External DVD Burners are portable burners that can read, write or rewrite CDs and DVDs for storage or sharing. Unlike internal drives, they can be moved from computer to computer and use an external power source.

Depending on the software used, a burner will:

  • Make Photo Discs
  • Make Read-Only Music or Audio CDs
  • Burn Home Movies
  • Create Back-up Copies of Media Library
  • Utilize Re-Writable Discs
  • Play DVD Movies or CDs
  • Convert Formats
  • Back-up Data Files
  • Create Karaoke Discs
  • Share Slideshows
  • Print Unique Disc Labels
  • Play DVD-ROM or RAM discs

In this site, you'll find articles related to DVD burners, as well as comprehensive reviews and a side-by-side comparison to help you make an informed decision on which External DVD Burner is right for you.

External DVD Burners: What to Look For

When choosing a DVD burner, ports are important aspects to consider. Look to see whether your computer has a USB 2.0 or 1.1 or FireWire port then choose a DVD player that will work with that port. Keep in mind that a USB 1.1 is extremely slow and that ports can be added at a reasonable price. If you use a unique disc type, such as DVD-RAM, CD-Text or CD+G look to see that these formats are supported.

Below are the criteria Top Ten Reviews used to evaluate external DVD Drives:

Feature Set
We evaluated all of the features available with the DVD burner such as whether they have the ability to copy to dual layer discs and if they are compatible with popular DVD copying software. We also looked at what kind of software package comes with the hardware and noted the types of ports they require.

Burner Speed
Burning speed is especially significant when choosing a DVD burner. However, the type of blank media used to read/write/rewrite also impact speed.

Help & Support
This ranking depends on how quick the product manufacturer responded to our email inquiries about their product. We sent an email to the technical support team of every product we reviewed. This criterion also considers some of the other help/support contact methods available such as live chat, telephone, FAQs, a searchable knowledge base, troubleshooting guides, easy driver downloads, etc.

Be sure to check out our top ranked external DVD burners: HP dvd556s and the I/O Magic.

HP dvd556s

The HP dvd556s multiformat DVD writer is ideal for small, portable computers like Netbooks that often don’t include an optical drive. Though its diminutive size and weight suggest traveling, it’s also terrific for less mobile computers that might have a less versatile CD/DVD burner or for those who need a second drive. This is a remarkably versatile little external DVD burner that’s priced well within range of just about any consumer.

To keep size small and weight low, many ultra-compact computers lack an optical drive of any sort. Though that’s great for portability, a situation requiring an optical drive, whether just a CD/DVD reader or a full-fledged writer like the HP dvd556s seems to inevitably present itself. For these purposes, this device is about as handy as one could want.

The back of the unit has a mini USB port for receiving data from the computer’s USB 2.0 interface. We note that it will work using output from a USB 1.1 device but performance must be far slower given that USB 1.1 transfers no more than 12 Mbps of data while the standard for USB 2.0 is 480 Mbps.

Power for the burner is also derived from the USB connection and this brings up perhaps the most interesting and unique aspect of this device, at least from an appearance standpoint. As mentioned, there’s a mini USB port that connects to the drive and a standard USB port for the computer end of the connection. Additionally though, there’s a second standard USB interface connected by a slim red wire that sort of piggy backs on the regular cable. It’s used to supply additional electrical power to the drive in the case that enough isn’t available from a single USB connection. That situation of inadequate power from a netbook’s USB port isn’t uncommon. If the power isn’t adequate, there’s an LED near the input that will glow red. Plugging in the other USB connector to a second connection on the laptop should increase the available power. Providing that it’s enough, the same LED will glow blue.

DVDs and CDs are common input media for installing programs or transferring data to a computer. For this purpose, the dvd556s will read DVD-ROM discs at up to 8X speed or CD-ROMs up to 24X. It will record to CD-R, R standing for Recordable, or CD-RW, RW for Rewritable, media at up to 24X.

There are more variations among DVDs than there are among CDs and each type can be burned at different speeds. Here’s a listing of compatible DVD formats and the maximum speeds at which they can be burned using this unit:

  • DVD±R 8X
  • DVD+RW 8X
  • DVD-RW 6X
  • DVD±R DL 6X (DL equals Double or Dual Layer)
  • DVD-RAM 5X (RAM for Random Access Memory)

Minimum computer system requirements for operating with the burner are a 1.3 MHz Intel Pentium IV processor or equivalent and 256MB of RAM though 512MB are recommended for video editing. 1024 x 768 video resolution with at least 16-bit color are required for DVD authoring and video capture. Hard drive requirements are 1GB of free space to install the included software and 10GB of free space for DVD video disc creation. Internet connectivity is required to receive software updates. Compatible operating systems are Microsoft Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2 or the 32- or 64-bit versions of Vista.

The unit comes packaged with Nero Essential 8 Software Suite for burning and editing discs. It is also equipped with LightScribe label burning software which allows the same laser that burns the data to the disc to create professional looking labels for the opposite side. Use of this feature requires the use of discs that are specifically labeled as LightScribe compatible.

The drive is covered by a one-year limited warranty. HP offers toll-free telephone support 24 hours daily or email assistance with responses in as little as an hour.

The HP dvd556s isn’t the fastest external DVD burner that we’ve reviewed but it makes up for that in its portability. This unit is ideal for carrying in a backpack along with a netbook or other portable computer that doesn’t have an optical drive. It can also be used as a secondary drive for a computer that already has one installed.


I/O Magic IDVD16DDBE external DVD burner is a basic burner with the standard 2MB buffer with underrun protection and burns dual layer disks. The weakest point of this DVD burner is the speed.

The writing speed while using DVD+R DL and CD-R disks is a bit slower than other burners, along with rewriting to DVDs and CDs. If only reading DVDs and writing once to DVD+/-R disks, then this burner does fine.

This product cannot connect by using a firewire port and it does not support DVD-RAM or DVD-R DL disks. On the other hand it will play CD-ROM XA, CD-TEXT, CD+G, CD-I, CD-DA, CD-Extra, Photo-CD and Video-CD.

The support of this product is very good. Even though they did not respond to our emails, they did answer all of our questions through their live chat service. They also have a telephone number for technical or customer support questions.

Overall, I/O Magic IDVD16DDBE will burn DVDs and CDs, just not as fast as some of the higher ranked products.

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