So far, I've owned three 16X burners, purchased in the following (reverse) order:
- LG 4163
- NEC 3500
- BenQ 1620
In terms of burn quality, I rate them in this order:
The LG 4163 gets my vote as the best one in terms of burn quality (as measured by CDSpeed courtesy of the BenQ 1620). Just about every disc it burns has a significantly lower PIF count than the others. At 8X burn speed it's the fastest burner of the three, typically burning a disc in under 8:00 minutes. It seems to burn both +R and -R discs equally well. It's supposed to be the fastest 16X burner, but so far I haven't found any discs that it will overspeed to 16X, and I refuse to pay the higher price for real 16X discs. Unfortunately the drive does not support quality testing.
The BenQ comes in second in burn quality on the discs that it likes, but it works much better with +R discs than it does with -R discs. At 8X burn speed, it takes about 8:30 to burn a disc. However the BenQ 1620 will overburn many (most?) 8X discs at 12X (with almost no loss of burn quality) and some 8X discs at 16X. Unfortunately, one is left with the feeling that the BenQ firmware could be better tuned - particularly when it comes to both reading and writing of -R discs. Hacked firmware is available (courtesy of ala42) that will allow this drive to read discs at the full 16X (instead of the default 8X). This allows for a verify after write time of about 5:00 minutes for a full DVD, and it allows a movie to be ripped in about 10:00 minutes flat - which is about as fast as it gets. Many people will buy this as a second drive because it's cheap and it supports quality testing.
The NEC 3500 comes in third for burn quality, but it still makes good burns. It overspeeds older discs better than the others (courtesy of Liggy and Dee's custom firmwares), and it burns a wider variety of discs than the BenQ 1620, including most -R discs. However, for 8X burning speed, it's the slowest burner of the three by far (about 9:30 to burn a disc). This drive does not support quality testing - at least not yet (and perhaps never).