This is a debate with many opinions, so opinions aside, here are the basic things to consider before purchasing either an external or an internal DVD burner.
First of all, internal burners are less expensive; however, they are not portable, require installation and use up an IDE connection. There is some debate over which type is faster, but the speed differences, if any, are negligible. A bigger concern is how the burner and computer are connected.
An external drive transfers data either through a USB 2.0 or 1.1 or FireWire port. So, before buying anything it is important to know what connections the computer already has or what could be added. Although most burners are USB 1.1 backwards compatible, this type of port is outdated and will transfer data much slower than the 2.0 version or FireWire (or IEEE 1394). If the computer does not have any of these ports, a USB 2.0, FireWire, or SATA port can be added to a desktop for less than $50.
Although external burners are more expensive they are portable. Most burners use an external power source and leave IDE connections inside the computer open for other things. This also prevents the computer's power from being taxed during use.
External DVD burners can be moved from computer to computer or often between a laptop and a desktop.
One additional advantage to an external burner is some computers have problems staying cool when a new device is added, an external burner with an aluminum case generally keeps cool on its own.
Commonly, there are only four IDE connections in your tower, so occupying one for an internal drive may be a deciding factor. You may need to use it for other devices.
Please Note: No matter how inexpensive a single layer burner may be it, is always better to select a burner that can work with dual layers if working with video. Secondly, buffer and underrun protection is important, do not skimp on these features either.
Before purchasing a burner, review the following questions:
- What kind of port does my computer have?
- Do I need the burner to be portable?
- Am I going to upgrade my computer soon?
Additionally, not directed towards internal or external, but regarding burners in general:
- What kind of media do I want to work with - CDs, DVDs, DVD-RAM, etc?
- What kind of multi-media software do I need - video, audio or photo editing?
- Is the burner compatible with the burning software I want to use - DVD Cloner III, 1Click, Clone, etc?
If you have decided that an external is a good choice for your burning needs, see our External DVD Burner Side-by-Side Comparison to quickly find one that fits your requirements.