Search Wirecutter For: Search Reviews for the real world Browse Close. Browse Close. Updated October 3, 2017. After a new round of research and testing, we’ve decided that our new external DVD drive pick is the LG GP65NB60.
If that model is unavailable, get the LG SP80NB80 instead. Our external Blu-ray drive Show more. After a new round of research and testing, we’ve decided that our new external DVD drive pick is the. If that model is unavailable, get the instead.
Our external Blu-ray drive picks, the and, remain the same, and if the Pioneer models are unavailable we recommend the. If the GP65NB60 (or any of its color variants) is unavailable, we recommend the because it is just as quiet, and it rips and burns DVDs at about the same speed. Roughly the same size as our top pick, the SP80NB80 has a matte case that shows fewer fingerprints. It also connects via Micro-USB, a cable type that’s a bit easier to find and replace than Mini-USB. However, this drive costs significantly more than our pick when not on sale, and currently it’s available only at. Depending on the price, you might also have to pay for shipping.
Best External Dvd Drive Mac
If you have a big Blu-ray collection to digitize and only rarely use DVDs, or if our Pioneer Blu-ray pick spikes in price, get the instead. Compared with our top Blu-ray pick, it’s about 30 percent faster at ripping Blu-ray discs—which comes out to around 15 minutes per disc—and slightly faster burning them, for about the same price. But if Blu-rays are more of an occasional need for you, and you mostly use DVDs, our top pick is a better choice. The LG WP50NB40 is also louder, and a bit larger and heavier, than the Pioneer drive. Kevin Purdy has been writing for Wirecutter since 2013, testing and assessing products both subjective and seemingly inscrutable.
He has written guides to, and many more items with small differences between them. Kimber Streams has covered technology for six years, and has been a PC expert for Wirecutter for more than three years. They’ve tested hundreds of laptops, even more storage devices, and way too many peripherals—including wireless mice, mechanical keyboards, and optical drives. Who this is for. With the ubiquity of streaming services, cloud storage, and (slowly) increasing broadband speeds, many people no longer need optical discs, and most new laptops don’t have optical drives. But plenty of people still need to use such a drive occasionally, whether to play a movie on DVD or Blu-ray, install software that isn’t downloadable from the Internet, or back up data or a personal media library.
If you still need an optical drive, but only sometimes, you’re better off getting one that connects via USB rather than buying a chunky laptop with a built-in drive. Over years of testing, we’ve found that external optical drives have few big differences between them—they tend to look alike and perform similarly. If you already have an optical drive that serves you well and works with the discs you have, you won’t gain much, if anything, from upgrading to one of our picks. If you still need an optical drive, but only sometimes, you’re better off getting one that connects via USB rather than buying a chunky laptop with a built-in drive. Any drive that can rip and burn DVDs or Blu-rays can also handle CDs just fine.
We didn’t test CD-only drives because they’re almost impossible to find, DVD drives are inexpensive, and very few people who have CDs don’t also have DVDs or Blu-rays. You also shouldn’t buy a portable drive for a desktop computer that has room for an internal drive, because drives with a dedicated power source tend to be faster and cheaper than portable USB-powered options. Nor should you buy one to use with a tablet. How we picked. The most important features for an optical drive are speed, size and weight, and noise. Price and availability are also important, as we’ve seen models disappear completely or become fare for third-party price-gougers as optical drives become less necessary to most people. The drives we tested all operated at about the same speed; since most people use these drives only when necessary, it’s not worth spending four times as much to get something that’s notably faster, especially since faster drives are also bulkier.
The following attributes are what you should look for in a portable optical drive, whether it’s a rarely used make-do or a semi-frequent laptop-bag item:. Read and write capability: DVD drives must read and write DVDs and CDs, and Blu-ray drives must read and write Blu-rays, DVDs, and CDs. (We’ve found a few optical drives that can read, but not write, Blu-rays.). Speed: The speed of an external drive has two components, namely the drive’s read and write speeds, and the speed at which data travels between the drive and the computer.
