Best external Blu Ray drive

Our selection of the top external disc drives for reading and writing Blu Rays, DVDs and CDs

Many slimline laptops these days eschew any kind of disc drive entirely. It’s certainly nice to have small, light and thin laptops for a commute or other use on the go, but this can leave you hanging if you ever do need to burn something onto a disc.

There’s also small form factor desktop machines that don’t offer any kind of disc drive functionality.

In many cases, a spinning disc is a legacy format, not something that is widely used any more, as cloud storage or flash storage offer less cumbersome methods for transferring data around, but the humble disc drive is not entirely obsolete yet.

For interfacing with disc and players for TVs, it can be handy to read and write files to and from different formats of discs. Whether you’re interested in backup up your movie collection, sharing home videos with family members, or making mix CDs to take in the car, an external disc drive can be a real handy tool for managing audio and video files on their native format.

There’s also the security offered by using a more disposable format. If you have sensitive documents that you want to keep hard copies of, then destroy when they have served their use, a disc copy is a great tool for doing that. For files that are not sensitive, but intended to be shared, you can also pass around copies of files on discs without having to worry about getting them back, whereas for USB storage you’re out of pocket more than a few pennies if you lose a high capacity USB drive.

We’ve picked out a selection of drives that are small and portable, support reading and writing Blu Rays, DVDs and CDs. These drives support video and audio formats, or data storage. They’re all reasonable value, and are supported on both Windows and MacOS.

Our Recommended

Best external Blu Ray drive

PROS

Compact size

Sleek design

Plug and Play use

CONS

Only USB 2.0 speeds

No notification light

No 4k Blu Ray support

This is a great reliable choice for anyone after a cheap disc drive from a reliable manufacturer. It supports Blu Rays, DVDs and CDs, and has great read and write speeds. The biggest drawback compared to more expensive drives is that it only supports USB 2.0 speeds, rather than the faster USB 3.0 format, but this is only going to be a bottleneck at the very high end of peak Blu Ray disc read/write speeds, and even then it’s only going to be a small difference between USB 2.0 and 3.0. For most uses it won’t make a massive difference.

PROS

Notification light

USB 3.0 speeds

Great value

CONS

Slightly on the large size

Not a well known brand

No 4k Blu Ray support

This is a lesser known manufacturer, who specialise in portable external disc drives. This model offers all the functionality that you’d expect, and it also prominently features an LED notification light to tell at a glance whether it’s reading, writing or not in use. Helpful if you want to have discs reading or writing as a background task when you are busy with something else.

PROS

Extremely quiet

Fast USB 3.0 speeds

Plug and Play use

CONS

On the pricier end

Top loading drive won't suit all users

No 4k Blu Ray support

This drive is great for if you’re using in a compact space without room for a horizontal drive tray, since this uses a top loading disc mechanism. Whether you prefer top loading or a horizontal drive tray is a subjective matter, but this is a great choice for those that prefer a top loading disc mechanism. Pioneer are known for high-end audio equipment, and have decades of expertise in producing audiophile grade audio equipment, and have put that expertise to use here in creating one of the quiet external disc drives available, great for if you’re using it for playing videos or audio off a disc without wanting to hear a noisy disc drive in the background.

PROS
CONS
PROS
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Things To Consider

Depending on how you are planning on using this drive, the form factor may be more or less important. If it’s going to be regularly in use and on display, you may want to simply pick which has the most pleasing aesthetics to you, since in terms of functionality they are all roughly similar. If it’s just something you plan to use occasionally, and have it stored away the rest of the time, you might be better off just going for the cheapest option.

What do read/write speeds mean?

Disc drives are rated by number of times faster than their usage designation.

So a CD at 1x speed will take 20 minutes to read/write 20 minutes of audio, whereas 2x speed would take 10 minutes to read/write 20 minutes of audio.

For DVD, a 1x speed would take 20 minutes to read/write 20 minutes of standard definition video, or a 2x speed would take 10 minutes to read/write 20 minutes of standard definition video.

For Blu Ray, a 1x speed would take 20 minutes to read/write 20 minutes of high definition video, or a 2x speed would take 10 minutes to read/write 20 minutes of high definition video.

These drives all offer reasonably fast read/write speeds that are typical among standard modern consumer disc drives.

How are these drives powered

These drives are all powered via USB, rather than needing a dedicated mains connection.

It is recommended to connect these drives directly to your system, rather than via any kind of USB hub, in order to maintain high enough voltage.

Similarly, some devices like laptops and tablets do not offer high enough volume to run these drives reliably through just one USB port, and for this reason they ship with a cable that can connect simultaneously to two ports on your system.

Our Verdict

Our top pick for an external drive is the LG drive. LG are a very reliable brand, and this is a sleek and slim machine that can handle reading and writing to Blu Rays, DVDs and CDs admirably. It’s relatively quiet, and it’s an attractive design. You are missing out on USB 3.0 speeds that some other drives offer, but this is not going to be a major factor in the majority of usage scenarios, and it’s a competitively priced machine that makes this minor compromise worthwhile.