The 10 Best USB DVD Drives

Updated March 27, 2018 by Ezra Glenn

10 Best USB DVD Drives
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 46 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. If you're planning on watching or burning DVDs on your computer these days, you'll probably need to rely on external hardware, since built-in drives are becoming a thing of the past. Our selection of handy USB models will do the trick nicely. They offer plug and play functionality with most operating systems and deliver some pretty impressive read/write speeds as well. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best usb dvd drive on Amazon.

10. Blingco External

With a slide-out disc tray and rubber feet at each corner to help prevent skipping, the Blingco External is designed with stability in mind. When its cable is unplugged, its barely larger than a jewel case, so you can truly take it anywhere.
  • easy for the tech-averse to use
  • backup ac power port
  • cord jackets are a bit bulky
Brand Blingco
Model pending
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Dell DW316

Simple, elegant, and easy to slide into a backpack or laptop sleeve, the Dell DW316 can handle your entire movie collection with ease. If you need to use it to burn new discs, it's more than up to the task, with write speeds of up to 8x.
  • slightly elevated for cooling
  • usb 3 compatible
  • a bit noisy while in use
Brand Dell
Model 429-AAUX
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. MiluoTech Portable

If you're bored of all the ultra-sleek, textureless designs that most manufacturers choose for their media players, consider the MiluoTech Portable. It features a ridged diamond pattern on its glossy black housing and offers a plug-and-play operation.
  • shockproof build
  • includes a thorough user manual
  • enters sleep mode too quickly
Brand MiluoTech
Model MiluoTech 03
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. LG BE16NU50

The somewhat bulky size of the LG BE16NU50 makes it better suited to stationary use than as a portable device. It supports reading and writing of quad-layer discs and features "jamless" technology that can accurately recreate damaged media.
  • very solid construction
  • can also write to 3d blu-ray discs
  • considerably expensive
Brand LG
Model BE16NU50
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

6. Pioneer BDR-XU03

The Pioneer BDR-XU03 is a multifunctional audio and video disc burner and reader that works quickly and quietly. It's compatible with both Apple and Windows operating systems, and comes with a handy stand that keeps it vertically oriented and ready for action.
  • works with all usb standards
  • rugged magnesium housing
  • doesn't work with accessory hubs
Brand Pioneer
Model BDR-XU03
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Apple Superdrive

If you've got one of their brushed aluminum laptop or desktop computers, the Apple Superdrive will blend into your setup seamlessly. It's equipped with a short built-in cable, so you never need to remember to pack any accessories along with it.
  • simple logo-free design
  • also works with windows machines
  • not the fastest option
Brand Apple
Model MD564LL/A
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. DLPin Ultra Portable

Available in silver and blue, the DLPin Ultra Portable offers a respite from the all-black models that are ever-so-ubiquitous today. Of course, if you prefer to blend in with the crowd, it does come in black as well, with a super-fast USB 3.0 port to boot.
  • simple one-button operation
  • virtually jam-proof
  • includes a detachable cable
Model pending
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Cocopa Rewriter

The Cocopa Rewriter has a pop-out tray design that helps prevent discs from getting jammed or stuck inside it. It operates at lightning-fast 3.0 speeds and features a built-in storage solution for its hardwired cord on its underside.
  • good value for the price
  • supports all cd and dvd formats
  • backed by an 18-month warranty
Brand coofo
Model pending
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. LG Electronics GP65NB60

The LG Electronics GP65NB60 is a great buy with 8x video and 24x audio write speeds. It features Silent Play technology, which automatically adjusts its read speed to reduce its noise level for a more enjoyable movie-viewing experience.
  • four attractive finish options
  • can be connected directly to a tv
  • just 14 millimeters thick
Brand LG
Model GP65NB60
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Pioneer BDR-XD05B

Those who worry about a disc getting stuck and ruining your hardware will appreciate the clamshell design of the Pioneer BDR-XD05B. Its sleek format looks nice alongside any modern computer and it comes bundled with PowerDVD video software.
  • can read and burn blu-rays
  • minimal power consumption
  • handles scratched discs well
Brand Pioneer
Model BDR-XD05B
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

The Rise And Fall Of The Built-In Optical Drive

DVDs, like CDs, require a laser-powered mechanism in order to read or write to them. An optical drive pairs that system with a mechanism for spinning the disc in question, so that all areas of the disc are accessible to the lens. They were fist made commercially available by Sony in 1987.

For the first few years, the technology was used primarily for music CDs and software CD-ROMs. As this was the primary means of installing new software on a computer, most PCs included an optical drive in their design. This gave users the freedom to use new programs, listen to music straight from their computers, and, in many cases, get access to the internet.

