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
4. Chuanganzhuo’s External Optical Drive
- DVD/CD Player+External Dustproof and Scratch-resistant Bag(Black)=Best Companion
- True mobility,it does not require any AC adaptor, No external power is needed,...
- Compact USB 2.0 superdriver,you can play any CDs or DVDs at anytime, but it only...
- With Slim, Light-weight and Shockproof Design, you can put it in the travelling...
- Note when use:Both of 2 USB cables are necessary for use,one provide power,one...
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.
3. LG GP65NB60 External Optical Drive
- 14mm Height Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer Drive
- USB 2.0 interface (up to 480Mbits/s, USB 3.0 Compatible)
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.
At the thickness of a pencil, this external drive offers all the writing options you can think of with the exception of Blu-Ray. The device is also quite silent in use, which is always a criteria when using it with a laptop.
This external drive has .75MB of buffer, which will still write DVD’s at a fast pace. It also has the M-Disk support, which offers extended lifetime of your data.
Obviously, this is a very affordable external drive that has many positives overall. Definitely worth consideration.
2. Samsung SE-218CB External Optical Drive
- INTERFACE: USB2.0 / 3.0 COMPATIBLE
- Buffer Memory: 1.0MB
- DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD+R DL, DVD-R DL, DVD-RAM, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-DA, CD+E (G), CD-MIDI, CD-TEXT, CD-ROM XA, Mixed Mode CD, CD-I, CD-I Bridge (Photo-CD, Video-CD), Multisession CD (Photo-CD, CD-EXTRA, Portfolio)
- Access Time: DVD-ROM - 150MS; CD-ROM - 150MS
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 GP65NB60 for $20 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.
This is one of the best external optical drives as it provides 1MB of buffer for fast burning. An expensive, but great choice.
1. Pioneer BDR-XD05B External Optical Drive
- Clamshell design
- USB 3.0
- Slim and lightweight, Supports BDXL CyberLink Software Silver Retail
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
5. Lite-On IHAS124-14
- DVD+/-RW Drive
- DVD+R: 24X
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.
4. ASUS DRW-24B1ST
- Allows you to permanently delete the data on rewritable discs
- Power saving drive
- Provides you with flexibility and efficiency in terms of multimedia data storage and sharing
- It is a revision of 90-D4CHVV-UB1080
- Drive Type: Internal DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive
Departing from the standard offerings of traditional DVD/CD reader/writers, the ASUS DRW-24B1ST 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.
This is the best selling internal optical drive on Amazon by far.
Likely due to it’s price and with the wicked descriptors like “E-Green” and “E-Hammer””!
3. LG GH24NSC0B
- Half-height Internal Super Multi Drive, Max. 24X DVD-R Write Speed
- CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW/RAM/ +R/RW +/-R DL M-DISC/+M SL read and write compatible, CD Family and DVD-ROM read compatible.
- SATA interface
- Large buffer memory 0.5MB
- Buffer Under-run prevention function embedded
This LG burner is a very affordable option and if it weren’t for a lack of blu-ray playback support it would be the best internal optical drive around.
The LG is affordable and offers a very decent buffer memory of .5MB this will still churn out your DVD discs at a very good rate overall.
The technology that this LG optical drive has inside it (M-Disc) should allow DVD’s to have a longer lifetime after writing. (claim to last 1000 years).
2. Samsung SH-224FB/BSBE
- Interface: SATA
- Burst Transfer Rate: SATA 1.5Gbps
- Buffer Memory: 0.75MB
- Write Speed: 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW
The Samsung is a little pricier than our 3rd best optical drive, but don’t let that stop you.
This Samsung writer will produce DVD’s at a faster speed than the LG given it’s buffer memory being 50% higher (.75MB vs .5MB).
The Samsung also has the M-Disck technology I spoke about in the previous LG section. Again, the M-disk should increase the longevity of your DVD’s.
Again with Sata connection, this is a great choice overal
1. LG WH14NS40
- Drive type Internal 16X Blu-ray Disc Rewriter, M-DISC Support. Access time : BD-ROM is 180 ms typ
- Interface: SATA (SATA 1.1a), Buffer Memory: 4 MB
- Operating System: Windows 7/ Vista/ XP
- Blu-Ray Disc, DVD and CD Family Read/Write Compatible, Write and Read Quad, Triple, Double Layer BD-R Discs
- Sustained Rate: BD-ROM: 575.44 Mb/s (16x) max, DVD-ROM: 22.16 Mb/s (16x) max, CD-ROM: 7,200 Kb/s (48x) max
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.
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 Samsung SE-218CB/RSBS. 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’re reading this and in the market for a new gaming laptop – check out our post on the best gaming laptops under 1500 & 1300.
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?