Most modern-day desktop and laptop computers nowadays don’t come with included optical drives. This is quite understandable, since in the age of high-speed broadband Internet access there is no need for sharing data via CDs or DVDs. However, if you own dozens of discs containing purchased music albums and blockbuster movies, or your precious family photos and videos, then getting yourself an optical disc drive might come in very handy.
Most of today’s CD and DVD drives are external, which means they can be connected to your PC via USB interface, and don’t require any additional power supply which makes them extremely portable. Owning an external DVD drive can be useful in many ways. In case your internal DVD drive breaks, the external one can function as a useful replacement, and if you like visiting your family members and showing them family photos stored on old CD discs, then using an external optical drive can be very convenient. Also, if you are in a need to install a fresh Windows OS installation, you can use your external drive as a boot device.
When buying an external disc drive, here is a list of things to consider before making a final purchase:
- Read and write capability: some external drives are only capable to read and write DVD and CD discs, while some of them are capable to read and write Blu-ray discs as well. There are even drives that can read Ultra HD or 4K Blu-ray discs, however, this is considered to be a premium feature.
- Speed: reading and writing speeds are an important metric of all optical disc drives. If you use your disc drive only to play discs, then any drive will provide more than enough performance. However, if you are looking for a drive which will be used for burning or ripping discs, than choosing the one with the highest speed possible will enable you to do these tasks very quickly.
- Noise: all external optical drives produce noise. This, however, doesn’t mean you should be disturbed by the annoying sound of reading a DVD during the video playback. Some external drives come with noise reduction features which can be a great addition.
- Size and build quality: modern external optical disc drives are very compact and easy to handle. You can easily carry them in your bag, as well as bring them on your business trips. Although they might look fragile, most of these devices are quite sturdy. However, drives featuring cases made of aluminium are consider to be the most robust.
- Interface and compatibility: most modern DVD and Blu-ray drives come with USB 3.0 interface connector, which is great for obtaining maximum data transfer speeds. Cheaper models still feature USB 2.0 which is slower, but still gets the job done. In terms of compatibility, almost all of these devices are fully compatible with the latest Windows 10 and macOS operating systems. They can be used without installing any additional software, which is great for achieving plug-and-play functionality.
- Additional features: last but not least, before purchasing an external disc drive consider its extra features. Although many external DVD and Blu-ray drives don’t require any additional software for use, some of them come with additional playback and burning utilities. Also, some drives come with support for burning discs in M-DISC format, which can be very useful if you are going to use you discs for archiving data.
Best External Disc Drives to Buy in 2021
According to their price, capabilities, and additional features, we have compiled a list of the 7 best external optical disc drives that you can buy in 2021. Here, take a look at our list.
Best Overall DVD-RW:
Best Overall Blu-Ray:
Best Budget DVD-RW:
As you have probably figured out by yourself, we have separated our top picks into seven different categories. Each drive displayed in our list is a winner in its own category. Whether you are interested in Blu-ray or DVD-only writers, or you prefer to pick the most suitable device depending on your budget, there is a category of external optical drives in our list which would surely suit all of your needs. Down below you can read more information for each category winner separately, in order to get more information about its features and capabilities.
Editor’s Choice: Verbatim Slimline UHD 4K Blu-Ray Burner
- High read and write performance
- Supports Quad Layer 128GB Blu-ray discs
- M-DISC ready
- USB 3.0 interface
- Includes additional software for free
- A bit pricy
If you are looking for a high-quality external optical drive that can read and write CD’s, DVD’s and Blu-ray discs at any time, then look no further past this Verbatim Slimline UHD 4K Blu-ray Burner. This device is our best pick, not only because it’s an ideal laptop accessory, but also because it’s made by Verbatim – a company which has been a leader in data storage technology since 1969. Speaking of its specs, this drive can write Blu-ray discs at speed of 6X, DVD’s at speed of 8X, and CD’s at speed of 24X. This drive is also M-DISC ready, which is perfect, as it enables you to make your family videos and photos become eternal.
Although from the outside it might look a very simplistic device due to its slim and minimalistic design, under its metal housing, this Blu-ray writer has everything you’ll ever need to read and write your discs at any time, and any place. Great thing about this drive is that it also supports Double Layer DVD’s, as well as Triple Layer 100GB BD-RE discs, and even Quad Layer 128GB BD-R discs. The drive doesn’t require any external AC adapter, because it draws power from the USB 3.0 connector which also ensures high-speed data transfer. Verbatim Slimline Blu-ray writer also ships with dedicated Nero Burn & Archive software, and comes with a 2-year limited warranty and technical support. Although the drive is a bit pricy, its amazing capabilities and included software make its price well justified.
