On many modern PCs, optical drives have become an afterthought. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. People used to burn files to CDs and DVDs for backups and transfer. However, most people now use flash drives for transfer, and external hard drives for backups. As a result, many newer PCs and Macs don’t even have an optical drive at all. For most people, this is all well and good. Why would you pay extra for computer parts that you’re never going to use? But if you want to use an optical disc, like a Blu-Ray disc, you need a drive.
On many computers, you could simply install an internal drive to rectify this. But what if you don’t have any extra space? What if you’ve got plenty of space, but you aren’t confident about cracking your computer open? In either of those cases, an external Blu-Ray drive is going to be your best option.
We’re about to look at three of the best external Blu-Ray player/writer drives on the market. We’ll start with the Pioneer BDR-XD07B. Coming from a reliable brand, this writer is designed for easy transport and setup. Next, we’ll look at the Verbatim External Slimline. As its name implies, this is an ultra-slim drive. It’s also constructed from durable aluminum. Finally, we’ll examine the Buffalo MediaStation. This drive is specially-designed for making long-term M-Disc recordings. Which one is the best? To find out, we’ll need to take a deeper dive into each of these external drives. Let’s look closer, and see what we learn!
Pioneer is an established electronics manufacturer with a long track record. In the past, we reviewed their 7.2-channel AV receiver, and we were duly impressed. So when we saw that they were making a well-reviewed external Blu-Ray drive, we were eager to take a peek!
The Pioneer BDR-XD07B is a slim, compact drive that’s perfect for travel and transport. It measures 5.2 inches square, and is only 0.55 inches thick. It has a relatively plain appearance, with only a white Blu-Ray logo on the top of the case. And at a weight of just 8.1 ounces, it’s easy to carry anywhere. You can drop it in your backpack or laptop bag right along with the rest of your gear. It’s powered by a USB cable, which is included in the kit. There’s no need to worry about an external AC adaptor. Just plug it into your computer’s USB port, and you’re ready to go.
Along with the drive itself, you get a couple of extras. To begin with, you get a padded carrying case. This is a soft zipper case, not a hard case, but it’s still fairly rugged. It’s certainly tough enough to protect the drive from everyday bumps, dings, and bangs. You also get a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty to protect you from any defects. Just make sure to send in the warranty card, or you’re not going to be covered.
Performance and Extras
The Pioneer BDR-XD07B is designed to read all Blu-Ray discs. This includes even the latest triple-layer BD-R and BD-RE discs, which can hold more than 100 GB of data. As a matter of fact, you can even play BD-R quad-layer 128GB discs. This is a lot of performance in addition to basic commercial Blu-Ray playback.
The drive runs relatively quietly, without any unnecessary noise. Moreover, you can adjust the noise level manually. By setting the drive in Auto Quiet mode, you can enjoy quiet playback for most applications. If you’re listening to music or watching a movie, this should be your go-to mode.
That said, the other modes have a couple of advantages. In PowerRead mode, your drive will operate at maximum speed. This is pointless for video or audio playback. But if you’re trying to quickly restore backup data, you’ll get faster performance. PureRead3+ mode, on the other hand, is best for older, damaged discs. In this mode, the Pioneer drive will compensate for scratches and smudges on the disc.
In addition to all this, the Pioneer Blu-Ray player comes with PowerDirector 10 LE software. This is a powerful home movie editing suite that includes social media integration. You also get Power2Go 8 software for making easy backups. Unfortunately, both of these programs only work in Windows. If you’re a Mac user, you’ll have to make do with your native software.
Verbatim External Slimline
Verbatim is another manufacturer with a sterling track record. They’ve been in business since 1969, and they’ve been making storage solutions ever since. Many of us grew up with their 3.5-inch floppy discs, and their Blu-Ray discs are up to the same standard. So we were interested to see how their external Blu-Ray drive compares to the competition.
The Verbatim External Slimline is similar in size to the Pioneer drive. At 5.25 x 5.75 inches, it’s a bit wider than the Pioneer drive. However, at only 0.4 inches thick, it’s even slimmer and easier to carry. You can easily fit it in side pockets on luggage, or in a secondary sleeve inside a laptop bag. Regardless of your carrying option, the 8 ounces of weight are hardly noticeable.
