NEC ND-3500A DVD Recorder Reviewed

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Back in the January 2003 issue of DVD ETC., we ran a photo of a very frustrated Clint Walker sitting on a sofa staring at an enormous amount of electronic gear on a coffee table. We asked readers to come up with a caption for the photo and many whimsical quips made it to print. However, what most people didn't realize was Clint wasn't reviewing new equipment; he had connected all his home media electronics to capture and edit video and audio. It was a special project, and he wanted an over-the-top production. You see, he and his wife had just returned from getting married in Fiji and they wanted a memorable videotape keepsake of
that blessed experience.

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Clint's image captured on film (35mm, not digital) was before the advent of DVD burners. Video editing software for computers was more experimental than mainstream and output was limited to videocassette recorders. The process to turn a pile of still images, video and music into a flowing montage of a home movie took time, perseverance and a lot of equipment. In short, it wasn't for the rookie. The only way to edit home movies was to invest a lot of time and effort into the project or pay a professional a bundle of money to do it for you.

Today, however, you can walk into a computer store and buy a new PC with all the necessary tools to capture, edit and create movies that rival Hollywood blockbusters. No longer are the tricks of the trade only for A/V techs locked in dimly lit rooms. With DVD recorders and professional grade software available, anyone can capture video, audio, photos and data and transfer material to DVD.

Unique Features
Ranked as one of the world's top technology development companies, NEC has long influenced computer design with their innovative products. New CD and DVD drives are being developed all the time, but NEC was the first to present an advanced double layer 16x DVD rewriter to include high-speed CD recording. The new model incorporates NEC's leading optical storage technology to offer a high-capacity reliable device that is ideal for digital video recording, storage and PC data back-up applications.

The ND-3500A delivers a high-speed write and re-write function, allowing the flexibility to use a wider range of DVD+/-R media. NEC's "high resolution writing strategy" uses advanced laser modulation to increase the accuracy of written data, and an improved version of NEC's Active Optimized Power Control" (Active OPC) to monitor the writing power sensitivity of the media and adjust the laser strength to achieve the best possible results. Buffer underrun error prevention technology makes certain that the media will be recorded successfully,
even if the writing procedure is interrupted.

The NEC ND-3500A has significant performance improvements over previous model DVD recorders. This optical storage device not only supports single layer recording, but double layer recording as well. This increases storage capacity to 8.5 gigabytes on a single disc. In addition, recording speeds have been doubled so that a one-hour DVD can be now be recorded in four minutes.

The ND-3500A internal computer DVD/CD recorder is available in beige, black and silver finishes matching most computer cases. It has an activity LED, eject button and pinhole eject button to insert a paperclip for manual ejection of a disc in case the drive becomes stuck or disabled. It supports Windows 98SE, 2000, Me, XP and XP Pro. Minimum computer requirements are a computer with an Intel Pentium III processor at 800MHz and 256 megabytes of memory. However, to take advantage of advanced DVD recording capabilities, NEC recommends a computer with an Intel Pentium 4 processor at 1GHz and 512 megabytes of memory.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Installing computer hardware into a PC is easier than ever. The only tool you'll probably need is a small Philips screwdriver. I moved away from big name computers with their proprietary closed end construction a few years ago, and I couldn't be happier. I currently use a computer assembled from standard parts off the shelf for an open system that I can change and upgrade as needed.

My generic computer has an Intel Pentium 4 processor running at 2.53GHz. I installed the NEC ND-3500A in my tower to compliment a Sony DW-U10A DVD+/-RW with a write speed of 4x DVD-R; 2.4x DVD+R and 24x CD-R. NEC provides clear instructions that I believe would put most computer novices at ease. The entire drive installation took me less than ten minutes and required the removal of a few screws and plugging in a ribbon data cable.

Final Take
At the conclusion of my test period, I had used the NEC ND-3500A extensively with different copy programs reading and writing varied media. The 16X DVD read speed and 48X CD reading speed was exceptionally fast. There were good error correction capabilities and I only came away with useless discs (read coasters) on one occasion.

The NEC drive is blazing fast. Burning a full DVD in under four minutes was super convenient. I didn't have an excuse to leave my computer during the copy process to go make a sandwich or grab a drink.

The only hiccup I found was the ND-3500A couldn't create working backups with
some Safedisc protected games. The copy protection on these games isn't supported with the NEC driver. However, firmware upgrades for the ND-3500A are available from NEC to address future issues.

Unique Features
A good DVD burner is only as good as the software that manages it, and the new Nero 6 Ultra Edition from Nero, Inc. is powerful stuff. Designed with simplicity for novice users, but packed with complex features for experts, Nero 6 is a simple to use interface that turns your computer into a digital media workstation.

Nero 6 doesn't just copy discs, and it isn't just one program; it's a family of software developed to manipulate audio, data, video, photos and more. For audio applications, Nero 6 can rip, create, edit, and burn audio discs. It includes two audio editing applications (Nero Wave Editor 2 and Nero Soundtrax) for editing wave files in real time with editing features found in much more advanced commercial products. NeroMix the "ply & burn" MP3 application. It allows adjustments to be made to MP3 files with a built-in equalizer and to create custom playlists for portable media players. I thought of it as an on-screen iPod that can play, rip and burn audio files admirably. Nero 6 can encode MP3 and High Efficiency AAC (MPEG-4), rip audio CDs to various formats, record LPs and cassette tapes to CDs and make compilations of your favorite music by mixing titles in various formats.

Read more about the ND-3500A on Page 2.

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