The struggle to build more compact laptops and computers is proving to be a bittersweet one for people that loved the old do it all laptop. Today, you have to pick your poison. It is extremely difficult (and insanely expensive) to get a computer that does it all. You either pick performance or portability and occasionally, you might have to throw in entertainment in there.
Even though storage devices have diversified over the years and some computers come with quite expansive memories, CDs still have their place in the technology world but, considering that a good number of laptops in the market do not have CD or DVD drive, if you use them to store information, you will find yourself at a disadvantage.
A good external optical drive should get you back on the saddle and other than complementing your otherwise limping computer, an external optical drive also comes with plenty of benefits among them being able to offer better performance.
But, before you can enjoy the benefits of a good optical drive, you have to be able to pick one first. Because there are not many supported disc formats and the optical drive pool is not too wide, you might be fooled to think that making the choice is going to be easy but once you start, the painful boot of reality will kick in. We will save you that pain and do the dirty hard work for you and all that you need is to make your pick.
How an Optical Drive works
Understanding how an optical drive works is going to take some technical understand know-how but don’t worry too much about it. We always think it’s a nice idea to impact some knowledge before we embark on reviewing the products of the day.
The optical drive is called ‘Optical’ for a reason. To get the process started a motor spins the disc superfast and a laser that is attached to the same system reads the data on the disc. The laser is also attached to a mechanism that moves back and forth as it reads the data of the disc. It is hard to divulge any further on the functioning of an optical drive without throwing technical words around and we always try to keep things simple.
To get a better hand of how this works, you would need to understand the anatomy of a disc but we think that would create confusion and we don’t want to take your eyes of the topic.
- 1 Best Optical Drives 2018
- 1.1 LG Electronics 8× USB 2.0 Super Multi Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer
- 1.2 External CD Drive Cocopa Slim Writer and ReWriter
- 1.3 External Optical Drive USB 2.0 DVD CD player for Mac and Windows
- 1.4 Asus ZenDrive Ultra Slim Mac Compatible External Optical Drive
- 1.5 Dell DW316 External Slim DVD R/W Optical Drive
- 1.6 External CD Drive USB 3.0 Portable Slim External Drive
- 1.7 Samsung Ultra – Slim Black Optical Drive
- 1.8 Wsky USB 3.0 External CD DVD Drive
- 1.9 External DVD Drive USB 3.0 Transmission Slim Portable External DVD
- 1.10 SANOXY 24× USB 2.0 External Slim Combo Burner Drive Black
- 2 Best Optical Drive Buying Guide
- 3 Conclusion
Best Optical Drives 2018
Now that you have some basic understanding of how an optical drive works and why it might be your item of choice, let us look at some of the products that caught our eyes and we thing will be a perfect fit for you.
For this particular review, because the diversity pool is not deep, we had to dive deep to come up with options that would be a great fit for different readers and different applications. Here are some of the options we loved and we think you will love at least one of them as well.
LG Electronics 8× USB 2.0 Super Multi Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer
It is always great to start the list on a high note and this LG optical drive fits the bill. It is portable and will not only help you with reading the content on your discs but will also help you transfer content to the disc as well.
It is a neat device that is built for life on the road with a small stature and an ultra-slim design so you can drop it just about anywhere as you head out. It comes with a maximum of 8× DVD writing speed and a 24× CD writing speed for faster transfer of data.
The USB 2.0 interface which is also 3.0 compatible makes sure that the data transfer is ultra-fast and that you don’t have to wait around longer than is necessary. In most cases, when you buy an optical drive, you always have to worry about the accompanying software which can cost you an arm and a leg. Lucky for you, in this case, the drive comes with everything you need to get it working including the software. That some you time and some bucks. One of the most interesting features about this drive is the fact that it connects to your TV. This is done through the USB connection and you don’t need extra software for this.
- TV connectivity
- Ultra slim and portable
- Supports M-Disk format
- Longer storage time
- The opening try might jam at times so you need to press the eject button a couple of times
External CD Drive Cocopa Slim Writer and ReWriter
The Cocopa external optical drive sets the gold standard for optical drive with every imaginable feature that you would want. The device is built for portability with an ultra-slim design. It has a high speed USB 3.0 interface with backward compatibility (it can support USB 2.0 and 1.0) capable of speeds of up to 5Gbps.
The drive offers a plethora of different options on how you can use it. These include burning files, installing software on your computer and even creating backup CDs. With all these features, the drive remains quite easy to use with a plug and play kind of approach. You are only required to plug it into the USB port and it will be automatically detected.
