External Optical Drives: Burning Faster

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The prices for external optical drives that allow you to read and write, or copy data, to Blu-ray Discs fell dramatically in the past 2 years. You now can buy an external optical drive that records onto a Blu-ray Disc for as little as $80, compared with $130 just 2 years ago and $300 in 2010. We also found five models that cost $150–$180 and include a superfast USB 3.0 connection and the capability to read and write onto the largest 128GB BDXL discs. Before, no models delivered both of those features; models that had USB 3.0 alone cost $180–$310.

One model, LG’s BE14NU40 ($150), delivers a 14x write speed onto Blu-ray Discs—the fastest such speed that’s available. Drives that have a 12x write speed now start at $120, compared with $160 previously.

Another innovation: the introduction of M-Disc technology, which engraves Blu-ray or DVD data onto a rocklike material that’s embedded in M-Discs. Millenniata, which is the sole manufacturer of M-Discs, claims that the discs will last 1,000 years. The discs cost $30 for a pack of 10. Typical Blu-ray Discs, which cost $25 for a pack of 50, are prone to decay in 10–100 years from handling, heat and humidity, according to Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), which promotes data preservation. CLIR says M-Discs are a better solution than are Blu-ray Discs for long-term data preservation of archives and records for businesses, educational institutions and government institutions. It says M-Discs also are a good idea for consumers who, say, want to store family records for future generations. If you back up only files, however, we believe that M-Discs are overkill for the price.

At press time, LG was the only company that made external optical drives on which you can use M-Discs.