Best External Optical Drives (CD, DVD, BluRay)

External Disc Feature

Finding a PC with a built-in optical disc drive is getting harder. However, that doesn't mean the drives aren't still helpful. Without a disc drive, you're up the physical media river without a paddle. Fortunately, there are still many on the market. Investing in external optical disc drives is necessary to play, rip or burn CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays.

Good to know: are you curious to know why you need an optical drive still? We recently outlined why physical media is still important in the age of streaming.

1. Best Blu-ray Drive: ASUS BW-16D1X-U

Price: $139

The ASUS BW-16D1X-U is a USB 3.0 external optical drive capable of reading and writing Blu-ray discs. It is compatible with various discs, including Blu-ray, DVD, CD, and even archival M-discs. Furthermore, it supports BDXL discs, which allow 128 GB of data to be written on a single disc. Despite impressive specs, the design of the BW-16D1X-U is questionable. We realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, this drive looks like it was pulled from a lousy techno-thriller from the mid-90s.

Asus Bluray


  • 16x write speed
  • BDXL support
  • M-Disc support
  • Compatible with Windows and macOS


  • Design might not be everyone's cup of tea
  • Physically bulky

2. Slimmest Option: LG GP65NB60

Price: $29.99

If you're looking for a discreet external optical drive, the LG GP65NB60 fits the bill. Standing only 14mm high, it is one of the slimmest external disc drives on the market. It also comes in various colors with nearly any computer rig. It doesn't have any Blu-ray support, so if you need to tick that box, you'll need to look elsewhere.

External Disc Lg


  • Super slim
  • M-Disc support
  • Compatible with Windows and macOS


  • No Blu-ray support
  • Only 8x max write speed

Tip: rip your CDs to the FLAC file format instead of MP3.

3. Best USB-C Drive: ASUS ZenDrive V1M

Price: $35

The ASUS ZenDrive V1M is another inexpensive external optical drive that supports archival M-Discs. In addition, it features an integrated USB-C cable. This makes the ZenDrive V1M a great option for those who want to take the drive with them without worrying about fussing around with a separate data cable. Furthermore, the ZenDrive V1M features disc encryption for safety and privacy.

External Disc Asus Zendrivev1m


  • Archival M-Disc support
  • Integrated USB-C data cable


  • No Blu-ray support
  • Mediocre 8x DVD write speed, 24x CD write speed
  • Disc encryption is only available on Windows

4. Best Budget Drive: Dell DW316

Price: $22

If you're on a tight budget and need a dirt-cheap external disc drive, look no further than the Dell DW316. Regarding features, the DW316 is pretty bare-bones. With only 8x DVD write speed, it's not the fastest drive but will get the job done if you don't need Blu-ray or archival disc support.

External Drive Dell


  • Cheap
  • Slim


  • Mediocre write speed
  • No Blu-ray or archival disc support

Also helpful: if you plan to transfer data from disks to your computer, you must find out how much hard drive space you need.

5. Best for Encryption: ASUS ZenDrive U9M

Price: $35

The attractive Asus ZenDrive U9M is one of the slimmest external optical drives on the market. Measuring a mere 13mm high, this drive can read and write DVDs and CDs and supports archival M-Discs. Furthermore, it has Disc Encryption II, which enables hidden folders and password-protected files.

External Asus Zendrive


  • One of the slimmest external discs drives, at 13mm
  • M-Disc compatible
  • Disc encryption


  • No Blu-ray support
  • USB 2.0 interface

6. Best Write Speed: OWC Mercury Pro

Price: $155

If you have the need for speed, the OWC Mercury Pro has it in spades. This USB 3.0 external drive boasts 16x write speed for Blu-rays and DVDs and 48x write speed for CDs. In addition to Blu-ray support, the OWC Mercury Pro is compatible with archival M-Discs. It also features a solid, premium aluminum chassis, yet is a reasonably chunky unit.

External Disc Owcmercury


  • Fast write speed
  • M-Disc compatibility
  • Premium build quality


  • Expensive
  • Chunky design

Tip: to digitize your DVDs with your external optical drive, use programs like WinX DVD Ripper.

7. Best for Mac: Apple USB SuperDrive

Price: $78

If you're a Mac user, you know that Apple jettisoned the optical drive from most of their computers eons ago. This has made the Apple USB SuperDrive indispensable for anyone with CDs or DVDs. While the SuperDrive benefits from the Apple aesthetic, some shortcomings exist. There is no Blu-ray support, and the write speed tops off at 8x for DVDs and 24x for CDs. Considering the price tag, you're paying the "Apple tax" for this one. But if you're heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, this will look great on your desk.

External Disc Apple


  • Premium design
  • Integrated USB cable


  • No Blu-ray support
  • Expensive when compared to drives with similar performance

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need an optical disc drive?

Most computers no longer have optical disc drives built in. This reflects our reliance on high-speed Internet to deliver software and entertainment. That said, optical disc drives can still be handy. You will need an optical disc drive if you want to play CDs, DVDs, or Blu-rays. Furthermore, you can digitize your discs. Ripping DVDs is incredibly easy and won't cost you a cent.

Additionally, you can copy your music CD collection in lossless format, which is significantly better than most audio streaming services. Don't forget about your Blu-rays. You can copy those, too, provided you opt for an external optical disc drive that's compatible with the Blu-ray format.

What are M-discs?

M-Discs are optical discs designed for long-term archival storage. They have been rated to last for close to 1,000 years. This makes M-Discs the best option when storing valuable data, such as photos. M-Discs are available in both DVD and Blu-ray formats.

What is BDXL?

BDXL stands for Blu-ray Disc Extra Large. BDXL discs can store much more data than a standard Blu-ray. A standard Blu-ray disc records data in one or two layers. Single-layer Blu-rays have a capacity of 25GB. Dual-layer discs top out at 50GB. Conversely, BDXL discs are available in three or four layers. Triple-layer BDXL discs have 100GB, and quad-layer BDXL discs can store 128 GB.

Why are write speeds so much slower than read speeds?

Write speeds are almost always slower than read speeds to maintain stability during writing. The optical disc drive is susceptible to shock when writing data to a disc. Vibrations can interrupt the writing process, which could corrupt the data. To minimize the risk of vibration, manufacturers opt for slower write speeds.

What is the difference between "R" and "RW" discs?

You'll notice suffixes tacked on to blank discs. The most common are "R" and "RW." Single-write discs are designated with "R." Once you write data to that disc, you cannot use the disc again. Alternatively, "RW" discs can be written and rewritten multiple times but are typically more expensive.

Image credit: Unsplash

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