Helped by feedback from this forum I decided to purchase the NEC 3520a. My drive is housed in an external BYTECC enclosure connected via USB 2.0. Both OEM drive (1.04 stock firmware) and enclosure came together as a packaged combo from coolerexpress.com.
My system info.:
-Windows 2000 SP4
-Intel Pentium III 800 MHz (w/ latest chipset software installed)
-256 MB RAM
-15 GB HDD (8 GB free)
-120 GB HDD (slave, used for ripping)
-DMA/UDMA enabled (in windows & BIOS) for both primary & secondary IDE channels (unsure if this matters since drive is USB-connected)
-NEC DVD-RW ND-3520A (detailed info. about the drive from Nero InfoTool available below)
-NEC DV-5700A DVD-ROM
-Using ASPI 4.60 and latest versions of CloneDVD, AnyDVD, DVD Decryptor, Nero InfoTool, Nero CD-DVD Speed
-HDDs defragged regularly
-No other programs (including Norton Anti-virus) present during testing, ripping processes
Overall, I am satisfied with the drive's write capabilities.
While CDrs, burnt DVD-Rs read quickly read speeds for pressed DVDs are uncompromisingly slow, capping out at 2X. I learned this was most likely due to riplock on the shipped firmware.
After grabbing version 1.U6 (beta 6) of the modified 3520 firmware by Liggy & Dee and plugging the drive inside my machine (secondary IDE channel, master), I proceeded to flash the drive using BinFlash. At that time I set booktype for DVD+R DL / DVD+R media to 'DVD-ROM'. This resulted in a mild increase in read speeds for pressed DVDs, but no where close to the 8.0X the Nero InfoTool showed that the drive was capable of, let alone the 16X advertised by NEC.
For testing consistency I used a store bought copy of 'Kill Bill' (region 1, dual layer 7.11 GB). Below you'll find test results for this disc from Nero CD-DVD Speed. Results were the same regardless of whether the drive was internally or externally (reason I bought it) attached, or whether software like AnyDVD or Nero DriveSpeed was running in the background to try and maximize drive speed.
The results were reflected in programs like CloneDVD2 and DVD Decryptor where average rip times would normally exceed 35 or 40 minutes. It is not unlikely for a full rip and burn -- at least in CloneDVD -- to take up to an hour to complete. I tried out several other movies (single & dual layer) but read speeds were all the same: sluggish at best.
After doing these tests and reading through similar posts in this forum I still do not understand why the drive is arbitrarily slow reading pressed DVDs. I doubt my system is causing this issue as it more than exceeds the driveâ€™s system / OS requirements which are: Pentium III 450 MHz or faster CPU and 128 MB or higher RAM, 650 MB HDD available capacity and 5 GB free space for creating a DVD image file, Windows 98 / NT 4.0 / ME / 2000 / XP.
Any help or feedback would be greatly appreciated.