Theoretically, a 6x Blu-ray drive, for example, should need only a USB 2.0 connection, since the drive writes at a, and USB 2.0 reaches about 35 MB/s. In practice, however, the USB 3.0 drives we tested (such as our top Blu-ray pick) were faster than the USB 2.0 models. Most affordable models use USB 2.0. Size and weight: About 74 percent of the more than 300 people who responded to our survey said they used their external optical drive only at home, but enough people travel with one that both size and weight are important considerations. Plus, a more compact drive is easier to store when you’re not using it. Noise: All optical drives make noise, but the drive shouldn’t drown out, say, the movie or show you’re trying to watch.
Sturdiness: Few external disc drives are pretty, but the case shouldn’t fall apart under light pressure, the connections shouldn’t be wobbly, and the buttons need to work when you press them. And here are some features that are nice but not crucial:. Usable movie-playing software: Our survey found an even split between people who told us they needed their drive to include software to play Blu-rays and DVDs and those who said they already had software or preferred free (but potentially illegal) alternatives. (To learn more about these free alternatives and what makes them illegal, take a look at the section.) Nearly every external drive from a known brand comes with CyberLink Media Suite for Windows, including all the drives we have most recently tested. Bus-powered (single-cable) operation: Most recent computers provide enough power to run an optical drive off a single USB cable, but some older laptops (such as the 2010 MacBook Air) don’t provide enough juice to a single port. For those computers, you’ll need a Y-cable that plugs into two USB ports to power the drive. Drives that come with a Y-cable, whether built-in or separate, provide some handy foolproofing.
We didn’t test larger external drives that required their own power cord, as we saw those drives as being too expensive and bulky for most people’s needs. With those criteria in mind, we scoured retailers for the best-selling and top-rated optical drives, and we checked manufacturer websites for models released since our previous update. How we tested. We tested each DVD drive finalist by ripping an file (creating a full copy of the disc) from a test DVD of video files using on Windows and the Disk Utility app on macOS, with each drive connected to USB 3.0 ports on each computer. We burned the ISO files to a and timed each process. We also ripped and burned a test DVD to compare times between older drives and potential new picks. For Blu-ray drives, we repeated the above process with a Blu-ray, and used both ImgBurn and MakeMKV to rip and burn to a disc. We assessed DVD playback using the Criterion Collection DVD of Dazed and Confused and Blu-ray playback with Pacific Rim.
As we tested, we took note of how easy it was to insert and retrieve discs from each drive, and we paid attention to the noise each drive produced. We also showed the drives to a handful of people for design comparison, and noted how sturdy the drives, buttons, cables, and plugs felt. Our pick for DVDs: LG GP65NB60. If you don’t need a drive that can read and write Blu-rays, you should get the or one of its color variants (, or ).
Its burning and ripping speeds are in line with those of other DVD drives, plus it’s inexpensive, thin, and light. While it’s only a third of the price of a Blu-ray drive, if you think you’ll need a Blu-ray drive at some point, the better option is to than to have to buy a second optical drive later. The GP65NB60 ripped and burned our test disc at roughly the same speeds as the other drives we tested, give or take a few seconds.
On a MacBook Pro, all the drives we tested ripped and burned the same DVD within a minute of one another. We saw a couple of exceptions on Windows—the Dell DW316 was much slower to burn, and the Samsung SE-208GB (our prior pick) was much faster at ripping—but a few seconds’ difference in a 30- or 50-minute operation won’t affect most people. The LG GP65NB60 posted the same speed as most other drives we tested, except for our prior pick’s exceptionally fast Windows ripping. Though the LG GP65NB60 is significantly better than many of the drives we researched, not many things distinguish this model from our runner-up. It’s slightly lighter, at 0.43 pound, and slightly more compact, at 5.6 by 5.4 by 0.6 inches (though the differences come down to tenths of an inch). Its included 2-foot-long Mini-USB cable feels a bit sturdier than the Micro-USB cable of the runner-up.
(If you need a Y-cable to connect to an older computer, should do.) Other than that, it’s mostly the availability and the price that give the GP65NB60 its edge—this model is almost always cheaper, and it’s available from Amazon, with free shipping for Prime members, unlike our runner-up. The LG GP65NB60’s protruding eject button is slightly easier to press than the flush buttons of other drives. This LG drive’s activity-indicator light and eject button are on the front of the disc-loading tray, as with most portable disc drives. The button’s slight protrusion makes the tray a little easier to open than on drives from Dell, and even other drives from LG. This design is not as convenient to see or use as a top-mounted light and button, but we had no problems ejecting discs during our tests. The GP65NB60’s noise was noticeable but acceptable during our movie-watching, and similar to that of other DVD drives we tested this year. The GP65NB60 is coated in a shiny plastic that picks up fingerprints and dust.
