The 5 Best External Optical Drives of 2023

Watch DVDs on your laptop without a built-in drive

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While plenty of content is available for download or streaming online—and most of us carry around a whole library of movies and music on our phones and laptops—physical discs still have their uses. So, if you’re in need, we’ve got a host of great picks, from compact and affordable to powerful and fully featured.

in this article

Best Overall

ASUS BW-16D1X-U Blu-ray Drive

ASUS Powerful Blu-ray Drive with 16x Writing Speed and USB 3.0 for Both Mac/PC Optical Drive BW-16D1X-U


While many of the best external optical drives go for a smaller form factor, making them easier to travel, this pick for top performance goes big. The ASUS BW-16D1X-U measures 2.48 x 6.50 x 9.57 inches, making it a bit of a desk hog, but with that extra size, you get serious performance for every task.

The ASUS BW-16D1X-U has fast access times on all types of optical media, so you’ll spend less time waiting around. It can access CD-ROM at 160ms, DVD-ROM at 170ms, and BD-ROM at 180ms. Its read and write performance is also stellar, with 40x, 16x, and 8x read speeds in CD, DVD, and Blu-ray, respectively. Likewise, it can burn CD-R at 40x, DVD-R at 16x, and BD-R at 16x.

So, whether you want to rip media from discs or burn data to them, the Asus BW-16D1X-U can do the job quickly. It also supports BDXL, allowing storage of up to 128GB on a single, compatible disc. Making the package even sweeter, the ASUS BW-16D1X-U supports Windows and Mac computers.

Best Budget

LG GP65NB60 8X USB 2.0 Super Multi Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer Drive

LG Electronics 8X USB 2.0 Super Multi Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer Drive +/-RW External Drive with M-DISC Support (Black) GP65NB60


If you don’t need the Blu-ray capabilities offered by some of the more premium external optical drives, you can get a great deal on a CD/DVD drive. LG’s GP65NB60 is a low-profile and affordable combo drive that offers both read and write capability for CD and DVD. Measuring 0.6 x 5.4 x 5.6 inches and weighing just 0.4 pounds, it even gives our top compact pick a run for its money.

The LG GP65NB60 can read CD-ROM at 24x speeds and DVD-ROM at 8x speeds, meaning it’s not lagging behind most of the competition despite its budget price. Write speeds are also decent, with up to 24x on CD-R and up to 8x on DVD-R. And the LG GP65NB60 needs a single USB connection for all its power and data transfer needs. Further rounding out the package, the LG GP65NB60 supports Windows and Mac, can burn archival-quality M-Disc, and comes in various colors, with black, gold, white, and silver on offer.

Runner-Up, Best Budget

Dell DW316 External USB Slim DVD Drive



The Dell DW316 measures 0.55 x 5.41 x 5.67 inches, making it both a budget and compact contender. Along with its slim profile, the device weighs just 0.44 pounds, so you’ll hardly notice it in your laptop bag. Running off a single USB connection for power and data transfer doesn’t take much to get the Dell DW316 up and running. Support is confirmed for Windows, but reviewers have also mentioned using the Dell DW316 with Mac computers.

The Dell DW316 performs in line with what most of the competition offers. It boasts maximum read speeds of 24x for CDs and 8x for DVDs. It can provide those same speeds for writing as well.

Most Compact

Verbatim External Slimline Blu-ray Writer

Verbatim External CD DVD Blu-ray Writer USB 3.0 M-Disc Ready - Movie playback requires playback software (not included)


Many modern laptops and ultrabooks decide to forgo an optical drive to trim their size and weight. But that reduction wouldn’t be valuable if you need an optical drive and carry a big one around.

Measuring just 0.45 x 5.24 x 5.75 inches, the Verbatim 70102 is super compact. What’s more, the reduction in size doesn’t mean a bunch of compromises. It’s built with metal housing for a premium look and feel and is speedy. It can write CDs at 24x, DVDs at 8x, and Blu-rays at 6x — even supporting M-Disc. It’s a CD/DVD/BD drive weighing less than half a pound. The Verbatim 70102 is a mobility champion, with power and data transfer over USB, so you’ll only need one cable.

Runner-Up, Most Compact

ASUS ZenDrive



Where a compact footprint counts, ASUS's ultra-slim ZenDrive is a quality pick. This simple CD/DVD combo drive does not support Blu-Ray, so it comes at a substantially lower price. And it measures just 0.55 x 5.33 x 5.61 inches, with a single USB connection needed for power.

The ZenDrive offers excellent performance for its size, with CD read and write speeds up to 24x and DVD read and write speeds up to 8x. Furthering that performance along are quick access times; the Asus ZenDrive can access CD and DVD content in 160ms. For anyone that needs archival quality, the ZenDrive also supports burning to M-Disc for long-lasting data storage.

The Asus ZenDrive supports both Windows and Mac, and it includes CyberLink software to help you get started with storing content on physical media. The drive also comes with six months of free cloud storage from ASUS, so you can rip content from your CDs and DVDs and move them there as needed.

  • What are the advantages of an optical drive?

    With media increasingly moving to digital rather than physical storage solutions, an optical drive may seem outdated. But there are still a number of reasons to invest in an optical drive, not the least of which is to access older media, a significant percentage of which still hasn't been shifted over to a digital/online solution. This is especially true if you have games, videos, photos, or documents backed up on physical media. Optical drives can also be a handy way to create new backups quickly and inexpensively, and some programs require discs for emergency boot tools.

  • Can you read a DVD in a Blu-Ray drive?

    Yes, both CDs and DVDs are compatible with Blu-Ray drives, and there are combo drives that can burn discs of all three types as well. By contrast, DVD drives cannot read Blu-Ray media.

  • How does an optical drive work?

    Optical drives read and write data to discs by means of a laser. To write, the laser creates pits in an organic dye layer on the surface of the disc, the reflected light from which can then be read by photodiodes in the drive and converted back into the original data. The disc is spun inside the drive, allowing the laser to consecutively read the tracks on its surface.

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