

    NU Combo DBW-521 - Page 8

    CD Recording Tests

    - CD-R Writing Tests
    To test the writing speed and writing method of the drive we used a blank 80min CD-R disc from TY and NeroCDSpeed to emulate the writing process.

    Click for full graph

    We ended up using several media brands for this test, and not all from TY as we normally do. All resulted in the above screenshot. Despite the initial performance, after the 47th min, NeroCDSpeed reported an end speed of 41.94X which does not coincide with the above screenshot. There were also no changes even after the firmware update.

    -Recording Times

    The NU drive proved slightly slower than the LiteOn, as shown on the above graph.

    oThe above two photos shows that the NU drive did nt manage to actually write with all media at the appropriate speed. At 52X writing, despite the fact that both drives use the same writing strategy, the NU was 14sec slower than the LiteOn. Moreover, the 2:50min that the NU needed to finish the maximum speed writing task is closer to the 48X writing of the LiteOn.

    - CD-RW Writing Tests

    To test the writing speed and writing method of the drive we used a blank 74min CD-RW disc from TY and NeroCDSpeed to emulate the writing process.

    Click for full graph

    Below we provide a comparison of the drives where we used Nero Burning Rom software to burn a 651MB data compilation onto 32x US-RW media from MC.

    The NU drive finished the 651MB data compilation on US-RW media in 3:36min, recording the disc at 24x.

    9. Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

    NU Combo DBW-521 - Page 9

    Writing Quality Tests - 3T Jitter Tests

    The NU drive supports 52X maximum writing speed. We used different manufacturer's media and wrote them all at the highest available speed. We then measured the Pit and Land values for those media and summarized the results in the ensuing graphs.

    - 3T Pit results media (I)

    All tested media, as the above two graphs show, returned high levels. Despite the fact that the Maxell media returned a very high average Pit Jitter, it was still readable by the reader.

    - 3T Pit results media (II)

    Again, all media returned high values, all well above the 35ns RedBook limit. According to the graphs, all media recorded high values from the beginning of the disc's surface up to the end.

    - 3T Land results media (I)

    As was expected from the previous Pit measurement, three out of four tested media returned increased values, with Maxell reporting the highest values.

    - 3T Land results media (II)

    Once again, slighlty increased values with BenQ media reaching an average Land Jitter of 56.85ns

    Recording Speed
    Average 3T Pit Jitter (ns)
    Average 3T Land Jitter (ns)
    > 35ns
    Max 3T jitter values (ns)
    Maxell 48X
    60 Pit, 60 Land
    TY 48X
    46 Pit, 50 Land
    NU 52X
    44 Pit, 40 Land
    MMore 52X
    38 Pit, 46 Land
    BenQ 48X
    48 Pit, 52 Land
    MAM SG Ultra 48X
    38 Pit, 39 Land
    TraxData 52X
    60 Pit, 60 Land
    MAM Golden 52X
    44 Pit, 40 Land

    The above table shows that all media returned Jitter values over the 35ns RedBook limit. Looking at the average Pit and Land values, we conclude that the average measurements for most media well and truly overshot the 35ns RedBook limit, but we have to mention that no read errors occurred during the measurements.

    10. Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

    NU Combo DBW-521 - Page 10

    Writing Quality Tests - C1 / C2 Error Measurements

    The C1 / C2 error rate was measured for the recorded discs, burned during the previous writing tests (jitter). The software used was Plextools v2.11 and the reader was the Plextor Premium drive.

    • NU 52x recorded at 52x
    • MAM SG Ultra 52x recorded at 52x

    • MAM Gold Dae R 52x recorded at 52x

    • Maxell 52x recorded at 52x

    • MMore 52x recorded at 52x

    • BENQ 52x recorded at 52x

    • MC US-RW 32x recorded at 24x with new Firmware G306

  • TraxData 52X recorded at 52X with new Firmware G306
  • We had the opportunity to test the writing quality of the NU with two firmwares. Firstly, we ran with version GX01 and then updated to G306. The above screenshots from Plextools shows that the writing quality of the NU changed when the new firmware was installed. As an example, we cite TraxData which had 23.2 average C2 errors with firmware GX01 and 0 average C2 errors with firmware G306.

    11. Conclusion

    NU COMBI DBW-521 - Page 14




    • Good CD / DVD error correction
    • Slow dvd ripping speed
    • 52X CD-Writing
    • DVD-RAM reading support
    • Low DAE speed
    • 99 min Audio
    • Does not handle protected audio media

    While NU was founded in 2003, since then the company has released many desktop and portable writers. The latest combo drive is labeled as 52XCOMBI DBW-521 and is a 4in1 device.

    The user who will purchase this drive will be able to read and write cd media as well as read most known DVD formats. For those who want to get the retail version, they will find inside the package all software needed for recording. authoring and playback.

    According to the specifications, the NU drive is quite a fast reading/writing device. The supported maximum writing speed for CD-R media is 52X which is the current maximum available while 16X is the supported DVD-ROM reading speed. With our tests, we tried to confirm the manufacturer's specifications and check the overall performance of the drive.

    We checked the CD reading performance of the drive with different types of media. The NU Combi drive managed to read all media with fast end speeds, outrunning the 52X maximum reading speed and reporting quite acceptable seek times. We also tested NU's error correction capabilities where the drive performed quite well except for the ABEX TDR 821 test disc which reported errors, despite being the simplest of the ABEX series of test discs.

    The DVD reading tests showed that the NU is a really fast DVD-ROM media reader. Just as with the CD reading tests, the drive managed to surpass the manufacturer's specifications. Fast average reading speed at 12X for single layer and 6X for dual layer, and fast access times were the characteristics of the drive. The NU is also compatible with DVD-RAM media and gave back acceptable average reading at 2X at the end of the test. The DVD error correction tests showed that the NU, while not the best solution for reading old and defective media, its overall performance during the tests was acceptable.

    One of the most interesting parts during the tests was the image copy and burn process with the NU. This is of interest to those who want to buy a writer and are interested in backing up their original CD's. The image making process took more time than we expected but during the burn process, either with the EFM option of Alcohol set to ON or OFF, the drive burned successfully up to Safedisc protection scheme v2.90. That games were launched even on lesser drives.

    The NU drive managed to back up most tested games but proved weak on audio protected media. Although the reported DAE ripping speed was fast, none of the protected audio media we tested was recognized.

    We also burnt CD-R media to test the writing time and quality of the NU DBW-521 combo drive. We repeated the writing process many times in order to check the quality at all supported speeds and also the quality with different media manufacturers. Although the NU supports 52X maximum writing speed under CAV, the drive needed more time than the comparative LiteOn to finish the writing task at 52X with all tested media. Despite this, the quality measurements showed high C1/C2 errors especially with non TY media. This was solved when we updated the firmware to the latest version that was released a few days before.



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