As new computer models arrive on store shelves, it would seem that the good old optical drive has become somewhat of a casualty. Where they were once a virtually guaranteed accessory, more and more laptops these days are shipping without optical drives included. And it’s a shame, too; they can usually hold quite a bit more information than SSD’s, especially with Blu-Ray functionality, and many drivers and applications still rely on them for loading into the operating system.
So when your situation requires an optical drive, buying the right one for you depends on what you need: internal vs. external, Blu-Ray vs. traditional CD/DVD, as well as your budget. Below we’ll compare several optical drives and determine which one is the best overall for everyday use.
Best External Optical Drives
Chuanganzhuo’s External Optical Drive
Note: This Optical Drive is not compatible with MACs, so please choose another DVD-drive on this list.
If you’re looking for the cheapest optical drive on this list, then this is the pick for you. There’s nothing flashy about this optical drive as it’s just a plug and play optical drive for people who need one. The optical drive is USB 2.0, so keep that in mind. The only major con of this CD drive would be the fact that this is made by a relatively unknown developer which might be an issue for some people. Honestly, if you are just looking for a cheap optical drive to run CD’s, and you use windows then this is my top pick.
SAMSUNG TSST SE-506CB
For those looking for exceptional performance with Blu-Ray burning functionality, the Samsung TSST SE-506CB fits the bill. This external optical drive connects via USB 2.0 although it’s compatible with 3.0, and works with Mac OS X as well as PC. Slim, stylish and ultra-thin, this drive works well right out of the box without the addition of any extra software, although updates may be required for some Blu-Ray functions. The drive features triple- and quad-layer BD-R support, as well as BD-ROM, DVD and CD reading and writing capabilities. It’s a solid external optical drive for any platform for someone who is looking for a good Blu-Ray CD Drive. You will be paying a good amount for this optical drive, however, so get ready for that.
LG GP50NB40 DVD/RW
The LG GP50NB40 is a great budget external optical drive that reads and plays DVD’s and CD’s. While lacking Blu-Ray functionality, this drive does pretty much everything else for a very reasonable price. The interface is USB 2.0, and while it’s not the preferred 3.0, some claim that USB speed isn’t a huge overall factor in reading and writing DVD’s. One drawback reflective of the lower price is its lack of durability, as the case is made of a light plastic that would likely break if dropped. It’s also compatible with M-DISC, a great feature at this price point. Overall, it’s an excellent option if you’re looking for a basic optical drive without too many bells and whistles that still has the name brand going for it.
Another budget-friendly external DVD/CD writer and reader, the Samsung SE-218CB is a no-frills unit that will handle most of your optical drive needs. It connects via USB 2.0 and is compatible with 3.0, and seems to play well with MacBooks as well as PC’s. The transfer rate for data is relatively fast, although it lacks M-DISC capability (which is noticeably available on the LG GP50NB40 for $10 less). Still, this unit tends to “just work” across multiple platforms, and it’s likely that whatever your operating system – from PC to Mac to Linux – it should operate fairly well out of the box. This fact alone makes it worth the price of admission.
While it’s the priciest optical drive on this list, the Pioneer BDR-XD05B has one thing that no other external drive featured here has: true USB 3.0 connectivity. Although transfer speed isn’t so much of an issue when it comes to DVD’s, when you get into the information-rich demands of Blu-Rays it makes a significant difference. As well, this unit is one of the slimmest Blu-Ray reader/writers on the market, and the clamshell design makes accessing the disks a breeze. Overall, it’s a powerful Blu-Ray-capable optical drive that should be more than able to handle any disc imaginable.
Best Internal Optical Drives
Internal optical drives offer much of the same features of external drives at a fraction of the price. Take, for instance, the LG WH14NS40, which handles all the functionality of a Blu-Ray writer without the higher price tag. For less than $50, you get the top speed associated with an internally-mounted device married with the ability to write Blu-Ray, CD’s and DVD’s. An excellent optical drive for someone who wants a good drive for a fair price.
For the budget-minded do-it-yourselfer, Lite-On’s IHAS124-14 is a back to basics internal optical drive capable of reading and writing CD’s and DVD’s. While without name branded recognition of LG or Samsung, this unit is one of those lower-priced offerings that just works – software and drivers can be loaded with ease in virtually any iteration of Windows, which are recognized flawlessly. Although there’s not much to write home about regarding the features, it’s a good reliable workhorse of an optical drive when the price is an issue.
Departing from the standard offerings of traditional DVD/CD reader/writers, the ASUS DRW-24B3ST comes up with a couple of interesting features. Its “E-Green” feature is designed to configure the drive’s power usage automatically while “E-Hammer” completely obliterates any residual data while rewriting CD’s and DVD’s. The unit also automatically tunes vibration and tuning frequencies in order to deliver an optimal writing speed.
While lacking the ability to write Blu-Ray discs, the Pioneer BDC-207DBK has several great qualities going for it. For one thing, it’s faster than most drives, seemingly capable of reading the information at a higher rate than its peers. Still, while the price is right, it’s possible to get Blu-Ray writing ability at a lower price, and the speed at which the Pioneer operates has to be considered as a trade-off for that functionality. An overall well-designed model, you might want to consider the LG WH14NS40 in its stead.
What Optical Drive would I recommend?
Ultimately, the type of optical drive you choose will depend on whether or not you want an internal or external drive. If you own a laptop – as more and more of us do – you’ll want to go the external route, which offers ease of use as well as portability. For this reason, it’s pretty clear that the best all-around optical drive is the Pioneer BDR-XD05B. While it’s the most expensive, the fact that it features true USB 3.0 connectivity makes a huge difference when reading or writing Blu-Rays, and since this format is the wave of the future it makes little sense to neglect it when buying an optical drive. However, if your needs aren’t quite up to Blu-Ray specs, then honorable mention would have to go to the LG GP50NB40. Overall, the future is Blu-Ray, and it’s worth taking that fact into account when making an optical drive purchase.
If you’re going the internal route, it really depends on what you want. If you’re just trying to get an optical drive that will allow you to install your OS, I would go with the cheapest option the Lite-On IHAS124-14, but if you’re looking for a fantastic internal optical drive get that has Blu-Ray capabilities I’d get the LG WH14NS40. It’s cheaper than most other Blu-Ray optical drives, but still has all of their abilities.
When I build a PC, I will usually leave out the Optical drive if the budget is tight due to them not being overly important to a build. However, if you have the money I would wholeheartedly recommend you picking up a cheap one at the very least. You honestly have so many choices when it comes to getting an optical drive and whether you get an internal or external is entirely up to you. I hope this post helped you and feel free to check out other posts throughout the site.
If you have any questions about this post or would like to add anything to this conversation. Please feel free to leave a comment below and I will get to it as soon as possible. I do have one last question before you go, however. Do you feel that getting a Blu-Ray Optical Drive is worth it?