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Blu-ray / DVD Drives
What are Optical Disks?
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
Are Optical 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 - it’s a cheap, worthwhile piece of hardware to have installed.
What are the main Optical formats?
There are many different 4.7” optical formats which support a variety of speeds. This can be a little daunting but even the most common drives today are able to read/write a wide array of disks.
CD: Compact Disks were co-developed by Philips and Sony in 1982 and developed for audio storage and playback, later being adapted for the storage of data (CD-ROM). With a diameter of 4.7” a CD can hold approximately 80 minutes of uncompressed audio and around 700mb of data.
DVD: The Digital Versatile Disk was developed by Philips and Sony in 1995 and designed for 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 DVD’s. 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. Blu-ray disks store approximately 25GB of data on a standard disk with 100GB being possible using the BDXL format.
The main optical formats are then split further depending on specific qualities giving us many sub types of disk including:
While the sheer amount of formats look confusing on the surface, it’s not actually that difficult to understand. Each format simply has different methods of determining where the data is and each has slightly different defect and data management solutions. 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?
The majority of confusion occurs when looking the end ‘tag’ so we have put together this list:
Optical drives 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 that 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.
Internal Optical Drives
Internal optical drives are connected via 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 favour of shrinking the chassis. This of course renders the installation of an optical drive impossible on certain models.
External 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 the 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: