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NEC ND-4551A: Labelflash Larry

Tired of scrawling illegible labels on CDs? Check out this writer that can print labels directly onto your optical media

Nothing beats blank CDs and DVDs for casual file-sharing. They hold a decent amount of data and can be discarded without the sickening feeling of financial loss you'd get from throwing a costly 4GB memory card out the window. Our only gripe with optical media is that labelling is a nightmare.

Until now, that is. Jaded by the tediousness of deciphering our own illegible scrawls from a thousand rewritables, we've resorted to using the NEC ND-4551A drive with Labelflash technology.

It's the world's first DVD burner with Labelflash, a system that lets you burn custom motifs, text or images to the top side of blank DVD media. The idea is that it does away with cumbersome paper labelling systems, which could affect the reliability and accessibility of your data.

We tried it out this morning between bouts of staring longingly at the newly arrived London sunshine, and we're quite impressed. It's not perfect -- Labelflash drives can only recreate 256 greyscale shades on special blue-tinted Labelflash discs, but it produces semi-professional results.

Text is crisp, and although images aren't in full colour, they're still produced at a good resolution with good contrast. Crave thinks Labelflash discs look better than HP Lightscribe discs, which work in a similar fashion. Our only gripe with both technologies is that is can take up to 30 minutes to burn a detailed label at their highest quality settings. It's a lot faster at the lower quality settings (as quick as 5 minutes), but at 85p per Labelflash disc, it's worth waiting for the best results.

The NEC ND-4551A costs a mere £30 and writes to every DVD format known to man. If you need a new disc writer, look no further. -RR