The introduction of the DVD in 1997 added even more uses for optical drives. Because of their high data storage capacity, they were the perfect vehicle for consuming video content like movies and TV shows. For the first several years of their use, internet connections fast enough to download large video files in a reasonable timeframe were hard to come by. This helped sustain the need for optical drives, updated for the new disc format, in computers during this period. While downloading music and software from the internet was becoming much more of a possibility for many consumers, it would still be a few more years before the same would be true of video content.

By the early 2010s, it became more and more common for computer manufacturers to eschew optical drives from their machines altogether. This was due primarily to the amount of physical space they demand. As laptops and even desktop computers began confining themselves to slimmer and lighter profiles, there simply wasn't room for the mechanics of a disc drive. At the same time, it became increasingly possible to download and stream movies and other video content over the average home internet connection.

Of course, many people still need a way to read CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs. Whether you've amassed a collection of your own or want to watch something that's not available for streaming, the only option may be to buy an external drive. Thankfully, there are several reliable models on the market, and most of them feature simple plug-and-play functionality.

A Brief History Of The DVD

DVDs were introduced to the market in 1997 by Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba. They added much needed storage space to the disc format, with a capacity of 4.7 Gigabytes. With about seven times the amount of data storage of a CD-ROM, the digital versatile disc lent itself especially well to video.

While it was possible to write video content onto earlier optical disc formats, full-length movies typically occupy several gigabytes of space, and the DVD was the first to be able to comfortably accommodate them. This led directly to the rise of the format's popularity as it eclipsed the VHS tape for video rentals and purchases. The discs offered several other advantages over their predecessors, including the ability to skip between scenes at the press of a button, and, of course, eliminating the need for rewinding between viewings.

The popularity of the format gave rise to several new industries. The first was the mail-order video rental service, the most popular of which was Netflix. Because of the lightweight and highly portable nature of DVDs, especially when compared to the VHS, it allowed for a reinvention of how home-entertainment could be distributed. While this had severely negative consequences for brick-and-mortar video rental stores like Blockbuster, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010, the DVD-by-mail industry would itself grow into a multi-billion dollar business before being supplanted by video streaming.

The second industry that grew from the rise of the DVD was video extras. It was the first format that allowed movie studios and distributors to provide an interactive experience for viewers at home. Customized title menus, bonus footage, and behind-the-scenes features and interviews were among the innovations in this area. While the content would ultimately migrate, along with the movies themselves, to online streaming platforms, these exclusive additions proved to help the industry market and sell more copies of new movies as well as re-release films previously available without them.

In addition to streaming, the introduction of the** Blu-ray format** by Sony in 2006 also had an impact on the DVD's downfall. A standard double-layered Blu-ray Disc has a capacity of 50 Gigabytes, over 10 times that of a DVD, and occupies the same physical footprint. This allows for a higher-resolution home viewing experience, which grew to be especially valuable as high definition, 4K, and 3D televisions became increasingly available and affordable throughout the 2010s.

How A DVD Drive Works

A DVD drive consists of impressively few components. The most important one is the laser sled, which houses the lens used to read information off an inserted disc. It is positioned on a motorized sliding track that allows it to move radially to access every part of a disc's surface. A central motor is used to spin the disc itself.

In order to read or write information on the disc, a diode in the laser sled emits a beam of light, which the lens in turn focuses to the appropriate intensity for the task at hand. When the laser hits the surface of the disc, the data contained therein impacts its reflection.

While the polycarbonate surface of a DVD may look and feel smooth, it actually contains a spiral of physical pits arranged like grooves on a record. On top of the disc, beneath the printed label, is a reflective coating. An optical pickup inside the laser sled reads the reflections off the coating. The light scatters off the pits and reflects cleanly back into the pickup when it touches the smooth areas between the grooves, which is interpreted as binary code. The code itself is unique to the content it represents.

Most DVD drives can be used to burn or write data to blank discs in addition to reading them. Some are even designed specifically for duplicating discs with ease. This requires the use of a higher-intensity laser, which is achieved by concentrating the focus through the lens. The laser imprints the blank grooves on a writable disc with new data. Unlike commercial DVDs and other single-imprint writable formats, which have physical pits that cannot be altered once formed, rewritable discs contain a thin layer of specialized material that can render sections of the surface non-reflective, so the laser doesn't bounce back when it hits them. While it works just like the pits in the way it is read by the optical pickup, it can be altered numerous times.

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Last updated on March 27, 2018 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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