Quality scans are done with several different programs, the most popular one is Nero CD/DVD Speed. It is a free download, and comes within the full Nero burning suite as well. What they do is test how well your burner reads back the information that you have burned onto a disk and how the built-in error correction of the drive is being applied. It is NOT necessary to run quality scans on your disks, but you have wandered into the home of media/drive fanatics, so it is a popular activity around here.
The transfer rate test is a simpler test and shows the speed of the drive as it reads through the disk. It is a separate test within Nero CD/DVD Speed and is a pretty good indicator of how well the disk will be read in a drive or player. A smooth curve is what you want to see on the graph of that test. Big drops in read speed indicate some problems on the disk. Again this is the realm of media geeks, so it isn’t necessary for you to run this test, but you can confirm problems with your burns if you happen to get one that doesn’t play well in your dvd player.
$50 should be plenty if you are shopping online. I would recommend Newegg.com, ZipZoomFly.com and Mwave.com as reputable dealers. Newegg’s site is the easiest to navigate.
Media: Taiyo Yuden (usually found online these days) and Verbatim are the two most recommended disks these days. I would stick with these two types for the most part:
8x +R TY, which you can find at www.rima.com www.supermediastore.com or Newegg
16x +R Verbatim which is often on sale at Best Buy
Another alternative would be 16x +R HP brand—going by posts around here, cause I haven’t gotten around to trying these yet. If you prefer -R, I would stick with Verbatim.
None of the newer models of LG, Lite-On or Pioneer should have problems with the disks I’ve listed.
I like ImgBurn for video, so I think you are on the right track using it. With the build function it can be used as a general purpose burning program too. If Nero 6 can recognize your new dvd drive, it should work as well. You might have to update it to the latest version of Nero 6.
Edit: DVD-Ram is a different type of recordable disk. It is re-writable and can be rewritten far more often than a dvdrw. DVDRam disks are fairly expensive though. That Lite-On has the capability to read and write to DVDRam in addition to the regular formats.
OEM means original equipment manufacturer. It is a shorthand way of saying it is not a retail version, so it won’t come with any extras, like software or cables.