The 6 Best External Desktop Blu-ray Drives of 2020

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

The growing absence of optical drives on modern computers has demonstrated the increasing importance of having one of the Best external Desktop Blu-Ray players on hand. Physical media may slowly be going the way of the dodo, but retaining physical backups of important documents and other media is one of the safest ways to archive information. Investing in a Blu-ray burner like the OWC Mercury Pro at Amazon makes it simple to transfer vast libraries of data onto physical media for archival purposes.

Besides giving you the freedom to access older media, having an optical drive on hand provides you with a simple way to update your drivers or reinstall your OS if things really go sideways. There is also an argument that investing in the best external desktop Blu-Ray player is better for watching movies, providing a lag-free experience for anyone with a sub-optimal networking environment at home.

Best Overall: 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 for Playback: Pioneer BDR-XD05B Blu-ray Burner

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 Write Speeds: ASUS BW-16D1X-U Blu-ray Drive

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 Design: Pioneer BDR-XU03

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.

Best Portable: LG Slim Portable Blu-ray/DVD Writer

At less than 2 inches thick, the LG Slim Portable is easily one of the slimmest external Blu-Ray players available. Compatible with Windows and Mac, the LG Slim connects to your PC via USB 2.0 without the need for a dedicated power supply. A max 8X write speed lets the slim keep up with some of the heftier models on our list, but still features 3D Blu-Ray playback, as well as M-Disc write capability for archival work.

The LG Slim Portable is a remarkable piece of engineering in the sense that it fits a lot of features into a very small package without the need for an external power supply. Unfortunately, this exceptional peripheral is marred by something of an eye-watering price tag but is otherwise easy to recommend for anyone that needs an optical drive with a diminutive form factor.

Final Verdict

If you need a solid optical drive extension for your laptop or desktop, it's tough to go wrong with the OWC Mercury Pro. The unobtrusive aluminum chassis houses one of the fastest optical read/write solutions currently available and is compatible with the M-Disc "Write Once" archival format, making it perfect for long term storage. However, if you're looking for a more portable solution, the LG Slim Portable Blu-ray/DVD Writer is a perfect choice.

What to Look for in an External Desktop Blu-ray Drive

Writing and rewriting - The most basic Blu-ray drives are only useful for playing Blu-ray movies. If you want to burn your own Blu-ray discs, look for one that’s capable of writing or rewriting. Drives that can both write and rewrite Blu-ray discs are more flexible, but rewritable Blu-ray discs can’t store as much information as regular ones.

Compatibility - There are two compatibility issues to look out for with an external Blu-ray player: port type and operating system. Blu-ray players that support USB 3.0 transfer data faster, but that doesn’t help if your computer only has USB 2.0 ports. In that same vein, some external Blu-ray drives only work with Windows, others only work with Macs, and some can be used with both.

Speed - If you only want an external Blu-ray drive to watch movies, speed isn’t a big concern. But if you want to rip Blu-ray movies to your hard drive or burn your own Blu-ray discs, a faster drive will save you a lot of time.