Guide For Different Types Of Optical Drives
Optical discs are one of the oldest and most popular digital data storage. They were first introduced back in 1979, when Sony and Philips developed a disc capable of holding audio. 5 years later, in 1984, Sony was ready with a completely new optical disc format that would become part of every household. That format was called CD-ROM! It took only 6 more years for Sony, Philips, Toshiba and Panasonic to develop the DVD format. Which is still used till this day!
While the discs and formats haven’t changed that much over the past decades, technology has. Which is why we have seen quite a change in optical drives. The natural progress of technological advances is devices getting smaller. That’s also the case with the drives. I clearly remember the large DVD players back in the day. You had to have an extra shelf for them. But nowadays they are so small that you can carry them around and simply plug them into your laptop. That’s how convenient it has gotten!
That’s also the case with the newest optical disc format as well, Blu-Ray. It wasn’t long ago when Blu-Ray was introduced (June 2006) and back then the players were massive. Now even those are available in an external format and only require a single USB cable to power them.
But the issue is that there are still multiple different types of optical drives on the market. All of them have their own pros and cons. So let’s take a look what they are how they can help you!
What Is An Optical Drive?
Optical drives are basically devices that can read and write data onto optical discs. They use lasers to read and write data onto the discs. How it actually works is a bit complicated. But it basically shines a laser onto the disc and that stores data in a photo diode array. The optical discs have flat areas and pits on the surface, which reflect the light differently. There is also a difference between formats. For example CD’s require a laser with a wavelength of 780 nm (red color) while DVD’s require 650 nm (red color). Blu-Ray’s on the other hand, require 405 nm (violet color). That’s basically the simple way of explaining how it works. You don’t really need to know the ins and outs unless you are really interested in the technology.
CD-ROM drives are some of the oldest optical drives still available. There drives are only capable of reading and writing CD drives. Which is nowadays quite rare and it’s actually not easy to find these drives anymore. I also don’t personally see a reason to buy one, unless you are looking for some incredibly fast read speed. For example the fastest modern CD-ROM’s have a read speed of 52x, which is incredibly fast. It’s hard to imagine them going any faster as it would physically break the disc. Plus that type of speed generates an insane amount of noise, which is definitely not pleasant. That’s why most drives run at up to 24x.
DVD-ROM drives are still the most popular optical drives. They are the best of both worlds, not only can they read DVD’s but also CD’s. Which is why most drive companies have kept making only this type of drives. Plus most of the optical drives sold are also DVD’s. That’s mostly due to the larger capacity and same price of the disc. DVD’s have a maximum single layer capacity of 4.7 GB, while CD’s can only store 700 MB of data.
Blu-Ray drives are the latest optical drives that you can find on the market. This format has the largest capacity of storage. They can fit up to 25 GB of data on a single layer. Which is why they are most used for cinema quality movies and of course video games. If you want to have the latest technology, then you should definitely get a Blu-Ray drive. There are some that are also capable of reading DVD’s and CD’s. PS! Not all drives are capable of that, as the DVD/CD format requires a different lens.
Internal Optical Drives
When optical drives first came out, they were almost always designed for computers. That’s why they had an internal design format. All you had to do was take the drive and insert it into a computer system. Even few years ago PC cases still had slots for them. That’s basically what this design format was created for. It allowed people to burn photos, music and of course videos onto the optical discs. Which was also the start of online piracy as you could now share everything.
Internal optical drives are still sold till this day. Most popular ones are designed for DVD’s but there are also Blu-Ray drives as well. This format is fully designed for people who want to add a drive to their PC. So if your computer case supports it, then the internal versions are perfect for you.
External Optical Drives
Technology has evolved a lot since the first drives came out. Since laptops started getting thinner and companies started removing internal optical drives, consumers required something to replace it. People still had a ton of discs laying around that they need to use. That’s why these same companies started creating external optical drives. These type of drives are small and incredibly portable. You can simply place it into your laptop bag and take it with you. Another plus for external drives is that they don’t require any installing. The modern drives require a single USB port to power them.
External optical drives are currently the most popular version. Mostly because they are portable and the price difference between an internal one is marginal. There is also no difference in the disc types. Both external DVD drives and external Blu-Ray drives are widely available absolutely everywhere.
Plus you can also choose between different designs. And I don’t mean just the color or the size, there are actually different loading mechanisms available as well. Most common mechanism is called tray loading. It basically means that the tray slides out of the case and you place your disc on top of it, after which it slides back into the drive. Another more modern mechanism is a slot type. This type of mechanism was first seen on the MacBook Pro laptops and it basically eats the disc. Not only are these type of drives generally thinner but they also look really nice.
Both mechanisms have their own pros and cons. With the tray mechanism, you can get the disc out even if the computer happens to turn off. They have a small pinhole that ejects the tray. You can even use a straightened paperclip to open it! With the slot mechanism, you can’t get the disc out without connecting it to another computer.
Media players are still extremely popular till this day. The only difference is that most of the DVD players have now been replaced by Blu-Ray media players. These are specifically designed for completing a home cinema set. They are much like external optical drives but the main difference is the much bigger size and media features. Oh and you can only connect it to a TV. They can’t be paired up with computers, nor can you use them for burning discs. So if you are looking for a DVD or Blu-Ray player for watching movies on a TV, then a media player is most probably the best type for you.