It seems like it would scratch easily, but in our tests it survived quite a few stuffed-backpack trips unscathed. The drive has the words “Slim Portable DVD Writer” printed on its top in thin gray type, in case you might confuse it for a book or a pill case. Like all the other drives we considered, the LG GP65NB60 comes with CyberLink software for writing and playing DVDs, and the software is okay at doing those things. The drive supports writing and reading, which purportedly provides longer archival life for your discs (though the tech hasn’t been around long enough for anyone to know for sure). LG covers the drive with a one-year warranty.
Our pick for occasional Blu-rays (but mostly DVDs): Pioneer BDR-XD05B. Compared with the LG, the Pioneer was faster at ripping and burning DVDs but significantly slower at ripping Blu-rays. The Pioneer BDR-XD05B was the fastest optical drive we tested at ripping DVDs, at 15 minutes, 44 seconds.
That’s less than half the 32 minutes it took our top DVD drives to rip the same DVD, and just about half the ripping speed of our Blu-ray runner-up pick. But the Pioneer was slower at ripping Blu-rays than the two LG Blu-ray drives we tested, taking 53 minutes to rip our test disc on a Windows computer, compared with 37 minutes for our LG runner-up pick. If speed is a concern for frequent Blu-ray ripping or writing tasks, you should get our or invest in a dedicated internal Blu-ray drive for a desktop computer; otherwise, for reading Blu-rays and DVDs, and occasionally burning either one, this Pioneer drive is the best option. The Pioneer BDR-XD05B has a USB 3.0 connection, unlike the many models that use USB 2.0. Of the Blu-ray drives we tested, the Pioneer BDR-XD05B is the smallest (5.2 inches wide and deep), thinnest (0.6 inch thick), and lightest (9.2 ounces, including the cord). Its black plastic case is matte, unlike the case of our DVD pick, so it’s less prone to showing fingerprints and dust.
In our tests, the Pioneer could get pretty noisy when ripping and burning discs, but it was a little quieter when playing a movie. The whine of the drive was audible (but not overwhelming) during playback of quieter dialogue scenes, and we couldn’t hear it at all over Pacific Rim’s Jaeger-on-Kaiju action. If our top pick for DVD drives sells out or jumps in price, you could buy the and get the same performance and a slightly better design, though at a price that fluctuates and sometimes requires paying a shipping fee. In our tests, it read and wrote DVDs at roughly the same speeds as our top pick, often within just seconds.
Its matte surface is a bit more attractive and less scratch-prone than that of our top pick, and its Micro-USB connection, rather than Mini-USB, means that most owners would rarely be stuck without a cable nearby (or, at the least, available at a drugstore). But the SP80NB80 is available only through Best Buy, Fry’s, and more obscure outlets that all charge for shipping under a certain dollar amount. As of this writing, its price fluctuated between $40 and nearly $25, with the lower price just below the $25 threshold for free shipping at most sellers. Faster for Blu-rays, slower for DVDs: LG WP50NB40. If our top pick drive for Blu-rays is unavailable or its price spikes, we recommend the, especially if you rip and burn Blu-rays more often than DVDs or plan to digitize a large Blu-ray collection. In our tests, it was about 30 percent faster—or roughly 15 minutes faster per disc—than the Pioneer at ripping Blu-rays. It was a couple of minutes faster at writing Blu-rays, too.
But the LG WP50NB40 was considerably slower at ripping and writing DVDs on Windows—in ripping a DVD, most of the DVD drives we tried were about 85 percent faster. This LG drive’s activity light and eject button are on the front of the slide-out tray, as opposed to the Pioneer’s flip-open clamshell design with a corner button.
That front placement makes the LG drive’s eject button a little harder to press with confidence. The LG drive is about half an inch wider and longer than the Pioneer drive, and it weighs about a tenth of a pound more. As for the looks, it’s a flat, black box covered in matte plastic, much like the others. Playing DVDs and Blu-rays.
