This guide provides an overview of optical drives, different types of media, and things you should pay attention to when buying a new drive.

What is an optical drive?

An optical drive is a generic term used for DVD, CD, and Blu-Ray drives. There are other drives available for legacy standards, such as HD-DVD and karaoke discs, although investing in these standards is not recommended unless you already have a large media collection.

Fortunately, optical drives are one of the easiest purchases you can make for your PC. There are only two standards for connecting an indoor unit and only three main formats are available today, making it easy to get the drive you want.

What types of the disc are there?

There are three main disc formats available:

  • CD-ROM: An older standard used primarily for smaller audio and data transfers. Has a capacity of up to 700 MB
  • DVD-ROM: the main standard used by PCs today. With a capacity of between 4.7GB and 8.5GB, it offers enough storage for the vast majority of games and applications. Double Layer DVD (8.5 GB) is the standard used by the film industry.
  • Blu-Ray: Represents a new generation of optical media with capacities up to 128GB per disc and the potential for capacities to increase even further in the future. It is mainly used to store high-definition videos, PlayStation 3 games, and archive large amounts of data.

What types of units are available?

For reading optical media, there are only three types of drives available. CD ROM, DVD ROM, and Blu-ray drive. There are several combo drives available, for example, most DVD-ROM drives will also read CD-ROMs.

What’s so special about Re-Writer optical drives?

Each of the major multimedia drive standards also has a writable version available. Drives that allow rewrite functions are often more expensive than their real counterparts. It is recommended that you find a DVD-RW drive as a minimum for a modern multipurpose machine.

What should I look for in an optical drive?

When looking at an optical drive description, you need to know what you are looking at to make an informed purchasing decision. You need to consider the speed of the drive to read and write the media you will use (the higher the better) and also the price of the drive.

What is Blu-Ray?

Blu-Ray represents a new generation of optical media with capacities of up to 128GB per disc and the potential for capacities to increase even further in the future. Its main uses are for storing high-definition video, PlayStation 3 games, and for archiving large amounts of data. The name Blu-Ray comes from the blue-violet laser that is used to read the disc, while the DVD standard uses a red laser.

What are the benefits of Blu-Ray?

A standard DVD can hold 4.7 GB on a single-layer disc and 8.5 GB on a double-layer disc. The Blu-Ray equivalent of these discs can store 25GB and 50GB of data on a single disc. High-definition video can be stored on BD-ROM with resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) at up to 60 fps. Compared to other modern standards, the Blu-Ray drives can offer huge gains in image quality thanks to their enormous storage capacity.

For example, a Video CD will have a resolution of 352×288 pixels and a widescreen DVD will have a pixel resolution of only 720×576. The difference between the same media when displayed on a Full HD television is pronounced and you can appreciate the additional image quality and detail on offer.

Are there region codes for Blu-Ray?

As with DVD media, there are region codes for Blu-Ray. This means that discs can be locked to work with players in one region. This is intended to allow film studios to have the ability to accommodate product differences in content, price, release date, etc. by region.

The Blu-ray Drives region encoding scheme divides the world into three regions, which are named A, B, and C.

  • Region A includes most of the countries of North, Central, and South America and Southeast Asia, in addition to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea.
  • Zone B includes most countries in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
  •  Region C includes the remaining countries in Central and South Asia, plus China and Russia.

What Blu-Ray drives are available for PC?

There are two main types of Blu-Ray drives available for PCs. BD-ROM drives and Blu-Ray ReWriter drives. Manufacturers like Sony, LG, Samsung, and Pioneer make high-quality Blu-Ray drives. Blu-Ray drives are only available on the SATA interface for internal drives currently.

What should I look for in a Blu-Ray drive?

When looking at a Blu-Ray drive, you should choose the best value drive available with the highest possible read speed. On a performance ReWriter drive, you should aim for the highest possible write speeds for both BD discs and DVD-R / RW media.