Optical drives are the drives you insert CD, DVD or Blu-ray discs into. They were once an essential component for desktops and laptops.
However, times are changing and cloud storage, software and media downloads and USB sticks have ensured a gradual optical drive decline.
Now fewer and fewer laptops include their own optical drives. So if your laptop doesn’t have an optical drive, you’ll need to add an external drive.
There are three types of alternative optical drive. They are CD, DVD and Blu-ray drives. DVDs replaced CDs as the primary disc format, but now Blu-ray discs are phasing out DVD.
Blu-ray discs have the highest storage that is typically in the 25 to 50 GB range, but can be as much as 128 GB. Consequently, Blu-ray is the new industry standard optical drive for desktops and laptops.
So the best external optical drives for laptops are now Blu-ray drives, and they also have backward compatibility with DVD/CD.
One big advantage the Blu-ray format has compared with DVD is that it supports high-resolution video. As Blu-rays have larger storage volumes than DVDs, they’re also better backup discs.
These are some of the best external Blu-ray optical drives for laptops.
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- Plug & play. Easy to use, powered by USB port
- Data transmission speed up to a maximum of 5Gbps
- Eject button
- It supports Windows XP/2003/Vista/7/8. 1/10, Linux, macOS
- The cable is too short
The Rioddas external CD drive a universal CD/DVD drive burner and is compatible with DVD-ROM, DVD-video, CD-R/RW, CD-ROM/XA, CD-ROM, CD-EXTRA, CD-TEXT media formats.
Its max write speed is 24x CD-R, 8x CD-RW, DVD±R: 8X Max; DVD±R DL: 4X Max; DVD-R±9: 2.4x Max, which although not the highest specification is still pretty decent.
Aside from being compatible with both Windows and macOS laptops and desktops, you can also use it with Linux.
Its trendy design ensures it fits in most laptop bags to enhance its portability.
- Not only a reader, but also writer/rewriter/burner
- Supports CD-R, CD-ROM, CD+/-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+/-RW, DVD-R DL, VCD ROM discs
- Faster USB 3.0
- Slim compact design
- The cable is too short (only 8 inches long)
The ROOFULL External CD DVD Drive USB 3.0 (yes, that’s quite a mouthful) is a highly rated optical drive that’s not only a reader, but also writer/rewriter/burner, which allows you to enjoy movies, music, back up data, install software/system, burn discs and more.
This optical drive is compatible with most laptops and desktops running Windows 10 / 8 / 7 / Vista, Linux and all versions of macOS.
It’s also ideal for Apple MacBook Air / MacBook Pro / iMac / Dell / HP / Lenovo / Sony / Samsung / Asus / Acer and more computers.
- Dvdrw (R DL)/ DVD-RAM
- 24x (CD)/ 8x (DVD) read speed
- 24x (CD)/ 8x (DVDR)/ 6x (DVDR DL) write speed
- Pre–loaded CyberLink Media Suite
- Not LightScribe compatible
The Dell USB DVD Drive-DW316 external optical drive is another worth noting. This is a plug and play disc burning and disc playing solution that you can use with a USB port.
This optical drive also has a pre–loaded CyberLink Media Suite to easily play and burn DVD/CDs, or install disc–based computer programs.
As this drive also has USB 2.0 connectivity it doesn’t need an adapter. Only plug the drive into your laptop’s USB port and you can play or burn your favorite DVD or CD.
- Diamond-shaped design
- 12X Blu-ray burning speed
- USB 3.0
- Magic Cinema technology
- A bit noisy
The ASUS 12x Blu-ray Burner is an optical drive with a unique diamond design that you can place either vertically or horizontally. It supports a variety of BD (Blu-ray), CD and DVD video, audio and photo disc formats.
The Blu-ray burner is a BD-ROM, BD-R, and BD-RE optical drive that boasts 12x write speeds. Its DVD and CD write speeds amount to 16x and 40x.
In addition, the ASUS 12x incorporates Magic Cinema Technology that enables 2D-to-3D video conversion.
A few backup software applications are also bundled with the optical drive, which includes Cyberlink PowerBackup 2.5. The optical drive is compatible with Windows platforms from XP up.
- Super slim drive
- External drive
- 6x writing speed
- USB 3.0
- Magnesium body
- It does not come with a blur-ray player software
The BDR-XU03 is a lightweight and compact Blu-ray drive that supports both vertical and horizontal desk placement. It has a 6x write speed for BD-R discs, which isn’t the fastest compared with some other optical drives mentioned here.
This optical drive is compatible with BDXL, DVD and CD discs. The BDR-XU03’s PowerRead ensures smooth playback even for scratched discs. Its PureRead tech also minimizes music playback glitches.
This external optical drive is compatible with Windows (XP – 10) and Mac OS X (10.6 – 10.12) platforms.
The BDR-XDO5B boasts an ultra-compact design that ensures it’s more lightweight and portable than most alternative external optical drives.
It supports all the main disc media formats, including BDXL, and has a max 6x write speed for BD-R and BD-R dual layer discs.
As this is also a Pioneer optical drive, it has the same PowerRead and PureRead tech incorporated in the BDR-XU03.
There’s also a good suite of Cyberlink software bundled with the BDR-XD05B including PowerDVD 12, Power2Go and PowerDirector 10 LE.
The PowerDVD software provides top-notch Blu-ray and DVD movie playback upscaled to high-definition.
The ASUS 6x External Blu-ray Write SBW-06D2X-U was selected the best external optical drive at the European Hardware Awards 2016.
That might be due to its elegant design and ATP tech that provides top-notch disc burning. Users can also burn data to the 128 GB quadruple layer BDXL format among others.
The optical drive has 3D Blu-ray support and its 2D to 3D conversion feature adds 3D to 2D videos and photos.
The SBW-06D2X-U’s packaged software includes Turbo Engine, which enables 6x Blu-ray writing, and Power2Go that provides handy drag and drop burning.
Note that this optical drive needs an extra USB slot for its USB Y-cable.
Those are seven of the best external optical drives for laptops and desktops that have great designs and specifications.
With them, you can play the cutting-edge Blu-ray media format or DVDs at high-definition resolution. They also come with handy backup software and tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
There several good optical brands on the market. Check out our comprehensive list with the best optical drives for your laptop to find what you need.
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