The best external DVD drive
As we become more and more obsessed with slimmer and lighter, many of our favorite components are being designed out of our most beloved gadgets, like optical drives in laptops. Today you may need to purchase an external DVD drive to watch that boxed set of Friends or The Office.
The best external DVD drive, of course, will still be slimmer and lighter, but it will also be well-built, reliable, and fast. While some models can simply read DVDs, others may have read-and-write capability or the ability to play Blu-ray discs.
Continue reading our buying guide to find the best external DVD drive for your needs. Our favorite, the ASUS ZenDrive, is compatible with both Mac and Windows and includes cables.
Considerations when choosing external DVD drives
Although many of today's external DVD drives are compatible with both Mac and Windows, there are a few key points to keep in mind when shopping.
Plug and play
A plug-and-play external DVD drive is designed to work simply by connecting the drive to your computer, without the need for manual configuring or additional software. At one time, this was a rare feature, but nowadays, there's no reason to purchase a model that is lacking in this area.
Read and write
If you want the ability to save data, you will need an external DVD drive that features both read and write capabilities. Luckily, this is the norm, and you will have a very low chance of stumbling upon a model that only reads, but the possibility does exist. If this is a must-have feature for you, be careful -- especially when considering inexpensive models.
Blu-ray discs are not DVDs. If you are looking for a device that also reads Blu-ray discs, you will need to spend about twice as much.
The functionality of your external DVD drive can be enhanced by the following features.
Even if you purchased a plug-and-play external DVD drive, additional software can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your device. Some examples include encryption software for added security or playback software to enhance your viewing experience.
If you have a computer or a laptop that supports USB 3.0, it may be worthwhile to look for an external DVD drive that supports this feature as data exchange rates can be up to ten times faster.
Since an external DVD drive is a detachable item, you will want a durable model that is small and lightweight, making it easy to pack along with your laptop.
Purchasing an external DVD drive that costs less than $20 may be inviting frustration. Your best bet is to start in the $25 to $50 range for high-quality, well-built models that can meet your expectations. If you shop for models around $70, you will start seeing drives that can also play Blu-ray discs.
Q. Why won't my external DVD drive work with my USB hub?
A. Although there are other ways to troubleshoot this problem, the quickest fix is to plug your external DVD drive directly into your computer. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the only way the device will be recognized.
Q. Can an external DVD drive play Blu-ray discs?
A. No. An external DVD drive will only play DVDs and CDs. However, if you purchase an external Blu-ray drive, it will have the capability of playing Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and CDs.
External DVD drives we recommend
Best of the best: ASUS' ZenDrive
Our take: A slim, lightweight external DVD drive that is highly portable.
What we like: The ZenDrive is compatible with both Mac and Windows. Plus, it features the Nero BackItUp function for Android devices. The unit comes with both USB 2.0 and Type-C cables as well as Disc Encryption II for added protection.
What we dislike: Some users feel that too much emphasis was placed on slimming down the unit as it feels a little flimsy.
Best bang for your buck: LG Electronics' USB 2.0 Slim Portable DVD Rewriter External Drive
Our take: A reasonably priced external DVD drive that is a decent solution for all of you devices that no longer include internal DVD drives.
What we like: This drive is designed to read and write in a wide variety of formats on both Windows and Mac systems. The maximum read and write speed is 8x, and it functions as a plug-and-play device on most systems.
What we dislike: This product is not designed to function out-of-the-box as a DVD player, but you can download software that increases the unit's functionality.
Our take: A fast and affordable unit that offers the convenience of plug-and-play capabilities across a wide variety of devices and operating systems.
What we like: This easy-to-install drive is lightweight and features USB 3.0 technology for faster data transfers, but it is also compatible with USB 2.0. This model includes an eject button, so you don't have to worry about stuck discs.
What we dislike: Thicker DVDs will make a bit more noise when used in this unit.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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