NEC does it again. Another great DVD burner with a twist!
by Harold Spangler

necThe ND-3550A by NEC puts you in the drivers seat by ensuring that working with your storage media, your burns will run smoothly at all times. This high-performance DVD/CD-burner is able to read and write your DVDs at speeds up to 16X.

I talked to the person who reviewed the NEC 3500 unit last year and compared notes. Lots of differences. For instance, last year the unit would only approach (actually, about 7.8X) burning at 16X using a specific manufacturers blank disk. And, as with any burner, the better quality blanks, get faster and more accurate burns.

I must confess I’ve never used an NEC optical drive before, so I approach this with an open mind. In general, I noticed it was heavier than most DVD drives. But what really caught my eye was that after installation, I opened the disk tray and was very impressed with the engineering quality of the tray. I’ve always been a extra careful because trays are usually flimsy. Not this one. It is heavy duty and well designed. You might not think this is a big deal, but the unit runs quieter because the blank sits security in the tray and you’re less likely to make a coaster!

Well, what comes with this unit? I received the unit directly from NEC so there was no audio or IDE cables nor setup manual or software. That’s a typical arrangement. I understand the retail box has a nice software bundle that includes Ulead VideoStudio, Cyberlink’s PowerDVD an excellent DVD player and a few other utilities. I would suggest you put the Ulead on the shelf and get either Nero, Roxio or CyberDirector. Ulead has some very good and useful options and is stable, but my experience has been its sluggish and has a cumbersome interface. Try it first, but watch for sales of the other burner software. If you have WinXP, you already have a nice, basic video production/editing program called Windows Movie Maker 2.

In comparing notes with last year’s reviewer, one notable change has been that this unit will almost burn at 16X (average speed: 13.1X) and writes a full disk (+R by Taiyo Yuden company) in an average of 5+53 minutes. That is impressive for burning more than 4.3 GBs of data. For DL +R writes at 4X, the time was close to 27+02 minutes. Again acceptable write speeds, but I suspect it will be a while before users plunk down a buck or more for a blank DL disk. NEC uses the CAV method which tends to slow down any drive.

For CD-R writes the max speed was 48X (actual: closer to 39X) in 5+02 minutes. I didn’t test the RW of either the CD or DVD. I cannot get too enthused about speeds. NEC’s burners are better than average, but even if they weren’t, who really cares about a minute faster or slower? (If you are on the freeway I can understand the time issue, but not burning a DVD.)

I’d like to see a separate power or activity light on the front of the burner. Except for the aforementioned software program, I just cannot find anything in particular to be negative about. This is an first-rate drive even though it is not the fastest in the pack, but it is reliable and burns a disk accurately. I’d have to say “NEC, you just caught the big, brass ring”. For more info, updates, etc. go

Harold G. Spangler is a HAL-PC member and a senior NASA software consultant who can be contacted at