It has a unique burning technology capable of up speeds of up to 8× for DVDs and 24× for CDs. Other impressive features you can enjoy with this optical drive include the brushed texture shell, lightweight body and an embedded USB cable. The device is support by various types of windows including windows 10 and other operating systems like Mac OS and Linux.
- 1 year worry free warranty and 2 years of technical support
- Diverse compatibility on virtually every type of OS
- High transfer and burning speeds
- The software has to be downloaded separately for computers that require it
External Optical Drive USB 2.0 DVD CD player for Mac and Windows
Let’s bring it down a notch. If you just want a good optical drive that will not confuse you with all the features and functionalities and allow you to simply access data on your computer and transfer the same to CDs, this is going to be a great option.
The first feature that jumps at you is the fact that it is scratch resistant and Dustproof. You must be conversant with how destructive dust can be do electronics which why this is a great feature to have.
It offers plenty of mobility and does not require an AC adaptor to power it up. It can play CDs and DVDs and has a compact USB 2.0 Super driver. For the On-the-go user, you are going to find the light weight nature of the device very welcoming and the fact that it supports such a wide number of Operating Systems makes it that much easier to use.
- Simple and straightforward design
- Slim and lightweight for portability
- Dustproof and scratch resistant
- Both USB cables have to be plugged in for the device to work
- It only reads it does not burn CDs
Asus ZenDrive Ultra Slim Mac Compatible External Optical Drive
This is among the slimmest optical drives you are going to find on the market and it is a strong candidate if you are looking for something that offers the best portability and functionality on the market. Of course, you should expect to pay a little more for this but, it is going to be worth your while.
Its forest of features include a sophisticated finish that goes well with any ultra-book and the 8× DVD write speed guarantees that you get results faster. Like the LG we previously looked at, this one also has the all so important M-Disc support which is essential in protecting and archiving digital data. Other than the comfort of knowing that all your data is safe, you will also be pleased to know that the external drive is bundled with the necessary software to get it ready to go which makes this drive a worthy recommendation. However, you will have to forego the USB 3.0 functionality with this drive.
- Slim 13mm thick design
- M-Disc Support
- Comes with Nero back up and relevant set up software
- Ideal for both Mac and Windows platforms
- Does not feature USB 3.0
Dell DW316 External Slim DVD R/W Optical Drive
When it comes to computer electronics, Dell has cut out a niche for itself as a fierce competitor with high quality products and more so with regards to optical drives. This is an all rounded option that is capable of quickly and effectively handle any needs both reading and burning that you might have.
To help you set it up as fast as possible, the drive is preloaded with the Cyber Link Media suite. The easy to use plug and play feature will save you the effort and struggle on compatible computers since it will not require any drivers.
The well-built drive weighs only 8.8 ounces making it the perfect candidate for on the go use and it is quite reliable in its performance with up to 24× CD writing speeds and 8× for DVDs. The 14mm thickness will also make sure that you don’t have to give up more space than is needed to accommodate the drive.
- Highly portable and lightweight
- Comes with the software suit preloaded
- Can read and write discs
- Plug and play feature
- The finishing can be easily splotched
External CD Drive USB 3.0 Portable Slim External Drive
This Gipow external hard drive is a mixture of performance, elegance and portability with plenty of features in each category with the guarantee of customer satisfaction or your get your money back. To get started with the drive is simple and not drivers are needed to get it to work. It comes with an easy plug and play features which makes sure it is running in no time.
The 3.0 USB interface provides a high speed channel where you can transfer data to and from the drive and it offers a stable connection to help you read and burn CDs and DVDs. You will also love the anti-shock and noise reduction features that enhance your experience.
The drive is supported on different Windows and Mac OS versions and comes with a 100% risk free purchase. You get a 12 months product warranty and it is also backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Easy to install plug and play features
- 12-month warranty and 30 days product replacement
- Compatible with Windows and Mac OS
- Error connecting, shock-proof and noise reduction technology
- No M-Disc support
Who said you can’t get your optical drive with a little class and elegance? This Samsung Optical drive is one for the books and we were just blown away by how great it looks. Thank God it also had great features to go with the good looks.
It has a top LED button eject button and super slim drive height of just 14mm. the interface is USB 2.0 but, it is also compatible with USB 3.0 devices. It has a buffer under run free technology and a tilt actuator compensation technology. This makes it one of the best writers in the market with a more stable process that provides you with more accurate results.
The only sad takeaway is the fact that it is only a writer and cannot read. Users looking for a good writer are in luck but if you want something that can play content as well, this will not work for you.
