I have had a NEC ND-3500AG drive for a while and I’m very happy with it - although it pains me every day I have to wait for PIE/PIF scanning to become available…
I also have a Plextor PX-712A.
This week I had to replace a semi-defective DVD burner (LiteOn LDW-851S) in my dad’s pc, so I wanted to buy the most dependable drive I could find.
I considered the LG 4163, the NEC 3500, NEC 3520 and the BenQ 1620 (Pro).
NEC 3500s are hard to find, NEC 3520s seem to sometimes have trouble reading at high speeds, I don’t have much experience with the LG 4163 although I see many people recommend it in these forums.
So I decided to buy a BenQ 1620 and then decide whether to keep that for myself and install the NEC 3500 in my dad’s pc, or vice versa.
I installed the BenQ in my own pc (taking out the NEC 3500) and tested it in several ways. Here are some of the things I found out.
The BenQ writes my preferred DVD+R media really really well. At 12x and 16x it outshines both my Plextor and NEC with Verbatim DataLifePlus DVD+R 8x (MCC003)and Fujifilm DVD+R 8x (YUDEN000 T02) media.
The NEC 3500 had the edge in writing quality with Verbatim DataLifePlus DVD-R 8x (MCC 02RG20) - this drive’s preferred media as far as I can tell, but the BenQ was still good.
With Fujifilm DVD+RW 4x (RICOHJPN W11) media the BenQ was WAY better than any other burner I have used (Plextor PX-712A, NEC 3500AG, LiteOn LDW-851S) - writing with a quality close to non-rewritable media!
With Verbatim DVD+RW 4x (MKM A02) media the BenQ was just as bad as the other drives - the disc is readable but PIF values are much higher than specs. Why is this media so bad? I have tried several, and they are supposed to be some of the best DVD+RW but they haven’t been in the four different drives I have burned them.
The BenQ has the ability to scan for PIE (C1), PIF (C2) and Jitter on DVD (CD) media, which the NEC 3500 unfortunately cannot do - although we are all expecting PIE/PIF scanning “real soon now”. C2 scanning on CDs are possible now, but I don’t think C1 scanning is expected?! (Can anyone with a NEC 3520 comment whether the new firmware for the 3520 has made C1 scanning on CDs possible?)
The BenQ can also make simulated burns on DVD+/-R(W) by using the QSuite utility - although I didn’t test this myself.
Finally the BenQ has the ability to bitset DVD+RW discs to DVD-ROM after it has been burned!!! Burn a DVD+RW in any drive and insert it into the BenQ, then use the Booktype Management utility to change the booktype to DVD-ROM - why didn’t anyone else think of this?!
So after all this praise of the BenQ drive, why did I chose to keep the NEC 3500 for myself anyway?
One reason: The ability to flawlessly read copy-proteced audio cds protected with Cactus Data Shield!
The various CDFreaks reviews test the drives’ ability to read copy-protected audio cds, and according to those tests the Plextor PX-712A, the NEC 3500AG and the BenQ DW1620 (Pro) should all be able to read audo cds protected with Cactus Data Shield.
Well the reviewers obviously haven’t tried it with the cd I have: Joss Stone - Mind, Body & Soul (EMI - Made in the EU). This CD is protected with CDS126.96.36.199 and includes deliberate mastering errors.
Using Exact Audio Copy with just about any setting I can come up with, this CD cannot be flawlessly extracted with the Plextor PX-712A drive, the BenQ DW1620 Pro or any of the Matshita drives in my notebook. There are always errors and the extraction is painfully slow. :a
The NEC 3500AG however reads this cd flawlessly without ever slowing down, without any errors, and always with the bit-for-bit exact result. It’s as if the NEC 3500 doesn’t even realize that the cd is protected.
So even though the BenQ DW1620 is an awesome drive with many useful features that the NEC 3500AG doesn’t have, the one unique feature of the NEC 3500 made me chose it over the BenQ. If I didn’t have a Plextor drive for doing PIE/PIF/POE/Jitter/Beta/TE-FE scanning, then I probably would have chosen to keep the BenQ instead.
If I had room for more than two optical drived in my pc (a Soltek QBic 3401), I would have been left with no other choice than to buy yet another BenQ DW1620 drive so that I could keep one for myself - I’m still tempted to buy an external enclosure to make this possible.
Let the flames begin…