The 7 Best External Desktop Blu-ray Drives to Buy in 2018

Check out our top selection of external Blu-ray burners and players

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While cloud storage and streaming video get all the press these days, many home computers, both desktop and laptops, have already begun omitting optical drives. When Steve Jobs famously declared that Apple was removing optical drives from its laptops a long time ago, it was a move decried by critics. Turn the clock forward and that has led to incredible innovation in both laptop and desktop design and portability. Fortunately, to fill the void left by the lack of optical drives, there are a slew of external Blu-ray drives available to assist inburning, writing and viewing of video. Below you’ll find our choices for the best external Blu-ray drives available.  

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Pioneer BDR-XS06

Pioneer BDR-XS06
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The Pioneer BDR-XS06 external Blu-ray writer is a solid piece of technology that offers fast write speeds alongside an auto quiet mode to reduce noise. Auto quiet mode assists in noise reduction while listening to music or watching movies, as well as when setting it too high for faster data transfer.

Measuring 5.31 x 5.31 x .71 inches and weighing 5.6 ounces, the Pioneer is powered solely by USB connection via a computer. The drive itself supports BDXL format with storage for more data in the form of 156 percent more capacity than a 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc.

The inclusion of Toast Lite Software allows quick and easy burning from a Windows or Mac computer, although Blu-ray playback requires the separate purchase of additional software. Both portable and fast, the Pioneer offers 6x BDR on single and dual-layer discs as well as 4x max write speed on BD-R triple and quad-layer discs.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Pioneer BDR-XD05B

Pioneer BDR-XD05B
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Released in 2015, Pioneer’s BDR-XD05B is a clamshell-designed (opens from the top) slim and lightweight Blu-ray writer that offers a great experience in a design that’s just 8.2 ounces. Measuring 5.24 x 5.24 x .58 inches, the XD05B offers premium and proprietary features such as PowerRead and PureRead to assist in the delivery of smoother playback of both DVDs and CDs. The Pioneer will handle write speed at 6x for a Blu-ray on one quad-layer BDXL disc that can store the equivalent of around 27 DVDs.

The inclusion of Auto Quiet mode allows for the reduction in disc rotation speed to reduce noise. It switches between both quiet and performance modes depending on your needs. Pioneer includes CyberLink software for Windows, which allows for Blu-ray playback. Unfortunately, the BDR-XD05B is only compatible with Windows software leaving Mac fans to look at alternative options for Blu-ray writing and playback.

Best Splurge: OWC Mercury Pro 16X Blu-ray, 16X DVD, 48X CD Read/Write solution

If it’s speed you crave, the OWC Mercury Pro delivers, reaching write speeds up to 16X. It’s capable of writing M-DISC DVDs and M-DISC Blu-rays, but it can also burn and play regular Blu-ray Discs.

Housed in a single piece of aluminum, this drive has a sleek, but solid design and impressive build quality. On the back, you’ll find access to the USB 3.0 (backwards compatible with USB 2.0), power and Kensington lock slot connections. Along with the drive, you get applications including Smile DiskLabel and ProSoft Data Backup for Mac and NovaBackup for PC. While they aren’t the latest and greatest versions, they will serve you well nonetheless.

Best Write Speeds: ASUS Computer International Direct ASUS BW-16D1X-U

Measuring 9.6 x 2.5 x 6.5 inches, this beautifully designed device is packed with features and is more powerful than most external Blu-ray drives. The Mac- and Windows-compatible device can write up to 16X with BDXL support that supports data storage up to 128 GB. Using USB 3.0 technology, it enables data transfer rates up to 10 times faster than those offered by a USB 2.0 connection. On top of that, it doesn’t just read and write to Blu-ray discs; it also reads and writes to both DVD and CD optical media discs.

But what sets this drive apart from others? It comes equipped with CyberLink Power2Go8 software designed to streamline the burning process and protect private files, plus professional data backup software to ensure all your precious files are backed up sufficiently.

Best Budget: MthsTec Ultra Slim

The MthsTec Ultra Slim external Blu-ray player and DVD burner combo drive offers up a fantastic value (and a host of features). It weighs 10 ounces and measures 5.9 x 5.6 x 0.6-inches, making it par for the course in the Blu-ray external drive world. Fortunately, its size hides its extensive feature set. 

Connecting to a computer via USB 3.0, the MthsTec supports speeds up to 10x faster (5Gbps) over USB 2.0 (480Mbps) and no AC adaptor or drivers are required. Overall write speed is set for a standard 6x (plus an 8x DVD-Max write speed), which means the MthsTec is backward compatible with older technology. 

Best for Macs: Sea Tech

Sea Tech
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While all the Blu-ray external drives support Windows 7 to Windows 10 software, Mac support is a little more hit and miss. Realistically, Apple doesn’t officially support Blu-ray playback, but there are a host of third-party applications that do. As a CD/DVD unit, the Sea Tech aluminum external USB Blu-ray writer super drive is a plug-and-play package that’s just 15.2 ounces and measures 8 x 7.4 x 1.9 inches.

Released in 2012, the Sea Tech remains as perfectly viable today as it was back then, thanks to updated third-party software that provides a great viewing experience on both Apple desktops and laptops. Additionally, the Sea Tech provides support for M-Disc, which offers years of reliable data storage and playback. Write speed on the Sea Tech is an average 6x, while Blu-ray playback is a standard 2x speed. Unfortunately, there’s no auto-quiet feature to reduce the internal noise while playing or writing a disc, but that’s a worthy tradeoff for a drive that’s 100 percent compatible with Apple’s computer line. 

Best Design: Pioneer BDR-XU03

Pioneer BDR-XU03
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Slightly expensive for its standard feature set, the Pioneer BDR-XU03 price is best understood when you consider the magnesium body design that’s both futuristic and functional. Capable of standing both vertically and horizontally, the BDR-XU03 weighs 8.6 ounces and measures 5.2 x 5.2 x .5 inches. Along with a 6x writing speed, there’s support for additional features such as auto-quiet mode, as well as USB 3.0 for faster data transmission between a PC and the Pioneer itself.

The BDR-XU03 works with BDXL discs, Blu-ray discs and is backward compatible with DVD and CDs. Additionally, Pioneer includes support for PureRead to help minimize sound glitches during music playback, which provides an error-free audio performance and even helps during movie playback. And if you have a green thumb, it's even eco-friendly because the smaller design also means reduced power consumption.