- Ultra slim technology
- TAC and Buffer under run free technology for precise writing
- Comes with the software
- USB 3.0 compatible
- It is only a writer
- The software provided is only windows compatible
Wsky USB 3.0 External CD DVD Drive
Even though this is a little chunky, it is still a formidable option with cutting edge features that are going to make reading and writing discs much easier and more accurate. Some of the features that earns it a spot on this list include the 3.0 interface for blistering fast transfer speeds which cut down the waiting time and a strong error-correcting ability which is a must have when burning CDs. It also has a state of the art noise reduction system and anti-shock features. This makes it a great device to have on the go.
You can use it to burn DVD movies, install software, listen to music and burn pictures and movies the multi-performance makes this a great device with all round features for the average user who is looking for an all-round device that offers the best performance for all your needs.
One of the reasons why we thought that this would be a great addition to this list was the fact that it supports Windows OS as far back as Windows 98 and it also supports several versions of Mac OS. If you are going to use your USB hub, you have to make sure that you use a powered one and if you have a Surface pro series laptop, then you have to buy the USB 3.0 Y cable to power the device.
- Diverse well rounded drive
- Supports many operating systems
- USB 3.0 interface
- Error-correcting, anti-shock and noise reduction
- Cable stores under the device when not in use
- Sometimes, the power needed to power the device is more than the USB port can supply
External DVD Drive USB 3.0 Transmission Slim Portable External DVD
Simplicity and functionality are the main selling points of this one of a kind portable optical drive. It features and plug `and play feature that will work on most PCs. Its lightweight design and shockproof design makes it an ideal device for use while on the go and it even comes with a protection bag which is a big plus. You will also get to enjoy other features which include a strong error correcting ability, noise reduction and anti-shock technology for better and higher quality results.
The USB3.0 high speed interface is a highly welcome e feature that brings you faster data transfer speeds and a stable and dependable performance for the different functions that you will need from the drive.
The drive is supported across all the main operating systems including Linux with low power consumption to improve compatibility and it is powered through a USB cable. Should you decide to make the purchase, you get a 30 day guarantee for any defects on the product or defects.
- High speed USB 3.0 interface
- No risk 30 day guarantee purchase
- Noise reduction and anti-shock features
- Low power consumption
- Even though lightweight, it is a little chunky
SANOXY 24× USB 2.0 External Slim Combo Burner Drive Black
We thought it would be a good idea to have a low cost device as well just in case you don’t need to have a device that has all those screaming features and you simply want functionality without the high price tag. This one fits the bill because it offers a nice balance between the features you get and the amount that you pay for it. As you would expect, you will have to give up some of the features for a more affordable price.
However, it does offer features like USB 2.0 compliance, supports a wide variety of windows operating systems and has a durable plastic casing. The device is built to read and burn CDs and DVDs and is a combo writer. The balance it offers is ideal for an entry level user who does not have many demands for his optical drive.
- Affordable price
- Durable plastic casing
- 0 USB interface
That brings to a close our collection of optical drives that we think will work great for you and other users.
Best Optical Drive Buying Guide
Buying an optical drive is something that you should take very seriously and getting the right features for the right use should be your prime priority. We always advise to get a device that has a little more capacity than you require at the moment. It helps with scalability as your demands increase.
- Read and write capability – the sole reason for buying an optical drive is to either read or write discs. Depending on your preferred use, the features that you are looking for can differ. We advocate that you get a drive that has both functionalities as long as it is within your budget.
- Speed – unless you fancy waiting up all night waiting to get a couple of songs or family photos into a CD, speed is going to be of the essence. This is largely going to depend on the USB interface. A 3.0 interface with backward compatibility should do the trick. However, for most applications and if budget is a concern, the 2.0 version works just as well.
- Size and weight – the weight and the size of the device is going to matter if you intend to move around with it. However, even if you largely use it at home, you don’t want a monstrous device hovering around your desk. So, size is an important factor especially for people that want the external drive to be portable and they would like to take it wherever they take their laptop.
- Noise – you will have to contend with some amount of noise since all external optical drives make noise but the level of noise shouldn’t be too loud that it drowns out the main activity.
- Power – this is a major concern for most people. In the reviews, we did our best to stick to the practical options but, there are others that require a separate adapter for power or a separate USB cable. The best option is to have an option that only needs one USB cable. It is more convenient and you could always do with fewer wires on your work space.
That does it for our best external optical drives review. Now, you have great options to read and write your discs and you don’t have to worry much about the technical jargon that is usually associated with the purchase of such devices. We have done most of the digging for you and now all you have to do is pick one that you feel is going to address your needs.
If you need a little more understanding on the features and which ones matter, browse through the buying guide. It should help some light and improve your decision making.