For those who have a minute ( or two ), here's my story ...
I've spent the better part of the last 3-4 days scouring through the forums here as well as a few competing (m/b complimentary) websites to decide between the BENQ 1620 and NEC 3520. Plextor is out of my budget, and I'm not that interested in the Pioneer / LiteOn / BTC / AOpen lines.
At first, I was leaning towards the BENQ 1620 because of the reviews and incredible scans I've seen posted througout this website. I don't really have a need for -R media, and I noticed the BenQ 1620 overspeeds really well with +R ( and some -R ) media - ie. along with producing some excellent PIE/PIF scans.
As for media, i basically stick to what's available / on sale @ the big box stores ( CompUSA, Best Buy, Staples, etc ), so I'd essentially be using CMC E01 ( TDK, Memorex, Philips ), CMC AE1 ( Memorex ), MBIPG101 R04 ( Memorex, TDK ), MCC 003 ( Verbatim ), TYG02 ( TY ), and YUDEN000 T02 ( FUJI ). I spent a lot of time researching and comparing scans for these media ( both +/-R ) on both drives, and the BenQ 1620 seemed to have better scans ( though some may consider marginally better ). Esp. the YUDEN000 T02's, there were some incredibly clean 1620 scans even burning @ 12x ( total PIE's at 5,479 - 13,868 and PIF's at 23-110 vs. NEC 3520 @ 12x burn ( 5x scan ) ranged PIE"s at 33,727 - 149,239 and PIF's at 789 - 2,300 ). I did find some nice NEC 3520 scans @ 16x burn ( 5x scan ) with PIE's at 20,809 - 66,787 and PIF's at 59 - 441.
I realize there are many factors that contribute to scans ( heat of the media / burner, temperatures in general, firmwares used, etc. ), but I'm just smitten by some of the great scans produced by the 1620's. I'm probably splitting hairs at this point, but dang-nabbit .. that's what this site has done to me!! Never knew burning a dvd could be so damn technical. On a practical level, if it copies back and plays back, then "it works", right? Haha.
The BENQ's better overspeeding ability, generally lower PIE/PIF scans ( with my targeted media mentioned above ), and faster burn times esp. with +R media ( but also with some -R media - except for SONY 08D1's, which seem to do better on the NEC 3520 ) basically sold me on the 1620 - ie. you get best of both worlds ( speed & quality ). Based on the numerous comments here, I don't plan to use PRODISC media wtih the 1620, and I do realize the NEC 3520 does perform better ( PIE / PIF scans ) on some other media.
Obviously, it's hard to ignore all the posts about BENQ 1620 failures / DOA / heat issues / trays not opening / "smoke" smell / computers rebooting (until the 1620 was physically removed) / marathon RMA sessions / good drives eventually going bad in 1 day - 3 months, etc ... ie. generally quality control problems gone awry. What I couldn't really narrow down was whether this was isolated to OEM, rebadge, and / or retail models.
So, after reading up on the NEC 3520 and esp. seeing the incredible work Liggy & Dee put into their firmwares, I picked up a Mad Dog MD-16XDVD9 ( confirmed by most to be 3520A these days despite the box markings ) from CompUSA for $49.99 after rebates. The 1.UF firmware looked very promising judging by the scans posted here, but the BENQ 1620 still seemed to yield "better" ( obviously this is relative and extremely subjective when you consider what PIE / PIF range is 'acceptable' for your needs ) scans and maintain faster burn times with recent firmware.
I realize there's a very loyal crowd very pleased with their 3500's, and it seems the 3520 isn't quite as beloved as the good ole 3500's. But, I still yearned to produce those 1620 scans i've been seeing over and over here. In general, I wasn't that impressed with the 3520 scans in this site ( here again ... this is just from my perspective, and I'm certainly no authority on this matter ).
Luckily ( and hopefully not unluckily ), I stumbled across this post, and I must say it pulled me right back to where I started ... really wanting a 1620.
So, I placed some calls to NewEgg and BENQ hoping to get some more insight into the quality issues of late. Fully expecting to get the run-around, I was simply hoping for a slip that maybe would confirm that this is a faulty drive. All I got was the usual mumbo-jumbo and typical scripted comments - essentially no comment. NewEgg's people played dumb, and BENQ's technical / suport people gave me the "nothing unusual, just the standard 3% rate of failure" line. The guy wouldn't even acknowledge any heat issues when I tried to point out the new cooling system in the 1640's ... his response was that the 1640's were too new a model for him to comment on ( isn't that his job ... to know this stuff? ).
Well .... I took a chance, and my order went through this afternoon for NewEgg's Retail BENQ 1620 Pro + Bonus cd/dvd's. At $54 final invoice, it's actually a couple bucks cheaper (after taxes) than the NEC 3520 deal at CompUSA.
I'm still concerned about what experience I'll have with this burner. If this were a non-pro ( older stock, possibly more consistent quality control ), I would have no qualms about it. I've essentially got 30 days from today to qualify for NewEgg's cashback ( if defective ) or replacement guarantee. After that, I just have BENQ's 1 year warranty. If this drive is gonna crap out, I hope it does so in the next 30 days so I can get reimbursed on shipping it back to NewEgg.
BENQ's support person noted that if the drive fails within the first 30 days, they replace it with a "new" retail model ( this applies to Retail purchase only - ie. not OEM ). He said they take back the faulty one and fix it up to be a replacement for someone else. So, according to this guy, if the drive failed after the first 30 day period, BENQ will replace your faulty drive with a "refurbished" drive. ??? Is this normal practice? I guess it makes financial sense from their point of view, but I wonder if this is one source of the problems some people have been experiencing with the 1620's and their replacements. Granted, i noted the post about the guy having gone through 3 retail packaged rebadged versions from a big box store to finally get a working one. But, with all the hubbub about addon stickers and mislabeled packaging, I wonder if those too were refurbished drives? I doubt any respectable company would do that .. but, i guess anything is possible.
We've heard from the OEM and rebadged folks who've had bad experiences, but I wonder if anyone who has bought the RETAIL BENQ 1620 Pro drive has had simliar or generally bad experiences lately?
I'm actually really looking forward to getting the drive to start testing it out. In the meantime, the Mad Dog ( NEC 3520A rebadge ) still sits in its unopened box - ie. I've got 21 days to return it to CompUSA for a refund. It'll stay in that box unless this 1620 gets sent back to the nice folks at NewEgg.
Lol .. sorry for the long post, but this website esp. has got me extremely excited about this stuff. Just wanted to pass along my thanks to all those who've contributed and shared their experiences. Really helps noobs, such as myself, get insight into the world of DVD burning.