Best Overall DVD-RW: ASUS ZenDrive U9M
- Great reading and writing performance
- Ultra-slim design
- M-DISC ready
- Very useful bundled software
- Greatly priced
- No USB 3.0 support
- Build quality could be better
If you have no need for reading and writing Blu-ray discs, but still want an affordable high-performance external DVD drive, then ASUS ZenDrive U9M might suit your needs. This 13 mm ultra-slim external DVD writer which supports USB Type-C and Type-A interface, provides two cables to allow data transmission including PC and Mac. Featuring slim and minimalistic design, this drive is a perfect companion to thin and light laptops which lack internal optical disc readers. The drive supports DVD write speed at 8X, and CD write speed at 24X. The device also comes with support for reading and writing Double Layer DVD’s.
Speaking of its extra features, this DVD writer utilizes USB 2.0 interface, and it comes with additional software such as CyberLink Power2Go 8, CyberLink PowerBackup and Nero BackItUp suite, which help simplify the burning process. The included Nero BackItUp application also allows you to perform wireless backup from Android device to your computer, which makes this DVD writer the most robust backup solution currently available on the market. The ZenDrive U9M also supports M-DISC archival format, which enables you to save your lifetime memories and data for up to 1,000 years.
Best Overall Blu-Ray: Pioneer BDR-XD07B
- High performance
- M-DISC ready
- USB 3.0 Interface
- Auto Quiet Mode
- Powerful bundled software
- Supplied USB cable is a bit too short
The Pioneer BDR-XD07B is one of the world’s smallest and lightest Blu-ray and CD/DVD portable burners currently available on the market. Featuring similar specifications as the aforementioned Verbatim Slimline Blu-ray burner, this external optical drive can write Blu-ray discs at speed rate of 6X, and DVD discs at speed of 8X. The BDR-XD70B also supports reading and writing BDXL discs, as well as Quad Layer 128GB BD-R disc, and Triple Layer 100GB BD-RE discs. The drive also supports M-DISC archival format, which is perfect for preserving precious memories and data.
Weighing only 230 grams, this super compact portable device can be easily stored in a personal bag. The drive requires no additional power supply connector, as it draws power from a single USB 3.0 data cable which also ensures high-speed data transfers. Great thing about Pioneer BDR-XD07B is that it comes with CyberLink Media Suite 10 software which allows you to playback high-definition video files, import and edit home movies, as well as burn Blu-ray media discs along with the M-DISC archival support. Another great feature of this optical drive is its Auto Quiet Mode which slows down the reading speed depending on the data you are accessing, all in order to make the drive as quite as possible.
Best Budget DVD-RW: DELL USB DVD Drive-DW316
- Solid performance
- Compact design
- Bundled software
- 60 cm long USB cable
- Build quality feels cheap
- No M-DISC support
- No USB 3.0 interface
The Dell DW316 external USB slim DVD-RW optical drive is a plug-and-play disc burning and playing solution that is perfect for personal home use. This simple low-profile external optical drive can read and burn DVD discs at 8X speed, and CD discs at 24X speed. The drive is perfect for use with home desktop computers, as well as notebook computers which lack internal optical drive. Featuring simple and elegant design, with thickness of only 14 mm, this drive is also ideal for use in small workspaces, as well as high tech cafés.
For data transfer, the Dell DW316 uses USB 2.0 interface, and requires no additional power supply cables. Despite being a budget external optical drive, this device also comes with additional bundled software. The pre-loaded CyberLink Media Suite enables you to easily play and burn DVD/CDs, as well as install disc-based computer programs. Another great feature of this drive is the included 60 cm USB data cable, which is long enough for making tension-free connections to the rear I/O panels of most desktop computers.
Best Budget Blu-Ray: LG Electronics WP50NB40
- Good performance
- Supports Quad Layer Blu-ray discs
- M-DISC ready
- Silent Play technology
- Sturdy housing
- Supports only USB 2.0 interface
- Included software is useless
From smartphone to TVs, LG Electronics has been known as the industry leader in producing affordable high-tech electronic devices. The WP50NB40 External Blu-ray writer is no exception. This elegantly designed 14 mm thick optical burner can write Blu-ray discs at 6X speed, DVD’s at 8X speed, and CD’s at 24X speed. This burner also supports writing to Triple Layer and Quad Layer Blu-ray discs, as well as to M-DISC compatible optical media. The drive also features TV connectivity capability, as well as Silent Play technology which helps reduce noise during playback by adjusting reading speed according to media type.
