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Lifewire / Scott Gercken
Slim, portable build
Useful included software
Loud when using data discs
Included software can be tricky to use
With a solid build, decent performance, and a slim profile the Pioneer BDR-XS06 Slot Loading Portable Blu-ray Burner is an excellent portable Blu-ray solution.
While most computer users have been moving away from physical media like CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays, there are still many people who want to use burner drives to preserve and back up their data. There’s a whole field of portable Blu-ray burners, like the Pioneer BDR-XS06 Slot Loading Portable Blu-ray Burner, trying to grab a share of that market. We tested the BDR-XS06 to see whether it can rise above a crowded field.
Check out our buyers guide for more information on what you should look for in an optical drive.
The Pioneer BDR-XS06 Blu-ray Burner is a shiny, silver drive. It’s a tiny 5.3" square, only .7” tall, with a silver top and sides, and a black underside. The bottom has two rubberized feet that run the width of the device, keeping it stable on slippery surfaces, nice if you’re using it away from your desk. The silver outer shell doesn’t smudge easily, so it’ll look nice without constant cleaning.
The Pioneer BDR-XS06 feels solidly constructed. When you pick it up nothing feels loose, and it inspires confidence that this portable drive can safely absorb some jostling while you’re on the road.
It’s a slot loading drive, which works exactly the way you’d expect. It may be personal preference, but slot loading systems seem cleaner and less fussy than clamshell or tray systems. The back side has two ports, a USB 3.0 micro-B and a port for a DC power input (not included with the drive). The drive also comes with a micro-B to USB-A cord, making it easy to connect the Pioneer BDR-XS06 to your computer.
The Pioneer BDR-XS06 Blu-ray Burner is very easy to set up. We just plugged the USB cord into the Blu-ray burner and the computer and it was ready to go. Macs have native software for reading and burning using a Blu-ray drive, so it was a breeze to get started.
The BDR-XS06 also comes with a copy of Roxio Toast Lite. We inserted the installation disc into the BDR-XS06 to get the process started. When the drive mounted the disc, it showed a window with the application and an alias for the applications folder. Installation was as easy as dragging the icon to our applications folder. When we opened the app, the only setup step was registration, and then we were ready to go.
Even without the software, the BDR-XS06 worked right away. This model works right out of the box with both Windows and MacOS with little to no additional fuss. It’s one of the most plug-and-play burners we’ve tested.
Like most Blu-ray burners, the BDR-XS06 slows down its read speed when you put in a movie or audio disc. That keeps the noise level low for those media. When it reads data discs, however, the speed picks up, which means more noise. The noise while installing Roxio Toast Lite got to an annoyingly loud level. It might not be too much in a busy office, but it was surprising in the quiet room where we tested it.
It’s one of the most plug-and-play burners we’ve tested.
To test read/write speeds, we ripped a copy of Die Hard, a 37GB file, using a program called MakeMKV. The whole process took an hour and 13 minutes, and the drive hit speeds between 5.2x and 6x. To test the write speeds, we made a backup copy of a 14GB photo library. It took just under 42 minutes, though the same task took 32 minutes on Roxio Toast. While these speeds aren’t the fastest on the market, they live up to Pioneer’s advertising. While using Roxio Toast, the software measured an average write speed of 3x while using a BD-R, though its max speed is 6x for that format.
While Blu-ray burners and optical drives aren’t exactly designed to play movies, we tried it anyway. We used a free Blu-ray player for Mac, and the picture was pretty good. On the Mac, it was sharp, almost as good as a Blu-ray player designed for the TV. Next, we connected an HDMI cable to the Mac to see what it would look like on an HDTV. It wasn’t as good as on the computer, but it wasn’t bad either. The TV reported that the resolution was 768p at 60hz, not as good as a Blu-ray player built for that purpose, but better than SD.
While many people rave about HD image quality, we think that the depth of sound is the most exciting feature of the Blu-ray format. When you get all the high-end and low-end sound, it feels more immersive, and the Pioneer BDR-XS06 Slot Loading Portable Blu-ray Burner delivered the audio quality you’d expect from a Blu-ray. If you don’t mind the reduction in image quality vs. a dedicated player, the BDR-XS06 could double as a Blu-ray player for your PC or TV.
The drive comes with Roxio Toast Lite v11 for creating or copying data discs. You need to upgrade to the full version to create an audio disc, video disc, or to convert files to another format.
It’s simple in principle, but we ran into some issues getting started. When we first opened Toast Lite, it opened a tutorial/quick menu window with tabs across the top for each kind of project. The upgrade projects had an up arrow on each tab. When we clicked on the tab with an up arrow, it opened a blank window in the default browser and Toast crashed. This happened every time until we clicked “close” on the opening tutorial/quick menu window. Then it switched us to another, similar menu, which allowed us to click through the tabs without a problem.
Once we finally got Toast working, we found that there really aren’t too many advantages over the native Mac Blu-ray burner support. It works just about the same way. There are a couple of cool features, though. Unlike MacOS, Toast keeps track of how much space is left on the empty disc, and can also write files over multiple discs. If you have a big project to burn, you can just load up all your files in one group and let Toast sort it out. The software also lets you see the average write speed while you’re burning, a nice way to keep tabs on how the drive is performing.
That extra durability is worth the slightly higher cost than this drive’s competitors.
For the price, it delivers strong performance and portability. At an MSRP of $120, the BDR-XS06 is a little more expensive than some of its competition, but it feels more solid than even Pioneer’s own models in this price range. That extra durability is worth the slightly higher cost than this drive’s competitors.
Pioneer BDR-XD05B 6x Slim Portable USB 3.0 Blu-ray Burner: The Pioneer BDR-XD05B is Pioneer’s new model of external Blu-ray burners. It has a clamshell case, which means the top pops open so you can place the Blu-ray into the drive. The drive is black and a smudge magnet, and it also doesn’t feel as sturdy as the Pioneer BDR-XS06. In general, we prefer the BDR-XS06 for its sturdy, smudge-free design, but the BDR-XD05B is a fine choice if your main concern is price.
Sea Tech Archgon MD 8107 Aluminum External USB Blu-ray Writer: The Sea Tech Archgon MD 8107 is a nice looking drive. With a brushed aluminum case and a black face, it’s very stylish. The MSRP on the manufacturer’s website is $184, but you can find it for way less online, often as low as $90. Unfortunately, the manufacturer also doesn’t have any information about the formats it supports or the drive’s read/write speeds. We even called up the manufacturer to get that information, and they said they had to contact the engineer in Taiwan, and then completely ghosted us. If you’re willing to take the risk that this will support your preferred disc format, this is a great price, but the lack of clear support and a lot about how this company operates makes us hesitant.
Verbatim Slimline Blu-ray Writer: It seems like most slim, portable Blu-ray drives have about the same specs, and the Verbatim drive is no different. It reads and writes at roughly the same speed as the BDR-XS06 and supports USB 3.0. Its black finish will probably attract smudges, though, and the MSRP is much higher than the Pioneer BDR-XS06 at $211.60 (though you can often find it for around $100). In the end, it’s basically the same drive by a different manufacturer.
A solid portable Blu-ray burner.
The Pioneer BDR-XS06 Slot Loading Portable Blu-ray Burner is a solid, portable Blu-ray burner. It’s small enough to pack up to take on a trip, and it’s solid enough to give us confidence that it can endure some jostling on the way. It costs a little more than its competitors, but we think the solid construction is worth it.