We purchased the The 5 Best External Optical Drives so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full products reviews.
Many modern laptops lack the ability to read CDs and DVDs or burn files to physical media, so the best optical drives remain relevant even with modern hardware. While there is a lot of content available for download or streaming online, and most of us have a whole library of movies and music on our phones and laptops, physical discs still have their place. So, if you’re in need, we’ve got a variety of options for you, ranging from small and affordable to powerful and feature-rich.
If you’re looking for a great machine to pair one of these drives with, check out our best laptops roundup, which features some of the best portable PCs on the market, or continue reading for our recommendations for the best External Optical Drives.
While many of the Best External Optical Drives have a smaller form factor to make them easier to transport, this top performer has a large form factor. The ASUS BW-16D1X-U () is a bit of a desk hog, measuring 2.48 x 6.50 x 9.57 inches, but with that extra size comes serious performance for every task.
You’ll spend less time waiting with the ASUS BW-16D1X-U because it has quick access times to all types of optical media. It can access CD-ROM in 160 milliseconds, DVD-ROM in 170 milliseconds, and BD-ROM in 180 milliseconds. Its read and write speeds are also impressive, with read speeds of 40x, 16x, and 8x in CD, DVD, and Blu-ray, respectively. It can also burn CD-Rs at 40x, DVD-Rs at 16x, and BD-Rs at 16x.
So, whether you’re looking to rip media from discs or burn data to them, the Asus BW-16D1X-U is up to the task. It also supports BDXL, which allows for up to 128GB of storage on a single disc. The ASUS BW-16D1X-U is even more appealing because it works with both Windows and Mac computers.
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Best Budget: LG GP65NB60 External Drive
If you don’t require the Blu-ray capabilities of some of the more expensive external optical drives, a basic CD/DVD drive can be had for a bargain. The LG GP65NB60 () is a low-profile, budget-friendly combo drive that can read and write CDs and DVDs. It even gives our top compact pick a run for its money, measuring 0.6 x 5.4 x 5.6 inches and weighing only 0.4 pounds.
Despite its low price, the LG GP65NB60 can read CD-ROMs at 24x speeds and DVD-ROMs at 8x speeds, so it isn’t far behind the competition. Write speeds on CD-R and DVD-R are also respectable, reaching up to 24x on CD-R and 8x on DVD-R. For all of its power and data transfer needs, the LG GP65NB60 only requires a single USB connection. The LG GP65NB60 also supports Windows and Mac, can burn archival-quality M-Discs, and is available in a variety of colors, including black, gold, white, and silver.
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Runner-Up, Best Budget: Dell DW316 USB DVD Drive
The Dell DW316 () is a budget and compact contender, measuring 0.55 x 5.41 x 5.67 inches. The device weighs only 0.44 pounds and has a slim profile, so you won’t even notice it in your laptop bag. The Dell DW316 is simple to set up and use, relying on a single USB connection for both power and data transfer. Although support for Windows has been confirmed, reviewers have mentioned that the Dell DW316 can also be used with Mac computers.
In terms of performance, the Dell DW316 meets or exceeds the expectations of the majority of the competition. It can read CDs at a maximum speed of 24x and DVDs at a maximum speed of 8x. It’s also capable of writing at those speeds.
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Most Compact: Verbatim External Slimline Blu-ray Writer (70102)
In order to save space and weight, many modern laptops and ultrabooks do not include an optical drive. However, if you require an optical drive and must transport a large one, the savings would be negated. Fortunately, we have a fantastic compact option that works with both Windows and Mac computers.
The Verbatim 70102 () is extremely small, measuring only 0.45 x 5.24 x 5.75 inches. Furthermore, the smaller size does not imply a slew of concessions. It has a metal housing for a more premium look and feel, and it’s quick. It supports M-Disc and can write CDs at 24x, DVDs at 8x, and Blu-rays at 6x. Yes, it’s a full-featured CD/DVD/BD drive that weighs less than half a pound. The Verbatim 70102 is a true mobility champion, as both power and data are transferred via USB, requiring only one cable.
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Runner-Up, Most Compact: ASUS ZenDrive
Where a small footprint is important, ASUS’s ultra-slim ZenDrive () is a good choice. This is a simple CD/DVD combo drive that does not support Blu-Ray, but it is significantly less expensive. It’s also small, measuring 0.55 x 5.33 x 5.61 inches and requiring only a single USB connection for power.
With CD read and write speeds of up to 24x and DVD read and write speeds of up to 8x, the ZenDrive delivers excellent performance for its size. Quick access times add to that performance; the Asus ZenDrive can access CD and DVD content in as little as 160 milliseconds. The ZenDrive also supports burning to M-Disc for long-term data storage for those who require archival quality.
The Asus ZenDrive is compatible with both Windows and Mac, and it comes with CyberLink software to get you started with physical media storage. ASUS also includes six months of free cloud storage with the drive, allowing you to rip content from your CDs and DVDs and store it there as needed.
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