The 6 Best External Bluray Drives
Zipping Toward Obsolescence
Blu-ray is certainly a popular and more useful format that Zip drives ever could have been, and both their drives and discs are a lot more common.
What makes Blu-ray significantly different from DVD is the light used to read the data on the disc.
There's a scene in Zoolander during which Maurie Gold, played with effortless crotchety aplomb by Jerry Stiller, reveals to the film's villain that all the incriminating evidence that was just destroyed by an idiot male model is backed up at Gold's house on a Zip drive.
I just saw the film again for the first time in a decade, and the mention of a Zip drive sent me reeling. If you don't recognize the format, you're not alone. Zip drive was a short-lived, and ultimately unnecessary data storage method. It used proprietary disks and a proprietary drive, which was almost never found on the spec sheets of any available computer. Like these external Blu-ray drives, they existed outside the tower or laptop, connected by an old USB 1.0 cord.
Blu-ray is certainly a popular and more useful format that Zip drives ever could have been, and both their drives and discs are a lot more common. We know that the drives we've evaluated connect by a much faster USB 3.0, but other than that, how exactly do they work?
What makes Blu-ray significantly different from DVD is the light used to read the data on the disc. Traditional DVD players read their discs with red lasers, the wavelength of which is approximately 650 nanometers. Blu-ray, as its name implies, employs a blue laser, which has a shorter wavelength of approximately 405 nanometers, allowing it to be more sharply focused.
Blu-ray and DVD discs work about the same way, a lot like vinyl records, in which the grooves read by a needle translate back into the musical vibrations that imprinted them in the first place. The finer lasers on Blu-ray drives can accurately read smaller grooves in the disc, allowing more information to squeeze its way onto the format.
When that laser reads the information in the grooves, it heads through your USB port and to your video card, where your computer translates it back into the image captured by the camera, or back into whatever data you've stored on the disc.
Zip drives faded rather quickly, but the size, efficiency, and popularity of Blu-ray discs and movies ought to make investing in one of these external drives a safe bet.
Drive Yourself Crazy
From the outside, most of the external Blu-ray drives on our list look a lot alike. Some can function as vertical disc drives, so they stands on their sides as opposed to laying flat, but beyond that, it's tough to make a choice among them based on looks alone.
Just make sure you pick the proper hardware to handle the job, as not all of the drives on our list support that kind of work.
In addition to reading Blu-ray discs, these drives can also read and write to CD, DVD, and Blu-ray. Those write speeds will differ from drive to drive, so if you've got a high-quantity bootleg operation in the works, you'll want something that can write fast.
You should also look into the types of Blu-ray discs supported in reading and writing processes. If you fell victim to the agonizing and nearly inexplicable differences between DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RW, and the other suspicious disc formats that cropped up around the advent of the DVD player, you know that slight differences in the design of a disc can leave your intentions for it in a lurch.
The same is true of the layering process on Blu-ray discs, which allows you to write multiple lines of grooves onto a single disc, potentially quadrupling its capacity. Just make sure you pick the proper hardware to handle the job, as not all of the drives on our list support that kind of work.
The Tale Of An Ugly Twin
Technologists at Sony and Pioneer knew that the DVD format had a ceiling to it. They knew that the beam cast by their red laser diodes could be better focused if it were simply a different color. They also knew that the thirst to store and share ever-increasing file sizes was one that would not, and still will not, be quenched.
The first editions of their XBox 360 systems had external HD-DVD players available for purchase, though not built into the system tower itself.
In 2000, the companies unveiled the first prototypes of DVR discs that read and wrote with a blue laser. By February of the following year, the inventors filed an intellectual copyright on the logo, and Blu-ray was born.
Shortly after its birth, however, an ugly twin came screaming forth from the birth canal. For all intents and purposes, it was an identical twin, but sometimes there are identical twins that somehow don't seem to get the same share in beauty or ability. This ugly twin needed a name, and the industry cooked up a moniker as ugly as the child: HD-DVD.
The companies vied for supremacy in the marketplace for a short while, with Microsoft mistakenly taking HD-DVD's miserable side. The first editions of their XBox 360 systems had external HD-DVD players available for purchase, though not built into the system tower itself.
Sony, on the other hand, launched its Playstation 3 with a Blu-ray drive built in, and sales of Blu-ray discs and drives so thoroughly outpaced those of HD-DVD, that the ugly twin found itself a handy burlap sack and promptly threw itself in the river, leaving Blu-ray to reign supreme.