Fast is a blast, and the price is nice
When a student of the University of California, Berkeley decided to start walking around campus in the buff, the reaction from other students was fairly mild. They called him the “Naked Guy,” and his fifteen minutes came and went. But we think even the most open-minded undergrad would be shocked by this: A $99 dual-format DVD burner that writes to double-layer media at 4x. Now that’s kooky!
Although 4x DVD+R DL media isn’t available yet, the ND-3500A can write to Verbatim 2.4x double-layer media at 4x, just like Pioneer’s DVR-A08. At this speed, we packed a double-layer disc with 8.3GB of data in 27:17 (min:sec), just thirteen seconds longer than the DVR-A08. Writing to 16x DVD+R media, however, exposed NEC’s fiery little demon, beating the DVR-A08 by more than a minute and a half at 5:51 (min:sec). Holy frijole—a spectacular new record!
NEC boasts that the ND-3500A can burn at “up to” 16x using 8x media, too; but in our experience, this worked with only one out of four discs from our prized stash of Taiyo Yuden 8x DVD+Rs. This was a big disappointment, because this feature—implemented so well on most Plextor drives—enables you to get the best performance out of your drive without having to spend a fortune on top-speed media.
It’s not the quietest drive in the world—it’s certainly not as eerily silent as Pioneer’s 4x double-layer burner—but neither is it intolerably loud, even during high-speed digital-audio extraction. Seek times of 117ms for random and 255ms for full stroke are unextraordinary, and our tests showed an unusually high CPU utilization—a drag for anyone with a severely aging system.
Sadly, the ND-3500A is burdened with Ulead’s MovieFactory 3.5 which, once again, gave us headaches in the form of inexplicable crashes; what’s worse, this coaster-ware cost us money when burns failed and discs were ruined. Although we’re far more concerned with the hardware than the software bundled with it, we severely punished Pioneer for bundling MovieFactory with its DVR-A08XLTK because the software can cost hapless users serious amounts of cash. We’re being only slightly easier on NEC because of the ND-3500A’s breathtaking price. --Logan Decker
+ Harold and Kumar: Insanely cheap; extremely fast 16x DVD+R speed; writes to 2.4x DVD+R DL media at 4x.
- Nicole and Paris: Spotty support for burning single-layer discs at speeds higher than rated; ho-hum access times; bad software.