The advent of affordable, high-capacity media could bring a renaissance in optical storage, but only if the performance is adequate. We tested a few of today’s fastest drives with USB and eSATA connectivity to find out where this technology stands.
There's a pleasant surprise in store for anyone who hasn't paid much attention to Blu-ray media for a while (probably a result of being turned off by it in the past). The price you'll pay per disc is as low as $1.25 right now.
The performance of the external Blu-ray drives we're testing today might be equally surprising to anyone already accustomed to 4x burners. At one-eighth the media price and up to three times the speed, it’s high time to reconsider our options.
Indeed, slow and expensive writing forced most enthusiasts to give up the idea of optical media altogether and make the switch to fast flash-based drives with what seem like an endless supply of rewrite cycles. And yet, while USB thumb drives are the 21st century's floppy disk, that whole measure of price per gigabyte gets prohibitive when it comes to distributing lots of storage to lots of friends, coworkers, or family members.
Aside from physical distribution advantages, optical media remains a mid-term alternative to big hard drives and tape for backing up data. Rapidly declining hard drive costs are a big problem for the struggling BD-R archiving market, yet today’s media prices finally allow single-layer discs to catch up.
And yet, none of that would matter if we were still stuck writing at 4x speeds. Fortunately, optical drive manufacturers are now pushing the envelope with smoking-fast 12x burners.
External drives offer the convenience of connecting to everything from notebooks to servers, without the installation hassle enthusiasts often deplore. It's a bummer that the prolific USB 2.0 interface tops out at around 36 MB/s in the real-world, though, equaling a BD-R disc speed of 8x. Innovative manufacturers use USB 3.0, eSATA, or a combination of those two faster technologies to get around performance limitations.
|External Blu-ray Burner Basic Specifications|
|Model||Asus BW-12D1S-U||LG BE12LU30||Plextor PX-LB950UE|
|Read Speed (Single-Layer/Dual-Layer)|
|Write Speed (Single-Layer/Dual-Layer)|
|Buffer Size||4 MB||4 MB||8 MB|