Your laptop is using USB 1.1 or USB 2.0?
If 1.1 any external can be used since the bandwidth limitation makes no differences between the CD-RW drives.
If 2.0, there are the expensive Waitec FrysbyII, Yamaha CRW-F1. Or you can go for a cheaper way, get an good & cheap internal CD-RW drive and buy a USB 2.0 compatible mobile rack to house the drive.
If you don't have USB 2.0 do yourself a favor and get it. USB 1.1 writers are only capable of 6X-8X reading/writing, max. You can get USB 2.0 card bus (formerly called PCMCIA) adapters for about $35.
I second the recommendation for a generic USB 2.0 enclosure plus a good IDE CDRW to go in it. Can't go wrong with Lite-on or Asus. If you are using Win 9x/ME/2K make sure the enclosure comes with the appropriate drivers.
If you don't want to build it yourself, I've occasionally seen a Lite-on 48x12x48 USB 2.0 drive for under $100 listed on Pricewatch but not many vendors seem to be carrying it. (It might be a generic enclosure + drive).
Yeah, if it's an older laptop, then all the USB 2.0 stuff is backward compatible. You just won't get anything faster than about a 5.8x burn.
Personally, I would tell you to stay right the hell away from HP drives. But I only have experience with their 8200e USB burner, and I RMA'd that one 2 seperate times for failures. I just threw it in the trash a week ago (hadn't used it for 6 months).
I dunno what their new drives are like, but I just wouldn't by a burner from them again. I have a Laserjet 6p that still works awesome, though. =)
I use a Sony 140 USB drive with my laptop, now. It's usb 1.1, and it's wonderful. I've never had a problem with it, period. It's my main drive unless i'm doing an os install, so I use it 99.7% of the time; reading and writing.
"I personally think filesystems should be rewritten from scratch every 5 years..." --- Hans Reiser
That's right, Lite-On and Iomega have some decent external USB 2.0 CD-RW drive which is NOT with the enclosure. I personally own a Lite-On LXR24101A "Let's Write" which is very good. They are pretty cheap, they cost around AUD$250-350 which is USD$120-180 approx.