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From 5.25” internal optical drives to slimline external DVD drives. Its time to delve into the world of optical storage.
Internal Optical Drives
Once a standard on nearly every PC across the globe, optical drives are now a rarity on modern PCs. This is mainly due to prevalent on-demand media and manufacturers creating ever-shrinking chassis designs that cannot accommodate a 5.25" drive.
If you have recently bought a PC without an optical drive but find yourself needing one, don’t worry! We have you covered… The easiest method to add the capability to your desktop computer is by using an external drive. This upgrade needs zero tech knowhow to install – Simply plug and play!
Are DVD Drives still relevant?
Yes and no, it depends entirely on your needs. If you have a vast library of DVDs, CDs, and Games, an optical drive will allow you to utilise these without the need to buy a digital copy. Having a DVD/CD Writer will also allow you to save files externally, create a windows recovery disks or even make the occasional DVD family photo slideshow.
With that said, optical media is dying and the switch to streaming and downloading content is heavily underway. No longer is an optical drive a must-have item, but if your desktop chassis can support one - it’s a cheap, worthwhile piece of hardware to have installed.
What are Optical Disks?
Optical disks are flat, circular discs that encode binary data in the form of pits on a special surface material that sits atop of a polycarbonate substrate. Think of them as modern vinyl records. In fact, they work in a very similar fashion. 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.
What are the main Optical formats?
There are many different 4.7” optical formats that support a variety of speeds and capacities. This can be a little daunting but even the most common drives today are able to read/write a wide array of disks.
DVD: The Digital Versatile Disk was developed by Philips and Sony in 1995 and designed for the storage of data. Finally, the optical medium was large enough to hold high-quality video and audio. DVDs additionally provided superior data lifespan and interactivity which had never been seen before leading to the demise of the VHS (Video Home System) and rise of the DVD.
Blu-Ray (BD): Aptly named because of the blue laser diode utilised within the Blu-Ray player/writer, Blu-Ray was designed to supersede DVDs. 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.
Optical Format Subtypes
The main optical formats are then split further depending on specific qualities giving us many subtypes of disk including:
While the sheer amount of formats look confusing on the surface, it’s not actually that difficult to understand. You just need to ensure the optical media purchased will be compatible with your drive and any other device you want to use the recorded media with.
What are the differences between the subtypes?
The majority of the confusion occurs when looking at the end ‘tag’ so we have put together this list:
Optical drives are rated using an “X-Factor” which is different depending on the physical media, format and read/write activity.
CD: A CD’s base speed is 1x which is 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.
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