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What to look for when buying external CD/ DVD drives

Some computers (net-tops, net-books, “old” laptops) do not include a CD / DVD drive, nor the possibility to include one inside the case. To solve this issue, there are several points to be observed before buying such a device. Let’s discover some of the elements that you need to consider before buying external CD/DVD drives.

Basics

Size
Size plays an important role here. Real portable units are based on laptop slim drives, where the total size is slightly bigger than a CD case. Typically, power is drawn from the data cable (USB, firewire). Limited available power will also reduce reading / writing speed. External power adapters and read speeds
On the other side, bigger units may require an external power adapter, but construction is more robust and working speeds are similar to the standard internal drives. Read / Write speed may also be important to you. With current read speeds (say, 24x for CD, 8x for DVD), reading of any multimedia data is not a problem anymore. Data writing devices and associated costs
If you need to write data, similar speeds should be selected, to allow for the storage of data in a few minutes. Of course, the possibility to write discs will have an impact in price.

Additional features

Accommodating several formats
The drive should accept as many formats as possible. Currently, CD-R / RW, DVD-R / +R / RW should be the minimum, then DVD-RAM might be handy, too. However, you may not need this for an external device. Communication interface
This is also a point to check: In most cases, the external drive will have a USB connection, with the new 3.0 protocol rising in the market (Faster, but still expensive). Versions with other connection (Firewire, eSATA) are rare and with higher costs. Additional information:
Some CD / DVD recorders also include the possibility to print a label on the surface, with the “Lightscribe” technology. Media has to be compatible with this technology, based in laser printing. Last but not the least
Finally, you may look at some added features that the manufacturer will add to the device. In some cases, you may get some software utility to make backup copies of your data, or maybe a transport pouch that you can carry in your laptop bag. Style might also be important for you - then you can find coloured cases, or even some USB cables with built-in lights.

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