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Lifewire / Scott Gercken
Beautiful brushed aluminum design
Customer service is iffy
This well-built, portable Blu-ray burner could be a great buy, but the spotty performance and lack of documentation mean we can’t recommend it.
We purchased the Sea Tech Aluminum External USB Blu-ray Writer so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Nearly everyone has moved away from physical media like Blu-ray or DVD discs to digital storage. Many people don’t even keep their music physically on their phone or computer either, but there are still many good reasons to use discs to back up your data.
There’s a whole field of portable Blu-ray burners on the market for people who want secure, long-term storage. We tested the Sea Tech Aluminum External USB Blu-ray Writer Super Drive to see whether it stands above the competition.
Check out our buyers guide for more information on what you should look for in an optical drive.
Sea Tech is one of those Amazon companies without an independent web presence, so we spent a long time trying to hunt down the user manual and specs for this drive. After an hour of using our best Google-ninja skills, we gave up and called Sea Tech’s number on the quick start guide. The phone number doesn’t go to the customer service department of Sea Tech, but instead to a guy named Robert. It’s his cell phone. The customer service email? Also a personal email on earthlink.net. That means you can get one-on-one service, but it doesn’t inspire confidence that there’s are professionals backing the business.
We asked him if there was any documentation, and he said that there wasn’t anything written down. He offered to contact the engineers over in Taiwan. As of the time of this writing, we still haven’t heard back from them. Robert did send a spec sheet for an older model of the same drive, but it doesn’t have the same inner workings.
The phone number doesn’t go to the customer service department of Sea Tech, but instead to a guy named Robert. It’s his cell phone.
Eventually, we found out that the guts of the Sea Tech Aluminum External USB Blu-ray Writer Super Drive is a MATSHITA BD-MLT UJ272, made by Panasonic. Panasonic, unfortunately, doesn’t make this drive anymore, so we couldn’t find documentation from them about the specs. Long story long, all the specs we mention come from third-party sites or from the Amazon store. Sea Tech doesn’t inspire confidence in the quality of their drive when they can’t even tell us what formats it supports.
The drive doesn’t come in a box marked Sea tech. The brand name is Archgon, and the model is Stream USB 3.0 Blu-ray drive. At first, we thought they sent the wrong drive, but when we checked the bar code it read “Sea Tech Aluminum External USB Blu-ray Writer Super Drive.” Then we opened up the box, and the quick start guide had the contact information for Seatech, Inc., so it seems the drive is manufactured by Archgon and sold by Sea Tech.
The drive itself is gorgeous brushed aluminum with rounded sides which are especially striking compared to the brutally rectangular drives we’re used to seeing. The underside is made of the same brushed aluminum with four rubbery, black feet to keep it from sliding around. The included USB cord splits into a double USB-A.
Both MacOS and Windows support Blu-ray drives like this, so the setup process for the Sea Tech drive was as simple as plugging it into our computer. The second USB-A connector is on a 16” cord, which was just long enough to plug into both sides of our MacBook Pro, but we did have to run the cord over the keyboard to make it work. The drive does work without that second USB-A though.
The drive is plug and play with both MacOS and Windows operating systems, so it works with both, right out of the box. It also works with the broad range of Blu-ray, DVD, and CD writable formats, except for Ultra HD Blu-rays.
We encountered some issues trying to get the Sea Tech to eject a disc. After hitting the eject button on the drive and in software to no effect, we finally had to pull out the USB cord and plug it back in to get the drive to spit out the disc. This happened more than once during testing.
We tested the Sea Tech’s read speed by ripping a copy of Die Hard, a 37GB Blu-ray file. Using MakeMKV, it took 74 minutes to copy the whole thing, which is about the same performance as most portable Blu-ray burners we’ve tested.
We tried to test the write speeds, but initially, it wouldn’t work. Using the MacOS native burning tools we kept getting this error: “The disc can’t be burned because communication between the computer and the disc drive failed (error code 0x80020022).” Once we swapped out the included USB cord for one from another device, it got going right away. After that, it took just over 40 minutes to write the 13 GB photo library. Bizarrely, we tried the cord that came with the Sea Tech drive on a different Blu-ray burner, and it worked without a problem.
When the drive worked well, it performed admirably at about the same speeds as the rest of the slim Blu-ray burner field, but we have to dock it for the numerous times it failed to perform.
We watched a couple of Blu-rays through the Sea Tech drive both on just the Mac and connected to an HDTV through the Mac’s HDMI port. Both had great picture. When we watched the Blu-ray on the TV, the TV told us it was playing in 768p definition, not the kind of FHD a dedicated Blu-ray player would provide but good for an optical drive that costs less than $100.
When the drive worked well, it performed admirably ... but we have to dock it for the numerous times it failed to perform.
One of the best advantages that Blu-ray has over DVD is the sound quality. We love sharp images and cool chase scene in HD, but the sound is what really makes films immersive. The sound quality through the tiny Mac speakers was better than lossy MP3’s we sometimes play, but it still suffered. When we plugged it into the TV, though, it sounded just like any other Blu-ray player. It delivered all the high-end and low-end sound that makes the format shine.
There isn’t a lot of price fluctuations in the market for slim, portable Blu-ray burners. You can find most models somewhere between $75 and $100, and the Sea Tech Aluminum External USB Blu-ray Writer Super Drive is no different, typically selling for around $85.
Its brushed metal exterior and solid build are nice features for a portable Blu-ray burner, but it frequently fails to work as intended and has terrible documentation and support. It’s not worth the reliability issues when there are so many comparable competitors in the market.
Pioneer BDR-XD05B 6x Slim Portable USB 3.0 Blu-ray Burner: The BDR-XD05B is Pioneer’s newest 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, so it doesn’t look as nice or feel as sturdy as the Sea Tech. Both drives cost about the same, approximately $100 online, but the spotty performance and lack of documentation or professional customer service make the Sea Tech model too much of a risk.
Verbatim Slimline Blu-ray Writer: Most slim, portable Blu-ray drives have about the same specs, and the Verbatim drive is no different. It reads and writes at about the same speeds as the Sea Tech, but the MSRP is much higher, around at $210. That said, you can sometimes find it for closer to $100 online. The Sea Tech burner looks much better than the Verbatim, but the spotty performance and lack of documentation make this drive too much of a risk to recommend.
Unreliability sinks it.
If we were just rating this drive on its style and specs, we would recommend it highly, but a beautiful Blu-ray burner that doesn’t work reliably is useless. Add its missing documentation and one-man customer support line, and the Sea Tech is a very tough sell.