Skip to main content

Three External USB And eSATA Blu-ray Burners Tested

Are External Blu-ray Burners Cheap Enough? Are They Fast Enough?

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
ModelAsus BW-12D1S-ULG BE12LU30Plextor PX-LB950UE
Description
Install TypeExternalExternalExternal
InterfaceUSB 3.0eSATA USB 2.0USB 3.0 eSATA
Read Speed (Single-Layer/Dual-Layer)
BD-ROM8x/8x10x/8x8x/8x
BD-R8x/8x10x/8x8x/8x
BD-RE8x/6x8x/6x8x/6x
DVD-ROM16x/12x16x/12x16x/12x
DVD-R16x/12x16x/12x16x/12x
DVD+R16x/12x16x/12x16x/12x
DVD±RW12x12x12x
DVD-RAM5x12x12x
CD-ROM, -R40x48x48x
CD-RW24x40x40x
Write Speed (Single-Layer/Dual-Layer)
BD-R12x/8x12x/12x12x/8x
BD-RE2x/2x2x/2x2x/2x
DVD-R16x/8x16x/8x16x/8x
DVD+R16x/8x16x/8x16x/8x
DVD-RW6x6x6x
DVD+RW8x8x8x
DVD-RAM5x12x12x
CD-R40x48x48x
CD-RW24x24x24x
Common Features
Firmware RevisionE10142611.01
LightScribe SupportNoYesYes
Buffer Size4 MB4 MB8 MB
Underrun ProtectionFlextraLinkYesYes
Overburn supportYesYesYes
BitsettingNoYesYes
Mount RainierYesYesYes
Price$167$150$190
  • pirateboy
    no LiteOn device? why?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    pirateboyno LiteOn device? why?The eHBU212 wasn't available yet when this roundup was initiated last spring. Sorry, other reviews had deadlines.
    Reply
  • vdr369
    Yeah, LG drive looks really cool and performs better, nice design and lavish looking
    Reply
  • Could you please add a chart about the quality of the burned data itself.
    (I do not know if this is possible?) A lot of people still burn audio CDs and for this the burn quality is normally essential
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Mille23Could you please add a chart about the quality of the burned data itself.(I do not know if this is possible?) A lot of people still burn audio CDs and for this the burn quality is normally essentialIt's in the photo album:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/gallery/bd-sl-scan-ASUS,0101-302721-9789-0-0-0-jpg-.html See no errors know no errors.
    Reply
  • dimar
    When do we finally get eSATAp?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    dimarWhen do we finally get eSATAp?It's been replaced with USB 3.0, and neither of those has enough amperage to power these drives.
    Reply
  • dimar
    CrashmanIt's been replaced with USB 3.0, and neither of those has enough amperage to power these drives.
    Not true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATAp
    I already have the bracket for eSATAp where I have the power supply connected using the 12v/5v molex cable.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    dimarNot true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATApI already have the bracket for eSATAp where I have the power supply connected using the 12v/5v molex cable.That's fine, but it doesn't contradict what I said.

    Let me be more specific: USB 3.0 is primarily for portable devices, eSATA is primarily for stationary devices, and eSATAp is something in the middle that doesn't have enough power for "big" drives such as these.

    The purpose of eSATAp WAS to combine the convenience of USB 2.0 with the performance of eSATA. But the purpose of USB 3.0 IS to combine the convenience of USB 2.0 with the performance of PCIe. This is a was vs is debate, Windows XP is still great too but many people have simply quit using it.

    Hey, I remember external SCSI too!

    BTW, some of these drives DO support eSATA. Forget the P, a USB power connector won't power these drives!
    Reply
  • dimar
    CrashmaneSATAp is something in the middle that doesn't have enough power for "big" drives such as these.
    You don't get it. You actually connect the power supply power cable to the back side of the eSATAp connector. It gets the full 12v and 5v load.
    Reply