Best External DVD Drives

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

34 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
251 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best external DVD drives

Last Updated November 2019

Once one of the most sought after features in many computers, DVD players are all but an afterthought on many current models, especially among laptops. As laptop designs have become slimmer and sleeker, eliminating DVD players and optical drives became one of the easiest ways to drop weight and free up additional space.

This trend has been furthered along by the rise of faster internet speeds and cloud computing. Before broadband internet became widespread, DVDs were the best way to install large programs, software packages and operating systems. Now, everything from shareware programs to operating systems can be downloaded, while many programs are web- or cloud-based.

Just because they’re not a popular option in today’s computers doesn’t mean DVDs don’t have a place. DVDs are still one of the most popular formats for watching movies. Many individuals have years of backups on DVD, not to mention pictures, media and older program installers. Since internal DVD drives may not be very popular in modern computer design, there’s never been a better time to buy an external DVD drive.

High-end DVD drives include software that improves reliability reading disks that have fingerprints or minor scratches.

Key considerations

The most important factor to consider when shopping for a DVD player is compatibility. While compatibility issues are largely a thing of the past, it’s still worth double-checking to make sure your hardware and operating system of choice are supported. This is especially true if you run Linux.

Some computer manufacturers, such as Apple and Dell, sell their own external DVD players. Obviously, these will offer the best, worry-free compatibility, although usually at a premium.

Noise is another factor to bear in mind when shopping for an external drive. There’s nothing more distracting than trying to enjoy a movie, only to have it interrupted by the sound of your DVD drive spinning. While all DVD drives make some noise, try finding one that’s as quiet as possible.

Another factor to consider is the drive’s speed. Most external DVD drives offer similar speeds. As a general rule, you’re probably not going to use an external drive all the time, so it’s probably not worth spending a lot of money for upgraded speed.

If you’re shopping for a DVD player for your desktop, you’re better off buying and installing an internal drive. As a general rule, dedicated internal drives are faster and less expensive than portable ones.

DID YOU KNOW?

DVD drives are usually downward compatible. For example, if you buy a drive that can write DVDs, it will also read DVDs, as well as read and write CDs.

Features

Since the external DVD drive market is so mature, there’s not a lot of feature differentiation between models. Even so, there are a few things you should be on the lookout for.

Read vs. write

The majority of external DVD drives on the market read and write DVDs and CDs. There are, however, some models that are readers only. While these may not be popular options, they are cheaper than models that write.

Software

While some operating systems come with built-in ability to write to CDs and DVDs, third-party software is often more powerful and has additional features. Check the manufacturer’s description to see if a DVD drive comes with software and if that software is compatible with your computer.

Blu-ray support

Blu-ray is a high-definition format that was originally intended to replace standard DVDs. Although it has not completely replaced DVDs, it does offer many advantages, including high-definition movies and larger storage capacities. Blu-ray players that include support for the Blu-ray XL (BDXL) format can write disks up to 128GB.

Shockproof

Another feature to consider is whether a drive is shockproof, especially if you plan on taking the drive with you. Many drives are specifically designed to withstand the rigors of daily travel, making them an ideal option for road warriors. Even if you don’t bring your DVD drive with you, shockproof design will improve its performance on your desk and help keep it from being affected by accidental bumps.

Portability

If you’re buying an external drive for use while traveling, try to find one that offers a carrying case, as well as a slim, lightweight design.

Some drives are designed to operate lying flat on a desk or other surface, others are designed for vertical use and some drives can be operated in either orientation. Depending on your available space, a drive that supports vertical orientation may be a more convenient option.

Orientation

Some drives are designed to operate lying flat on a desk or other surface, others are designed for vertical use and some drives can be operated in either orientation. Depending on your available space, a drive that supports vertical orientation may be a more convenient option.

USB 3.0

For best results, try to buy a drive that supports USB 3.0. USB 3.0 offers improved power efficiency and faster data transfer.

EXPERT TIP

Apple’s macOS has never supported Blu-ray natively. To use a Blu-ray drive with a Mac, you will need to install third-party software that has licensed the necessary codecs to support Blu-ray.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Some versions of Windows do not support Blu-ray and will require third-party software.


Staff  | BestReviews

Price

While the majority of external DVD drives are similar in price, there are some features that can significantly impact the price.

Inexpensive: Entry-level models cost $20 to $30 and will read and write CDs and DVDs.

Mid-range: Mid-range models cost $30 to $50 and include extras such as improved software, traveling accessories and higher-quality materials.

Expensive: Top-of-the-line models include support for the BDXL format, faster speeds, premium software and cost $50 to $150.

Tips

  • Most external DVD drives are designed to draw power from your laptop’s USB port. If you have an older laptop that doesn’t provide the required power, you will need to find a drive that has a dedicated power source.

  • Although the ability to write 128GB DVDs is an appealing selling point of a BDXL drive, bear in mind the format is not backward compatible. Any BDXL disks you create will not play in many older DVD and Blu-ray players.

Other products we considered

The VersionTECH USB3.0 Ultra Slim External DVD Drive is a sleek drive that reads and writes CDs and DVDs. With USB 3.0, it has high-speed data transfer and supports Windows, macOS and Linux. The drive costs $35.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in features and performance, check out the Pioneer BDR-XD05B Blu-ray Player & Burner. This drive supports BDXL and is small and light relative to the competition of BD/DVD/CD portable burners. This drive comes with a robust software package and costs $150.

When you first plug-in a DVD drive, it will ask you what region to lock it to. Select the region you live in and will primarily use the DVD drive within. You can only change the region five times before it permanent locks to a location.

FAQ

Q. Will my external DVD drive work with my USB hub?
A.
If you have a powered USB hub it might. As a general rule, however, it’s best to plug your external drive directly into one of your computer’s USB ports.

Q. Can I use an external DVD drive with my Chromebook?
A.
Yes, in a limited capacity. Chromebooks support reading files from CDs and DVDs. They do not support writing to optical media, nor do they support playing music CDs or DVD videos.

Q. Do I need to install drivers to make an external DVD drive work with my computer?
A.
In most cases, no. Many external drives are designed to be plug-and-play. You may need to install software to watch movies or perform specific functions, however.

Q. What if my DVD drive doesn’t have an eject button, or the button stopped working?
A.
Windows and macOS both include methods to eject a disk from within the operating system. On Windows, open File Explorer, right-click on the drive and select Eject. On macOS, find the drive in the Finder and drag it to the trash or right-click on it and select Eject.

The team that worked on this review
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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