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NEC ND-3500A review: NEC ND-3500A

The ND-3500A's fast burn times with certain media aren't enough to make this a must-have drive.

Stephanie Bruzzese

See full bio
4 min read

Like most internal drives, the NEC ND-3500A has a simple face, with only an emergency-eject pinhole, an eject button, and a tiny LED status light. Audiophiles will appreciate the S/PDIF digital audio-out port on the ND-3500A's back edge, though they'll have to buy their own cable since the drive doesn't ship with one.


NEC ND-3500A

The Good

Double-layer (DL), multiformat disc support; fast DL DVD and audio CD burning; S/PDIF port.

The Bad

Slothlike DVD rip times; limited, toll-based phone support hours.

The Bottom Line

The ND-3500A's fast burn times with certain media aren't enough to make this an indispensable drive.
NEC ND-3500A
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. (7/1/05)
The NEC ND-3500A double-layer burner has two faces--literally and figuratively. For starters, the internal drive ships in two faceplate colors: black and beige. The ND-3500A also offers impressive speeds in certain areas but uninspiring performance in others. Your best bet for a fast, internal double-layer DVD burner remains the Pioneer DVR-A08XL. And if you can do without double-layer capability, the Plextor PX-712A is still one of our top choices for handling single-layer discs.

Installing an internal drive like the ND-3500A is slightly more complicated than plugging an external USB- or FireWire-based drive into one of your computer's ports, but the ND-3500A's quick-start guide (an electronic version on the included CD) or CNET's own how-to guide can help you on that front. Despite their more complex setup, internal IDE-based drives usually deliver faster speeds than external USB drives.

NEC leaves all of the ND-3500A's software tasks up to one suite--Ulead's DVD MovieFactory 3.5 Deluxe. The bundle offers a handful of capable apps, including MovieFactory 3.5 SE and VideoStudio 8.0 SE DVD for video and DVD creation, editing, and burning; DVD Workshop 2.0 SE for more extensive DVD authoring; BurnNow for basic CD and DVD burning; and DVD Player for viewing discs. Though earlier versions of Ulead's software suite have proven capable, we still prefer Nero 6.0 for burning and creating DVDs.

Though double-layer DVD media speeds currently top out at 2.4X, the ND-3500A has the capacity to burn 4X double-layer (DL) discs once they come on the market (rumor has it that 4X DVD-R DL media will be available in the next couple of months). The drive also provides fast write speeds, burning DVD+/-Rs at 16X. Though NEC claims that the ND-3500A can maintain its 16X write speeds even on 8X DVD+/-Rs, we were able to reach only 12X on an 8X DVD-R disc and 8X on an 8X DVD+R disc. With other media types, the ND-3500A writes to DVD+/-RWs at a respectable 4X and CD-RWs at a satisfying 24X. Finally, the ND-3500A reads DVDs at a quick 16X and CDs at a rapid 48X.

CNET Labs' benchmark testing revealed that the drive is adept in only some tasks. The drive burned double-layer DVDs just a few seconds faster than the ultrafast Pioneer DVR-A08X (in our tests, we used 2.4X DL media, which the NEC and Pioneer drives write to at 4X speed). The NEC also earned one of the fastest audio CD-burning scores we've seen to date. The DVR-A08XL had the last laugh at double-layer DVD ripping, though, completing this job nearly 20 minutes faster than the ND-3500A. The NEC also faltered in our single-layer DVD rip test. The remainder of the ND-3500A's test results in audio CD ripping and DVD+/-RW reading were merely average. We're happy to report that our test disc played successfully in four out of four drives.

DVD movie rip/burn tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
4.4GB DVD Video burn test  
4.4GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)  
Note: * As 16X DVD-R media was not available, the Asus and Pioneer drives were tested using 8X DVD-R, which both drives write to at 12X.
** The BenQ drive was tested with 16X DVD-R media supplied by BenQ.

Double-layer DVD movie rip/burn tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
7.9GB DVD Video burn test  
7.9GB DVD Video rip test (from DVD Video)  
Note: *The Pioneer and the Asus drives write to 2.4X double-layer DVD+R media at 4X.

CD Audio rip/burn tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
74:35 CD Audio burn test  
74:35 CD Audio rip test  
NEC ND-3500A (48X CD-R)
BenQ DW-1620 (48X CD-R)

RW read/write tests (min:sec)
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
4.22GB RW write test  
4.22GB RW read test  

Unless otherwise mentioned, all write tests are run with Verbatim media, rated at the drive's maximum speed. Find out more about how we test optical drives.

The ND-3500A's one-year warranty is standard among double-layer burners. Toll-based tech support for the unit is available only Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. At press time, the ND-3500A wasn't listed in the FAQ information on NEC's support Web site, though we were able to find free documentation downloads for the drive.


NEC ND-3500A

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Performance 6Support 6
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