The housing is constructed from anodized aluminum, which makes the Verbatim drive exceptionally durable. We’re not saying you can throw it off a cliff. But if you accidentally drop it on the floor, it should be just fine. The package includes a USB 3.0 cable for connecting to your computer. Much like the Pioneer drive, you don’t need an external AC adapter. Not only that, but Verbatim provides a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty against any defects. They also offer 24/7 customer support, so help is available any time you need it.
Performance and Extras
The Verbatim External Slimline is engineered primarily for speed. It can write Blu-Ray discs at 6X, DVDs at 8X, and CDs at a whopping 24X. This makes it easy to quickly burn discs if you’re in a hurry.
Like the Pioneer drive, the Verbatim drive comes with a suite of Blu-Ray and DVD software. It includes Nero Burn and Archive software, so you can write and image discs as needed. You can also back up exiting Blu-Ray discs to your hard drive. The External Slimline does not, however, include any kind of DVD or Blu-Ray playback software. You’ll need to use your computer’s existing software for watching movies.
In addition to all this, the External Slimline is designed to burn M-Discs. An M-Disc is an advanced type of Blu-Ray disc that’s designed for long-term storage. Ordinary discs use organic dyes, which eventually degrade over the course of about 100 years. This can be slower or faster depending on exposure to light and other conditions. Regardless, M-Discs use a special non-organic dye that takes significantly longer to break down. An M-Disc will last for about 1,000 years without taking any special precautions. As such, M-Discs have become the backup choice of the US military. In other words, the Verbatim External Slimline is a truly military-grade Blu-Ray drive.
The Buffalo MediaStation is similar in size to the last two drives we looked at. It measures 5.43 inches wide, 5.98 inches deep, and a mere 0.57 inches thick. And at only 7.8 ounces, it’s also very lightweight. It’s easy to transport without a lot of fuss. Even better, it connects with a built-in USB tail. This cord mounts inside the MediaStation frame, so you don’t have to worry about losing your accessories.
The housing is constructed from black ABS plastic, but it’s till plenty durable. Unless you plan on throwing your disc drive across the room, it’s more than rugged enough. If you do have any issues, you’ll be covered by Buffalo Tech’s two-year manufacturer’s warranty. Just make sure to send in the warranty card after you open the package. Otherwise, you’re not going to be covered.
Performance and Extras
The Buffalo MediaStation is capable of reading and writing all types of optical discs. In addition to Blu-Ray discs, it can also read and write CDs and DVDs. It’s reasonably speedy, with a Blu-Ray write speed of 6X. Like the Pioneer drive, it supports quad-layer discs with 128GB of capacity. And like the Verbatim drive, it can write 1,000-year M-Discs. This makes it exceedingly versatile, both for home use and commercial use.
One useful feature of the Buffalo MediaStation is that it automatically upscales DVD video. This will improve the resolution to Blu-Ray quality. Keep in mind that this technology isn’t magical. If a detail isn’t captured in the DVD file, the MediaStation won’t manufacture it from thin air. But upscaling can help reduce artifacts in your video. In other words, you’ll “only” be getting DVD levels of detail, but the picture will be sharper.
The Buffalo MediaStation comes with the CyberLink Media Suite. This software can be used to read, write, and back up to DVD and Blu-Ray discs. Alternatively, you can always just use your computer’s native media editing software. It all depends on what you need.
So, which external Blu-Ray player is the best? As is often the case, it depends on what you’re looking for. The Pioneer BDR-XD07B is the best choice for everyday customers. It’s capable of doing data backup, but it’s not really made for that. Instead, it’s engineered to provide the best possible performance for audio and video playback. If you’re primarily using your external Blu-Ray drive for watching movies, you’re looking at a great choice.
The Verbatim External Slimline is a better choice if you’re interested in data backup. It doesn’t come with playback software, which can be problematic for some users. On the other hand, it’s capable of burning M-Discs, which means it’s perfect for backup. Not only that, but it’s constructed from anodized aluminum, which makes it exceptionally durable.
Last, we looked at the Buffalo MediaStation. This drive isn’t quite as rugged as the External Slimline. On the other hand, it comes with software, which the Slimline is sorely lacking. If you don’t already have native editing or playback software, the MediaStation is a solid choice. It’s slim, it’s portable, and it’s easy to use.