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Top External DVD Drive Choices and Buying Advice

We thought the market would be over the use of physical discs by now. But even with the latest laptops dropping CD/DVD/Blu Ray drives, disc use is still popular thanks to the advent of the external DVD drive. It is true that compactness and portability are the words of the hour. As a result, notebooks don’t come with a CD / DVD ROM or any optical drive for that matter.

Since a lot of content is still being delivered to consumers physically, use of the external CD drive and its successors is there. However, most of the manufacturers have tried to up the game with more portability and greater power. We considered those, and a number of other factors while compiling our list of reviews and buying suggestions below.

External DVD Drive Reviews for the Notebook Owners

Apart from the two key factors i.e. portability and power, other considerations should be about the noise factor, connectivity, as well as build quality. Moreover, with the introduction of Blu Ray Drives, greater capabilities should also be something you consider. That is if you wish to spend some extra dimes on an external Blu Ray drive.

This will bring us to the next question on the line: how much do you wish to spend, or how much should you spend? Since a Blu Ray drive is also, essentially, a DVD drive and a CD ROM both, we have also included choices for if you want to buy an external Blu Ray optical drive. Whichever type of external disk drive you decide, do visit our buyer’s guide after the DVD drive reviews for some insights.

Best Overall

Best Overall

PIONEER BDR-XD05S

High End Performance and Connectivity

If you can spend a little more than the usual, this Blu Ray optical drive is the only one you want. You get USB 3.0 connectivity, as well as high speeds of Blu Ray reading and writing, let alone DVD and CD burning.

Only when you are making the Pioneer DVD drive to push its limits will you hear it getting a little noisy. Which is possibly the only time we saw something unwanted in this beauty.

Budget Pick

Budget Pick

LG GP65NB60 USB DVD Drive

Unbeatable Performance for the Given Price

We have come across a horde of optical drives but for the asking price of the LG model, not one performed so well. This external disk drive is fast, quieter, and good looking!

This isn’t a Blue Ray drive, but for everyone who doesn’t need Blu Ray, this might just be the pick of the day. LG even put some effort into the build quality which appears quite sturdy.

PIONEER BDR-XD05S External Blu Ray Drive

external dvd drive pioneer blu ray

The first external DVD drive that we tested was the good old BDR-XD05S which surprised us by its lightweight. At first glance, it is a very compact and sleek case with a flip on top. Not only is it a USB 3.0 powered burner, but it is also a Blu Ray drive with fast speeds especially on DVD.

We are pegging it for the best DVD drive, not the best Blu Ray drive because the Blu Ray burning speeds of the model were slower than the competition. However, that isn’t the case with DVD reading and writing. It can reach impressive speeds and burn out far less while at it.

The only time we saw it having, what we call, stamina issues was at the time of burning Blu Ray. Connectivity wise, the USB 3.0 Y-Cable itself is pretty handy for compatibility across devices. It also has a good length so you don’t have to worry about where you can put it.

In short, you can call it an immaculate external DVD drive with satisfactory Blu Ray capabilities (but not the best Blu Ray). Something you are buying because you can pay a little extra for the best use of DVDs.

Pros

  • Compact and Lightweight
  • No Noise Issue at Regular Speed
  • Fast Speed
  • USB 3.0

Cons

  • Noisier At Faster Speed
  • Slow Blu Ray Ripping
  • Expensive

ASUS ZenDrive U7M

While the external Blu Ray drive above would set you back by a 100 bucks, you could spend about half of that if an external DVD drive is what you want. ASUS has a variety of price points in their products, but the ZenDrive U7M isn’t at the high end.

Moreover, it boasts 8x DVD write speeds which is better than what Pioneer offered above. The ZenDrive is even comparable to it in terms of size and portability, with its 13mm sleek profile. That is better that what most of the others can offer!

Not only is the USB DVD drive compact, but it also comes with the Cyberlink Power2Go bundle, which is essentially a security arrangement by ASUS. With the in-built software, you can back up data on the go and also make life easier for yourself when burning DVDs. Power2Go also allows you to encrypt files with a password.

Other than that, the external DVD drive comes with M-Disk format support. This means that you will worry less about data being degraded and worn out on the disks. Given all these factors and the aesthetics of the ASUS ZenDrive U7M, even the asking price is reasonable.

It is true that the cord could become a tripping point because of its shorter length. Or the fact that it is only a USB 2.0 and not the latest versions could be the reason why you choose something else. Yet, if you are fine with these two problems, go no further!

Pros

  • Compact and Lightweight Profile
  • M-Disk, Cyberlink Power2Go Support
  • Fast Performance
  • Justified Price

Cons

  • No USB 3.0 Support
  • USB Cable is Shorter

Apple USB SuperDrive – Official External DVD Drive by Apple

external dvd drive superdrive

One word that is consistent with the builds of all Apple products is “premium aesthetics.” From the first look you’ll want to own the external DVD drive by Apple. Its scratch resistant aluminum body gives you all the grandeur you need on your workstation. But that is if you are an Apple user only since it is not supported by any other devices than the Macs.

Connectivity is a task with the Apple USB Superdrive, but not if you are an avid Apple user. Here’s how compatibility goes: it is directly compatible with MacBook Pro with Retina display, MacBook Air, iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro. For models that come with Thunderbolt 3 (Type C) you will require a converter to patch the USB-C with USB Adapter. Which, is an extra cost.

