Must be the time of season for old NEC drives to die. I had an old 3500AG finally start to die on me. That was the best drive ever. I'm going to miss it.
I decided this time, however, to be contrary and went with a Lite-On drive after much research & I haven't been disappointed yet. I nearly bought a 7241, though. The user reviews here are awesome, but Lite-On edged it out on features this time around.
I'm sure you'll be happy with whatever you buy. It's hard to buy a bad drive these days if you're half-way paying attention to things.