Microsoft doesn’t include native support for DVD or Blu-ray playback in Windows 8 or 10, likely because the required codecs are expensive and that cost would be passed on to everyone who buys the operating system. The included with macOS allows Mac owners to play DVDs, but that operating system has never supported Blu-ray playback. Windows 7 and earlier can play DVDs just fine without additional software, but not Blu-ray discs. To play Blu-ray discs legally on a Mac or a Windows PC, you need to purchase software that licenses those codecs.
The people who make Blu-ray movies would prefer that you watch them on your television, so nobody has an incentive to make Blu-ray playback software that isn’t a dumpster fire, which could explain why nobody does. The included with our favorite DVD and Blu-ray drives is a decent option—more of a small trash-can fire—for Windows users, and similar exist for people running macOS. You can find many free programs that bypass the DRM (digital-rights management) on DVD and Blu-ray discs—encryption designed to prevent you from copying the content from the discs, or even playing them on certain screens—such as or combined with, but none of those options, whether free or paid, are legal to use in the US. As explains, the moment you bypass the DRM of a disc—even if you’re only making a personal backup of media that you purchased or watching a Blu-ray without licensing the codec—you could find yourself in violation of US copyright law. Macworld also addresses some common questions about the legality (and morality) of DVD ripping in. You can find many free programs that bypass the DRM on DVDs and Blu-rays, but none of them are legal in the US.
In October 2015, the to the (the mechanism by which publishers get material in violation of copyright taken down) related to DVD and Blu-ray footage, but, those exemptions apply only to “documentary filmmakers, ‘noncommercial’ videos, multimedia e-books containing film analysis, college professors and students with educational purposes, and kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers with educational purposes,” and only if their usage meets certain conditions. Copyright laws could possibly change in the future, similar to the, but until then we recommend treading with caution if you consider using software that bypasses the copy protection on DVDs and Blu-rays. The competition.
We eliminated any DVD drives that cost more than $40 and any Blu-ray drives that cost more than $120, as well as any models that didn’t both read and write discs, and any that had poor or few reviews on Amazon. We also eliminated older versions of currently available drives, and we didn’t retest anything we’ve ruled out since we first published this guide in June 2013. The burned and ripped DVDs at about the same speeds as other drives we tested in 2017, but it currently costs more than our picks, and its silver paint scratched a few times in our travels. It’s a fine drive otherwise, and worth the investment if you can find it on sale.
The was our previous top DVD pick for this guide, due to its uncanny speed at ripping DVDs in Windows and its convenient top-mounted eject button and light. But it’s no longer available consistently at its prior price, and Samsung seems to have discontinued all of its optical drives. The same lack of availability eliminates the and the, also former picks. At this writing, the (aka the Buffalo MediaStation) costs more than our picks, but in our tests it ripped and burned DVDs at roughly the same speeds. It’s also a half-inch bigger on one side.
The built-in Y-cable is worth paying for only to someone who travels a good deal with a low-power laptop. The is cheaper than our picks—and feels like it. This model ripped and burned at roughly the same speeds in our tests, but the USB connection felt loose, and we could feel the components of the drive shifting inside the case. In our tests, the was notably slower (by about 15 minutes) at burning DVDs on Windows. It currently costs more than our picks, and it’s not always in stock at retailers other than Dell. If you were buying a Dell laptop and needed an external drive mostly for reading discs, this model would not be a bad add-on purchase, but you can do better otherwise. The was a former Blu-ray drive pick, but the company has replaced it with the BDR-XD05B.
The (MediaStation Portable BDXL) was another former pick for the best Blu-ray drive because it used to be the fastest drive for less than $100. But we received many owner reports of compatibility issues with Macs and different versions of OS X, and the price jumped about $30, so we no longer recommend it.
Even if the price goes back down, we’re uneasy recommending this Buffalo model due to the number of owner complaints. The is large, heavy, and expensive, and it doesn’t come with Windows software. We also encountered several errors when trying to play DVDs that worked without issue on the other drives. A large, heavy desktop Blu-ray drive, the requires a dedicated power cord, and at this writing it’s expensive compared with our portable picks. It’s more than most people need.
The has positive owner ratings and is thin and light, but is too expensive right now. Pawtec’s drives (in, and ) have poor ratings, and the red model does not write Blu-rays.