The middle of 2006 saw DVD drive makers rushing to bring their models up to scratch, pushing up double-layer speeds in the process. Now it seems there isn't much further for DVD drives to go.
Following on from Sony's AW-G170A comes this similar unit from NEC. They're similar for a reason: the ND-7170 marks a collaboration between the two companies.
The Sony is a formidable drive. DVD-R/+R facilities have both been bumped up to 18-speed, while the -RW/+RW speeds are six- and eight-speed respectively. It's also nice to see DVD-RAM included – it may not be the fastest format (it's rated here as 12-speed, which doesn't really reflect how much slower it is than competing plus and minus standards), but it is the most user-friendly.
Double-layer writing is a usable but still slightly laggardly eight-speed. This is fast enough for most tasks – with the NEC needing less than 15 minutes to copy a disc – but 12-speed is surely around the corner.
In terms of raw performance, there's virtually nothing between this drive and the Sony. Both are extremely fast - indeed, as quick as any non-Plextor drive we've seen.
The ND-7170 doesn't have any special features, but an enhanced version, the AD-7173, adds LightScribe. This shouldn't add more than a pound or two to the price, so it's worth getting – even if you only want to print a picture on to a disc now and again.