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Internal & External Blu-ray Drives
What are Blu-Ray Optical Disks?
Blu-Ray optical disks are flat, circular discs which encode binary data in the form of pits on a special surface material which sits atop of a polycarbonate substrate. Think of them as modern vinyl records. In fact, they work in a very similar way. Instead of the stylus resonating in reaction to the groves and converting the electrical energy into soundwaves, a laser illuminates the pits which are picked up by a photodiode which converts the reflected light into Binary data that the computer can understand.
Blu-Ray (BD) is aptly named because of the blue laser diode utilised within the Blu-Ray player/writer. The Blu-ray format was created by the Blu-Ray Disk Association and supported by Sony who introduced the first prototypes in 2000 and officially released the format in 2006 which started the HD format war. Blu-ray eventually took the throne due to the appearance of the PlayStation 3 which contained the format as standard - essentially putting it into the homes of millions across the world.
Are Blu-Ray Optical Drives Still Relevant?
Yes and no, it depends entirely on your needs. If you have already invested in a vast library of High definition (HD) Blu-Ray Movies then absolutely. If you don't, then most people opt for one of a number of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV.
There are still however many benefits to having an internal or external DVD / Blu-ray drive allowing you to save files externally, create a windows recovery disks or even make the occasional DVD family photo slideshow.
Our personal advice is if your desktop chassis can support one - it’s a cheap, worthwhile piece of hardware to own but you can easily live without one.
What are the Main Blu-Ray Formats?
There are a variety of different 4.7” Blu-Ray optical formats which support a variety of speeds and capacities as detailed further below.
What are the Main Differences?
The majority of confusion occurs when looking at the end ‘tag’. With this in mind, we have put together this list to help you decipher.
All optical drives including Blu-Ray are rated using an “X-Factor” which are different depending on the physical media, format and read/write activity.
CD: A CD’s base speed is 1x which is the equivalent to 150KB/s. For example, a drive that is described as 52x can do a specific operation such as read or write at 52 x 150KB/s giving us an average speed of 7.8MB/s.
DVD: A DVD’s base speed is many times higher than a CD coming in at around 1.321MB/s for 1x meaning 16x would be roughly 21MB/s which is nearly 3x that of a 52X CD drive.
Blu Ray: A Blu-Ray has a 1x base speed that is 3 times faster than a DVD at around 4.5 MB/s. Unfortunately Blu-Rays max out at 6x which allows for 27 MB/s which is actually only 6MB/s faster than a DVD. This means when writing to large capacity disks it can take up to 64 mins to write 100GB at 6x.
Internal Blu-Ray Optical Drives
Internal Blu-Ray optical drives are connected via the SATA interface and fit within a specially designed 5.25” drive bay that is designed to be accessible from the front of the desktop computer. Once a standard on nearly every PC across the globe they are now becoming rarer by the day as most applications and media are either downloaded or streamed - Even Microsoft has started to make the switch by selling its OS (Operating system) on a USB drive for the first time.
Case manufacturers are additionally noticing the switch in media use and removing the 5.25” drive bays in favor of shrinking the chassis. This, of course, renders the installation of an optical drive impossible on certain models.
External Blu-Ray Optical Drives
If you have recently bought a PC without a drive but find yourself needing one, don’t worry! We have you covered. The easiest method to add Blu-Ray capability to your desktop computer is by using an external which needs zero tech knowhow to install – Simply plug and play!
There are several reasons you might opt for an external including: