The best external DVD drives are more than a simple way to rewatch the director’s commentary tracks from your favorite films of the early 2000s on modern devices. In fact, there are still a number of benefits that come with having access to an optical media drive — from enjoying a library of older games and movies, to creating longer lasting backups of important or sentimental data.
Sure, the idea of relying on physical media to install games or watch movies seems a little archaic in 2022, but that’s not to say that physical DVDs don’t have their perks over digital services like Steam or Netflix. For starters, you don’t need an internet connection to watch your favorite films on DVD, and secondly, once a DVD is created it can’t be snapped out of existence like a digital copy when publishing contracts expire.
Take 2010’s Transformers: War for Cybertron, an outstanding game that has been practically scrubbed from existence on digital storefronts. Try finding the game online nowadays and you’re likely to find yourself paying through the nose for legitimate game keys on gray market sites, or forking out up to a staggering $350 for a physical copy. However, if you own the DVD, you can laugh in the face of Hasbro and Activision as you gleefully blast the optics off of Decepticons all day long.
If you’re looking to invest in an external DVD drive but don’t know where to start, then you’re in the right place. We’ve scoured the market and compiled our shortlist of the best external DVD drives currently available. Whether you’re looking for a reliable time machine to open a window into gaming’s past, or a solid desktop companion to diversify your data backup options, here’s our selection of the best external DVD drives.
What are the best external DVD drives?
Balancing price with performance and portability, the Hitachi LG GP96Y is the best external DVD drive currently available. While its support for all major desktop operating systems is already a boon, the Hitachi LG GP96Y takes it up a notch by supporting DVD playback and data backup across Android tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, and set top boxes. Regardless of where you go, you’re certain to find a device to make use of Hitachi’s excellent external drive.
If you’re looking to pick up the fastest external DVD drive around, then the OWC Mercury Pro is everything you need. Featuring blisteringly quick 24x DVD write speeds of up to 33.2MB/s and capable of writing a dual-layer DVD to full capacity in under four minutes, the Mercury Pro is all about performance. It may be overpowered for the casual user, but the Mercury Pro is a fantastic option for those with extensive DVD and CD libraries who are looking to digitize their collection in the fastest way possible.
The HLDS Universal Data Station merges a multi-hub with an external DVD drive to great effect, gaining the best of each device while only having to worry about its slightly inflated price tag. The hub converts a single USB-C port into multiple USB Type-A SuperSpeed ports, a Micro SD card reader and even a HDMI 1.4 port. Not only that, the Universal Data Station also has a similar level of compatibility as the Hitachi LG GP96Y, making it an ideal companion to any Windows, macOS, Android OS, FireOS and Linux devices.
The best external DVD drive
The Hitachi LG GP96Y is the one-size-fits-all monkey wrench of the external DVD drive world. If you have a device that you want to play DVDs or backup your data on, Hitachi’s drive can almost certainly do just that. While most drives will attempt to support most of the major desktop operating systems, the LG GP96Y takes things to a whole other level. Hitachi’s drive was designed to ensure compatibility not just with PCs and laptops, but also with smart TVs, set top boxes, tablets and smartphones, too.
While you won’t have any luck with iOS or iPadOS devices, the Hitachi LG GP96Y can connect to Android devices with ease by way of Hitachi’s free Disk Link Premium and TrueDVD+ Android apps. From there, you can browse files, rip music, back up data and play media as you would through most desktop applications. The GP96Y’s Android support also allows it to work with FireOS devices like the Fire HD Tablet and Fire TV in much the same way.
As external DVD drives go, the Hitachi LG GP96Y sets itself up as the one to beat. Not only does it offer impressive compatibility between devices, it’s also M-Disc ready, comes with both USB Type-A and USB Type-C connection options and requires little to no setup on most machines as a plug-and-play accessory. The cherry on top is the GP96Y’s competitive pricing of just $29.99, a veritable steal considering its solid 8x read and write performance and use across so many devices.
The best all round external DVD drive
The ASUS ZenDrive U9M is a solid choice for anybody looking to add an optical drive to their setup. Not only is its stylish, Zen garden-esque hairline finish striking to look at, but the ZenDrive U9M also boasts decent performance with read and write speeds of up to 8x for DVDs and 24x for CDs.
Desktop compatibility is one of the ZenDrive’s biggest strengths, with the optical drive supporting most major operating systems such as macOS (10.6 and above), Windows (8 / 8.1 and above) and Linux. The ZenDrive also comes with two cable options, allowing either a USB 2.0 Type-A or Type-C connection depending on which ports you have available. There’s also complete support for the entire range of CD and DVD disc types for playback and writing, and M-Disc support for unparalleled archiving of all your digital data.
You can pick up the ASUS ZenDrive U9M for just $34.99, which is a fair price for what’s on offer. Better still, the ZenDrive comes bundled with some handy software like CyberLink’s Power2Go and PowerBackup. Also included is Nero BackItUp and a 12-month subscription to the ASUS Webstorage Cloud Service. ASUS’s external DVD drive is a fantastic all rounder that doesn’t just grant access to physical media, but makes for an impressive tool for backing up and archiving your most important data.
Best external DVD drive for performance
Unlike a lot of the entries in our list, the OWC Mercury Pro is much better suited to a dedicated space on your desk than a spot in your laptop bag. Not only does this external DVD drive and its aluminum enclosure weigh more than some modern notebooks at a hefty 5.73 pounds, but you’ll also need to connect it to a power outlet once set up. However, what the OWC Mercury Pro loses in portability, it more than makes up for in performance.
While most external DVD drives will typically feature read and write speeds of up to 8x, the OWC Mercury Pro puts the pedal to the metal and delivers read speeds of up to 16x, and blisteringly fast write speeds of up to 24x. That translates to a data rate of around 33.2MB/s, allowing a full write of a dual-layer DVD in just four minutes — just a third of the time it would take your average 8x drive.
If you’re more interested in casually watching a few movies here or there and playing some older PC titles, then it’s unlikely that you’ll take advantage of much of what the Mercury Pro has to offer. However, if you’re serious about ripping and burning CDs or DVDs then the OWC Mercury Pro is the clear choice for you. Performance like this won’t come cheap though, with the drive holding a sizable price tag of $89.
Best external DVD drive for Apple devices
Apple’s USB SuperDrive may seem a little dated, especially as it was originally released alongside the first MacBook Air in 2008. However, to this day it remains the go-to device for many Mac users who aren’t quite as ready as Apple to turn their backs on physical media. Since 2016, the Apple USB SuperDrive has been the only way for newer Mac owners to make use of optical media without relying on third-party hardware — and the fact it’s still up to the task almost 15 years later is a real testament to its quality.
While its DVD read and write speeds of up to 8x are still good enough to contend with much of what the market has to offer, there are a few areas in which the Apple USB SuperDrive shows its age. With no M-Disc support, the SuperDrive misses out on one of optical media’s most impressive archiving options, and its legacy USB Type-A connection is practically a relic from a bygone era since Apple adopted USB-C ports as standard in 2018.
These issues aside, the USB SuperDrive is still a solid DVD drive. Apple’s reputation for making sleek, well-built devices is on full show. Weighing less than 0.74 pounds, the SuperDrive is a great accessory to have in your laptop bag. Apple products tend to come with Apple price tags and the SuperDrive is no different. However, the premium $79 asking price is somewhat offset by Apple’s fantastic build quality and eye-catching minimalist design.4. Apple USB SuperDrive
The best external DVD drive with USB hub
With most modern laptops predominantly offering USB Type-C ports, and many peripherals still requiring USB Type-A, it’s likely that a lot of people own a USB hub already. If you’re also in the market for an external DVD drive, you may be concerned about your workspace becoming a little cluttered. However, while few in number, there are devices out there that can combine the function of both to offer a compact and tidy way to manage your peripherals, ports and optical media all in one go.
The HLDS Universal Data Station is a slim and stylish USB multi-hub that turns a single USB Type-C port into two SuperSpeed Type-A ports, a Micro SD Card reader, a single HDMI 1.4 output and a DVD drive with read/write speeds of up to 8x. The DVD drive also supports M-Disc writing for all your archival needs, and CD read/write speeds of up to 24x. The multi-hub remains as compact and light as most external DVD drives at just 0.52 pounds in weight, making it ideal for travel or quickly switching it between devices.
Speaking of which, there are plenty of compatible devices to connect the HLDS Universal Data Station to, with full support for macOS (Sierra 10.12 and up) and Windows 10. Along with the dedicated UD Link app, you’ll also be able to connect to FireOS and Android OS (8.0 and higher) devices to play movies, listen to audio tracks and back up data directly to CD or DVD. Available for $69.99, the HLDS Universal Data Station has more to offer than most external drives on the market, and could make for a great desktop companion to any setup.
How to choose the best external DVD drive
The speed of the drive you pick determines how fast you’ll be able to read and write data within the drive. Speeds range from 1x (slowest) to 24x (fastest), with 1x speeds equating to a data rate of 1.385 MB/s. At this speed, it will take roughly an hour to write a single-layer DVD to capacity, and 103 minutes for dual-layer DVDs.
Higher drive speeds indicate how much faster your drive will perform. This means if a drive states its speed as x20, it is twenty times as fast as the base x1 speed (1.385 MB/s * 20 = 27.7 MB/s). The most common read/write speed for an external DVD drive is x8, which results in a data rate of around 11.08 MB/s. The time it takes to write a single-layer DVD to capacity at this rate is just seven minutes, with a dual-layer DVD taking only thirteen minutes.
An important factor to keep in mind when selecting an external DVD drive is the type of connection the drive uses. As laptops continue to follow the thin-and-light trend, legacy ports like USB Type-A are being phased out in favor of the smaller and faster USB Type-C port. However, most external DVD drives continue to use Type-A connections because the data rate of even the fastest DVD drives (24x) is only 33.2 MB/s or 266 Mbps, which is well within the 60 MB/s or 480 Mbps bandwidth of a typical USB 2.0 Type-A connection.
While some modern external DVD drives do offer Type-C connections, most remain unchanged — meaning you may need a USB-A to USB-C adapter in order to connect the drive to your chosen device (especially if it is a tablet or smartphone) if there are no legacy ports available.
Commonly, most external DVD drives will work well with Windows and macOS right out of the box (as long as the Mac in question is a post-2008 model with no internal drive originally fitted). However, other operating systems like Linux, Android and Fire OS aren’t offered the same level of support. If you are wanting to combine an external DVD player with a Linux or Android based device, make sure the manufacturer lists it as a compatible operating system before you make a purchase.
Regular recordable DVDs are great for storing data as you move it from one device to the next, but if you want to store information long term then what you really want to be using is M-Disc DVDs. All regular recordable DVDs have their data burnt into an organic dye layer which begins to degrade from the moment it is written to. This gives most standard recordable DVDs a limited lifespan that some estimate to be somewhere between two and five years. While it’s not too much hassle to make a new copy of your data within that window, the process can be time consuming and tedious.
Enter the M-Disc DVD, a write-once optical disc that doesn’t make use of organic dyes to store data but instead uses a more powerful laser found in M-Disc compatible DVD drives to engrave data onto its glassy-carbon surface. Unlike the short lifespan of regular recordable DVDs, the material used in M-Disc DVDs offers a theoretical lifespan of 1,000 years. This makes drives with M-Disc support fantastic options for those seeking to create long-term backups of sensitive information, or sentimental media without worrying about their data becoming lost or corrupted.