Moving on to the performance aspects. For burning DVDs, the external DVD drive can promise you something between 6x and 8x. But CD burning goes up to 24x. So we can say that burn speeds were good on all the fronts. Since it is made specially for the purpose by Apple itself, you can expect it to work seamlessly across your devices.

Talking of, you will not need any software installation too. Just plug and play this beauty and store, backup or play all you want!

Last but not least, price points have always been a topic of differing opinions between Apple users and non-Apple users. So let’s just say that the 70 or so bucks you spend on this one are justified pleasure for your Apple devices.

Pros

  • Great Performance
  • Impressive Build and Design
  • Seamless Use

Cons

  • No Support for Non-Apple Devices
  • Price Point

LG GP65NB60 USB DVD Drive

external dvd drive LG

If we had to pick one product was great at performance as well as the top budget external DVD drive, it would be this model from LG! For such a low asking price, it gives you all sorts of diversity possible in terms of color, portability, USB 3.0 and across board connectivity.

While testing for DVD writing speeds it achieved up to 8x while CD writing was faster at 24x. Incidentally, this is the same that the more expensive Apple USB Superdrive promises. The GP65NB60 at test at least comes at par with competitors, which is saying a lot for its price.

Moreover, the noise element was less intrusive. We are not saying there was no sound at all but it was nothing more than bearable. The external optical drive also has the in-built Cyberlink software for data protection as well was ease of DVD and CD writing.

It does not even look so economical with a sleek finish on top of either black, silver, gold or white. The size is quite compact and the company provided USB cable also does its job well.

Pros

  • Very Affordable
  • Great Performance
  • Sturdy Build and Design

Cons

  • No Blu Ray Support

Dell DW316 Optical Drive

external dvd drive Dell

Some of the best external disk drive options we came across have promised 8x DVD writing speeds and 24x CD writing speeds. Yet, it is the Dell optical drive that truly reaches that point in the most trying conditions.

The DVD drive comes packing lightly. Although there are other external DVD drives that are lighter, its 200 grams weight isn’t too much of a burden even when you are backpacking. It is also just a millimeter thicker than the LG model we reviewed above.

On the flipside, it is not supported by a USB 3.0 connection, so it is fair to say that some devices and some speeds will be inaccessible. Nonetheless, the USB 2.0 is still so widely used that it won’t matter for many of us.

Just to cover all bases, Dell has also pre-installed CyberLink Media Suite which will be your assistant in burning DVDs or CDs and other operations related to the disk drive. Last but not least, the design appears very decent and sleek but the glossy areas start appearing dirty too soon.

Pros

  • Affordable Price
  • Writes and Reads Fast
  • Sleek Design

Cons

  • Only Supports USB 2.0
  • Glossy Face Gets Dirty Soon

Buyer’s Guide

    Power is a broad category to explain the performance as well as the performance metrics you should keep in mind when buying an external CD drive or any upgraded versions. You are going to look at reading speeds, writing speeds as well as the cache memory.

    These days, most of the DVD drives offer 8x reading speeds for DVD and 24x reading speeds for CD. Moreover, DVD writing speeds hover between 6x to 8x, and CD writing speeds at 24x.In case of the buffer / cache memory, look for anything around 1MB.

    There are two aspects here. In a layman’s words, how you connect the optical drive with the computer, and is it compatible with it or not. For the first part, the quest is fairly simple: almost all the external DVD drives come with a USB connection. Your choice is between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, based on speed requirements, and your device requirements. Most of the high-end products come packing a USB 3.0, by the way.

    Moreover, there are only a few products out there that are exclusive to some platforms. Yet, one of those managed to perform among the best in our reviews: the Apple USB SuperDrive. Most of the times, this is the case between Apple and non-Apple devices only.

    Naturally, when you are looking to buy the best external DVD drive out there, you will want it to be of good quality in every sense of the word. The shape and form of the optical drive as well as the material used in making the case of the USB DVD drive say a lot about how long it will last.

    There are some models that have casings made out of plastic while others like the Apple USB Superdrive go with aluminum and metal. In both the cases, you can get durable, solid builds.

    Imagine you’re watching one of your favorite movie scenes and there is this inconsistent but bothersome hum that keeps grabbing your attention. Not that you should keep looking for an external optical drive with NO noise, because that might be an impossible task. But despite the expected noise of a CD ROM, there are models that manage to make the sound either less audible or less disturbing.

    When we talk about an external DVD drive it essentially means one that doesn’t support Blu Ray but does support CDs. However, an external Blu Ray drive, in all its functions is a DVD drive as well! So the question arises, do you want to jump to the higher quality at an extra cost?

    Yes, Blu Ray is much better in almost every sense, but a USB Blu Ray drive is more expensive too. It should be a choice you make on whether there will be a need for Blu Ray capabilities and whether you want to spend on that.

    What is a Blu Ray Drive? How is it Different from an external DVD drive?
    For the uninitiated, Blu Ray is a format of optical discs and it is the successor to the DVD format. Comparatively, a Blu Ray drive plays Blu Ray, DVD as well as CD but a DVD drive can only play DVD and CD formats. Quality wise, Blu Ray is far superior to DVD and is used for HD video as well as larger chunks of data.

    What is meant by the speed of a CD or DVD drive?
    Speed of an external DVD drive or CD drive is the measurement of how fast it can read a disc inserted by you and also, how fast it can burn the disc for you for data storage. You can expect some of these products to read and write DVD at 8x, but there are much speedier versions also, which come for a higher price of course.

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