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NEC 5500A 8x DVD-ROM Review
NEC 5500A 8x DVD-ROM Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Every time someone buys a new computer he or she faces a dilemma: getting a really fast 50X (or an even faster CD-ROM) or a DVD-ROM which reads both CD-ROM and DVD-ROMs? The answer depends on every individual's needs. Most DVD-ROMs are sold for watching DVD movies and not for accessing DVD discs containing applications since very few applications are distributed in DVD format (and even these also have cd versions).
 95% Rating:   
Filed under: Optical Drives Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: NEC Mar 03 2000   P. Masrani  
Home > Reviews > Optical Drives > NEC 5500A


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 SDRAM
- Hitachi 2500BX 6x DVD-ROM (24x CD-ROM)
- Quantum Fireball CR 13GB
- Windows NT 4.0 service pack 5

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 performance
Second screenshot showing unscrambled DVD speed of NEC 5500a
Third Screenshot showing unscrambled Dvd speed of the Hitachi 2500BX
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 test).
The 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.

The reviewed 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 data.
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...

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Contents of Article: NEC 5500A
 Pg 1.  NEC 5500A 8x DVD-ROM Review
 Pg 2.  CDROM Benchmarks
 Pg 3.  — DVD-Performance

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