Unlike many other external Blu-ray burners, the LG WP50NB40 supports data transfer only via USB 2.0 interface, which is a bit disappointing. The drive is, however, fully Windows 10 compatible, and it ships with Power BD-DVD 3D Software bundle which isn’t quite useful. When considering its capabilities, this external optical drives offers a lot for a good price, however, obtaining or purchasing additional software for Blu-ray playback is mandatory, as supplied software suite offers very limited features.
Best DVD-RW for Mac: Apple USB SuperDrive
- Works perfectly with MacBook and iMac computers
- Solid performance
- Stylish design
- No support for USB 3.0 interface
- A bit overpriced when considering its features
Finding fully compatible external optical drive for Apple MacBook computer can be a difficult task. Luckily enough, Apple made its own external DVD drive specifically designed for its notebook computers. According to Apple, the USB SuperDrive offers everything you’ll ever need in a optical drive. Whether you’re at the office or on the road, USB SuperDrive let’s you play and burn both CDs and DVDs, as well as watch movies, install software, create backup discs, and more. Performance-wise, Apple USB SuperDrive behaves as an ordinary DVD burner, with capability of writing DVD’s at 8X speed, an CD’s at 24X speed. Unfortunately, there is no support for reading and writing Blu-ray discs, which we find extremely disappointing.
The USB SuperDrive supports only USB 2.0 interface, which is enough, but would benefit more from the USB 3.0 interface in terms of data transfer speeds. The SuperDrive connects to your Mac computer with a single USB Type-A cable, and requires no separate power adapter. The device ships with no additional software, as all software you’ll ever need is already integrated into your macOS. The Apple USB SuperDrive is compatible with almost all Apple’s desktop and notebook computer produced since 2015.
Best USB 3.0 DVD-RW: Amicool USB 3.0 Slim DVD/CD Writer
- Good performance
- Supports USB 3.0 interface
- Great price
- A bit too short data cable
- Casing looks cheap
Despite the fact that USB 3.0 has become a standard data interface in the past few years, many well-known producers of external DVD drives still prefer to use USB 2.0 interface. If you are in search for a quality external DVD writer which supports faster USB 3.0 interface, then Amicool USB 3.0 Slim DVD/CD writer might suit your needs. This simple plug and play external DVD writer enables you to burn DVD’s at 8X speed, and CD’s at 24X speed, as well as utilize USB 3.0 interface for faster data transmission from your computer to the device’s internal buffer.
Slim and lightweight, this shock-resistant external optical drive easily slips into your travel bag, and functions as a perfect companion for DVD lovers while being on a trip. The drive comes with two guide grooves, which enable you to conveniently store USB 3.0 data cable inside the drive’s housing. The drive is fully compatible with Windows operating systems from XP to 10, as well as with Linux and macOS systems. The only disadvantage of this very affordable optical drives is its rather short USB cable, which for some users might be an issue.
Although optical discs aren’t as popular as they used to be, they are still the cheapest way to share videos, photos, and larger amounts of data among your friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances. Also, many of us still own large collections of CDs and DVDs containing purchased movies and audio albums, as well as family memories, which still makes them very relevant today. Accessing the data stored on these discs nowadays can be an issue, since many new desktop and notebook computers don’t come with internal optical drives. In this situation, external optical drives come in very handy, since they allow you to access this data anywhere, and in any time. Not only that, but they are also very convenient, as they allow you to watch movies while being on a trip, or perform an operating system installation without the need of a USB stick.
Depending on your needs, you can choose external optical drives featuring support for only DVD/CD discs, or Blu-ray discs as well. Some of them come with extra features such as support for USB 3.0 interface, M-DISC support, noise-reduction technology, or come with extra bundled software which allows you to easily performs backups or burn discs. All these features affect the final price of the product, however, more expensive drives are usually well worth the money, since they are being made by well-known companies, and ship with a lot of additional features which you might find useful eventually. We hope our buying guide helped you in search of the information you were looking for. If you still feel confused, and need advice about buying, feel free to post comment below. We will try to help you.