YSS DVD reviews
Actually, the reviews are already out and you can see dozens of PI/PO scans for many, many DVDs at YSS Japan DVD reviews website today.
(Use bablefish.altavista.com to translate)
Basically, after reviewing the Pioneer 109 vs. Plextor 716a, I think the Pioneer is a little more stable and better overall (based on the PI/PO error scans at this website). In real life, i have both, and the preliminary 16x Verbatim +R scan I've done has the Plextor with 3x higher PI errors vs. the Pioneer (although both are very, very low). Pioneer just released their 1.17 firmware, so I can only expect even better results. The 2.4x DL +R Verbatim burned at 4x & 6x PI/PO scans are also excellent (see Pioneer forum, my :: Good & Bad Media :: thread), with PI well under 40 on the 2nd layer (ie. excellent burn, esp. at 6x!). I don't see the YSS Plextor DL burns looking as good (haven't tried a DL on the PLextor yet - just got it a few days ago), so I don't expect the Plextor to be as good on DL media.
In any case, there are pluses and minuses of both drives - the Plextor is very quite opening the tray; the Pioneer noisy. The Plextor has PI/PO scanning as a included feature (yes, you can do it on Liteon, etc. but only 3rd party support) and follows the professional PI/PO scanner closely at www.cdrinfo.com's review (ie. you can rely on the PI/PO scans; vs.the Liteon, which don't follow the pro scanner curves, thus you don't know what's really going on). The Pioneer reads DVDs faster than the Plextor, so you don't wait so long for a disc insert to be detected. The Plextor gobbles up a lot more power than the Pioneer (making use in a 3rd party enclosure difficult - you have to find one that has enough Amps). The Plextor has an excellent manual; the Pioneer is a basic one. The Pioneer sells cheap at www.newegg.com; the Plextor is $99 and more expensive this week at bestbuy.com after rebate.
But here? I got both because 1) I need a low PI/PO, reliable burner for making data/video burns (so the Pioneer), but I also need 2) a reliable scanner that provides more than just PI/PO scans (Land/Pit/Jitter/etc.) and follows the professional disc scanner curve trends closely (so the Plextor).
Burn on Pioneer, scan on Plextor to ensure a quality disc was made.
But, both are great if you feed them good media -- eg. Maxell or Verbatim. So you can simply decide to buy just one of the two today, and not really worry much about which you're using - both will have very low PI/PO error rates on these discs.
As for burning on cheapies, just about any drive will do, but you must find out first if the drive can burn okay to that particular brand (set) of cheapies you'd want to use. Sadly, it's a trial & error here because cheap = may simply never burn right, esp. so with higher speed cheapies.
The quieter tray opening/closing of the Plextor is noticable in a quiet environment.
Anyways, the NEC most likely won't beat either the Pioneer or Plextor since the Pioneer has their laser focus adjusting liquid crystal lens to focus a lot better on the 2nd layer, and both have among the longest experience is building CD/DVD drives around (Plextor pioneered CD burning; Pioneer did for DVDs - after all 109/A09 = 9th generation release of their DVD burners or so - there's at least the A03, A04, A05, A06, A07, A08, and A09 that I recall). And in the end, the Plextor does have the company released Plextools and PI/PO scanning so you know that you're not getting strange results ala 3rd party tools (like CDSpeed, KProbe, DVDInfoPro) with drives that were never 'intended' to do PI/PO scanning well from the start (they can, but the scans do make sense -- eg. Pioneer A06 reports terrible 2nd layer errors; the Liteon 812s reports the opposite, terrible 1st layer errors, on the same DL disc that scans just fine on the Plextor - and plays fine too -- ie. A06 & 812S are terrible PI/PO error scanners).