Since I bought this
unit 2 months ago, I have been watching a lot of movies without any problem at
all. The 5500A worked fine and played very long DVD movies (for more than 5
continuous hours) without any kind of problem. I¡®ve used the most widely known
players (Windvd, Powerdvd and others). I have measured the performance of this
unit with 3 DVD discs. All 3 DVD discs are DVD films but only 2 of them have
scrambled content (these two gave exactly the same performance) and the third
DVD is not scrambled. I have used DVDspeed (a low level DVD-ROM benchmark),
DeCSS and file copying to measure dvd performance. I have used this low level
benchmark since I wanted to check the seek time of this unit and it is hard to
find DVD's with small files. I have also used a second system equipped with a
Hitachi 2500BX dvdrom:
- K6-350 overclocked to 400mhz
- 128mb 100MHz
- Hitachi 2500BX 6x
DVD-ROM (24x CD-ROM)
- Quantum Fireball CR 13GB
- Windows NT 4.0 service
By comparing the following Dvdspeed screenshots everyone
can conclude that 5500A performs like an average 8x DVD-ROM when reading from
data or unscrambled DVD movies but slows down and performs like a 4.5x DVD-ROM
when reading from scrambled (films) DVD's. This happens probably in order to
increase unit's reliability. If it worked at full speed when playing a movie
then (since DVD movies last a few hours) during that time the mechanical parts
of the DVD-ROM would be stressed a lot (due to continuous operation), the DVD
would get hot and the life of the laser lens would decrease.
By decreasing rotation speed
during film playback the laser lens and other mechanical parts are supplied with
less current and their lifetime expands. The first screenshot shows the DVD
performance using a scrambled DVD disc (came from the first two DVD's) and is of
no practical use since 1X DVD speed is enough for DVD-movie playback and it
makes sense only when DVD-ripping. By using Decss I confirmed the results of
shown by Dvdspeed. In other words the 5500A doesn't rip very fast: transfer rate
begins around 3mb/s, increases and ends up 6.5-7mb/s at the outer tracks while
the Hitachi 2500BX 6x DVD-ROM gets around 3.5mb/s and 6.5-7mb/s respectively.
First screen shot showing Scrambled DVD
Second screenshot showing unscrambled DVD speed of NEC
Third Screenshot showing unscrambled Dvd speed of the Hitachi
When the DVD-ROM reads from the 4th GB
up to the 8th it accessing the second layer, which begins from outer tracks to inner
tracks and that explains the decrease shown at the first screenshot (2-layer DVD).
The second screenshot from Dvdspeed represents NEC's performance when using data or
not scrambled DVD's (I used the third DVD for this
results of this screenshot have been confirmed by timing the file copy process
of each large file of this disc. I have included a third screenshot of Dvdspeed
using the same unscrambled DVD disc on the second test system (Hitachi 2500BX).
By comparing the results between the last 2 screenshots we can make the
following conclusions: Nec 5500A is about 0.7X to 1.5x faster when compared to
Hitachi's 6x offering which isn't a very big deal.
But looking closer to the seek times it is clear that Nec has a
much more superior head mechanism: 95ms compared to 125ms is over 30% faster
seek, the 1/3 seek of 106ms compared to 150ms is 45% faster and 149ms full
stroke seek time compared to the 226ms is 50% faster seek, all in favour of Nec
5500a. In fact these seeks seem to be top-notch since DVD seek time tend to be
longer than CD seek times. In other words NEC's unit performs excellent when
reading data DVD's with many small files and complex DVD structure.
Hitachi 2500Bx has a 3.9sec spin up time while 5500A is only 2.2sec. Of
course Hitachi shows 0 sec spin down time¡well I cannot guess why. In a few
words the DVD performance and characteristics of this unit are really great. It
has awesome seek times, average throughput and very smart technology on handling
DVD film discs.
DVD-ROM drive created minimum vibrations and emits relatively low noise. Its
tray mechanism shows very high quality. Also the spin up/spin down process was very short
which is very good for a 8x/40x unit. Small spin up/spin down
time means that if an application requests data from the DVD-ROM (and the DVD-ROM
wasn't operating for some time) then it will quickly spin up and provide the
This is very common when
playing games which request a file from time to time. One thing to note is that
quite a few years back Nec was producing high-end CD-ROMs which were innovative
and very reliable. It seems that this drive does live up to that reputation.
This model played all DVD's correctly and has nice features (DVD-R, CD-text
compatibility, NEC's special anti-vibration technology, slowing down rotation
when playing dvd movies), it performed all tasks correctly and is rather cheap.
Also the DVD performance
(seek times) is quite good. On the other hand the main disadvantage of the 5500a
is the fact that until now there is no way to break its region locking (at least
you get 5 region changes before locking). Two other significant drawbacks are it
isn't extremely fast (DVD throughput is mediocre, audio extraction is probably
below average) and it doesn't read all CDs like as fast as a true 40x CD-ROM
would. I wouldn't hesitate recommending this unit unless someone plans to watch
movies from all regions. As I said at the beginning, if someone doesn't plan to
watch movies then he should get a CD-ROM drive. DVD-ROMs just offer the pleasure
of home cinema...