NEC's ND-3540A drive was lauded for its dual-layer writing, but it fell short of perfection on overall performance. With the ND-4550A, NEC has upped its game in single-layer writing, while dual-layer facilities remain, well, emphatic.

NEC has finally added DVD-RAM to the roster. Long championed by LG, this has gained a loyal following through its incredible ease of use, and makes a good alternative to the fiddly rewriteable DVD-RW and +RW formats. But DVD-RAM hasn't found much favour among DVD manufacturers - not in the PC world, at least, although it's a slightly different matter when it comes to consumer electronics. Neither has it been blessed with great speed, but the 5x DVD-RAM facilities provided by the NEC are usable.

But what of the other formats? Well, the NEC offers 16x DVD-R/+R, which is hardly uncommon, but its write times really stand out from the crowd. It wrote 3GB of data to a DVD+R in five minutes and six seconds, putting it right up there with, or very slightly behind, the best in its field. It's not quite as impressive on the rewriteable DVD+RW format, where its 8x speed sees it copy the data in just under six and a half minutes, but compared with the average DVD writer the NEC is now very much towards the faster end.

And then we come to the NEC's party piece. Dual-layer writing is notoriously difficult to assess because available media can rarely match the capabilities of the drives we're testing. Nonetheless, the NEC copied 6GB of data in just over 14 minutes - a magnificent performance. And you'll probably be able to coax more out of the NEC in the future, when media that can really stretch its 8x DVD+R DL facilities become available.

NEC ND-4550A: Specs

  • 48x/48x/32x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) 16x/16x/16x/6x/8x/6x/8x/5x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM) drive
  • EIDE interface
  • storage capacity 8.5GB
  • drive buffer 2MB
  • average access time (DVD) 160ms
  • no software or cables provided
  • 1-year warranty
  • 48x/48x/32x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) 16x/16x/16x/6x/8x/6x/8x/5x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM) drive
  • EIDE interface
  • storage capacity 8.5GB
  • drive buffer 2MB
  • average access time (DVD) 160ms
  • no software or cables provided
  • 1-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

The NEC's DVD-R/+R performance is now right up to scratch, and while the -RW/+RW tests were less impressive, this was more than compensated for by excellent DVD+R DL capabilities. Throw in DVD-RAM and you have a drive that can perform across all areas and perform incredibly well in the majority of them.

Find the best price