The LG will probably do better on 16x media that isn't based on Japanese technology, which is why I said it would round things off nicely for media compatability. The problem with the LG is that it tends to create burns with very high jitter. But if you're friends give you lower end media, then what do they expect?
As for quality testing, both the Pioneer and the NEC suffer from the same flaws in this regard, and I wouldn't consider either one of them a viable solution. Rather, I would recommend running transfer rate tests on the LG drive at full speed. The NEC is too picky a reader for this, although the Pioneer could also be used for transfer rate tests I suppose.
Punch Cards -> Paper Tape -> Tape Drive -> 8" Floppy Diskette -> 5 1/4" Floppy Diskette -> 3 1/2" "Flippy" Diskette -> CD-R -> DVD±R -> BD-R
The Progression of Computer Media