Optical Drives Buying Guide
I can remember a time when floppy drives...
Optical Drives Buying Guide
I can remember a time when floppy drives came standard on PCs and when CD-Rom drives were the popular things going, a new type of storage media that was all the rage. I can also remember my first CD-burner as well, it was very expensive, and it took a long time to burn a CD, so long in fact that it was more of a hassle than it was worth really. Today though we can burn CDs and DVDs in minutes on optical drives that cost a fraction of what they did a few years ago thanks to advances in technology, and their increased popularity.
Today optical drives, specifically combo DVD/CD recorders or burners are standard issue on most any computer, everyone seems to have one or the other in their computer to help them store large amounts of data very quickly and easily. Floppy discs have gone the way of the dodo in favor of the larger storage capacity, cheaper cost, better reliability and ease of use of optical media.
Types of Optical Drives:
There are several types of Optical Drives, the most popular being combo type drives where you can read and write to both CDs and DVDs. You can still find CD and DVD readers, but do to the lowered costs of combo drives and writers, they too are becoming obsolete.
Recently Optical drives have become available using the SATA connection as opposed to the standard IDE connection as well, so there is another choice or decision to be made when purchasing an Optical Drive.
CD-ROM Drives are Optical Drives that can only read optical media such as data discs and music CDs, these can be found in older style machines, but there are still a few available for purchase out there.
DVD-ROM Drives can read both DVDs and CDs, these are the earlier type of combo drive, they are good for reading data discs and playing audio CDs and watching DVDs on your computer.
CD/RW Drives are Optical Drives that can not only read CDs, but can write to blank optical media as well. These types of drive can be divided into two categories actually, some of them can write only to CDRs, while some can also write to CDRWs which are re-writable CDRs, or simplistically a larger capacity floppy disc. The typical size of a blank CD is 700MB, while a blank CDRW is usually 650MB.
DVD/RW Drives are Optical Drives that can write to blank DVD media. There are several types of these drives that can be divided into sub-categories and these are by far the most popular type of optical drive on the market today.
-DVD/RW Drives can read DVD-Rom data discs and play standard DVD movies, but they can also write to blank DVD media which is typically 4.7gb in capacity. These drives typically can also read data CDs and play audio CDs as well.
-DVD/RW Combo Drives are drives that can read DVDs, and CDs, but they can also write to both types of media as well. These types of optical drives can also be further broken down into their own sub-categories as well depending on the type of media they can read and write to. When purchasing this type of drive you should pay very close attention to the specifications as to what types of data the drive can read from and write to, it can be very confusing with all of the different options available out there today. A true combo drive can read and write to every type of media available today, some drives are labeled as combo drives but in reality they are truly not.
-DVD/RW/DL Drives are basically a DVD writer with the added functionality of being able to write to DL, or Double Layer DVD media, or giving you approximately 8.5 Gb of storage space on a single blank DVD.
-DVD/RW/DVD-RAM Drives are again a combo drive, but with the ability to use DVD-RAM media, these are not as popular as the standard combo drives and the media itself is fairly expensive to purchase at usually three times or more the cost of a standard blank DVD. DVD-Ram can be used just like a removable hard disc, and with newer operating systems does not even require any special software to be installed to utilize the media. DVD-Ram does have many advantages over DVDR and DVDRW though, DVD-RAM can be rewritten ten times as many times as a DVDRW can be, and depending on the speed sometimes can be rewritten a hundred times more, the slower the write process the more times it can be rewritten. They also have the advantage of being able to store more data, 9.4Gb on a double sides DVD-Ram as opposed to the 8.5Gb of a Dual Layer DVD.
HD-DVD Drives are essentially obsolete at this point in time, but can still be found for purchase at very low prices. HD-DVD was a competing standard for High Definition video, but lost to Blu-Ray which has now become the standard for High Definition video. These drives were capable of reading HD-DVDs and recording to blank HD-DVD media that provided a capacity upwards of 60Gb in data storage for the dual layered version.
Blu-Ray Disc or BD Optical Drives are the new standard for high definition video playing and recording. At this point in time though the prices are prohibitively high for most consumers to own this type of drive with prices between $400 and $600 for a drive, while prices for DVD/RW/DL drives are hovering around $35 for a drive. BD discs have a capacity of up to 50Gb for the double layered media making them excellent for archival storage.
There are other types of Optical Drives out there still but they are for the most part obsolete now and most likely very hard to find, as with any technology the dominant one has taken the spotlight and forced others to bow out of the competition.
Types of Media:
There are several types of media that Optical Drives can read and write to, again if you are thinking of purchasing a new optical drive please be sure to check the manufacturers specifications to be sure that the drive can read and write to every type of media that you want it to.
CDs or Compact Discs have been around for quite sometime now and have effectively replaced the cassette tape for audio and storage purposes. These can be purchased in several types of media styles: CD-Roms that usually contain data or music, CD-Rs that are blank media that can store up to 700Mb of data and CD-RWs that are rewritable CD-Rs that can store up to 650Mb of data and can be used similar to a floppy disc, written over and over a finite number of times.
DVDs are most familiar to us in the form of DVD videos, or the format we get most of our movies on, these have essentially replaced the VHS tape. There are several types of DVD media and it can honestly get confusing with all of these types:
-DVD-Roms are just data or video discs such as the types a movie or video game might come on.
-DVDRs are blank media that can be recorded to and have a capacity of 4.7Gb, but these come is two types:
--DVD-R and DVD+R are two separate competing standards of blank DVD media. If you make your own movies to DVDs it should be noted that not both types will play on a stand alone DVD player, sometimes a player will only play one type of media and not the other, when purchasing a writer with this purpose it's good to know what type of media is compatible with your DVD player.
DVDRWs are just rewritable DVDs similar to the CDRW, but these also come in two types, DVD-RW and DVD+RW. The major difference between these tow is that DVD+RW can be used just like a floppy disc, but DVD-RW must be erased entirely before anything can be written to them again.
DVDRDLs are Double Layered DVD media, and here again these come in two standards, DVD-DL and DVD+DL. These have a capacity of up to 8.5Gb for the single sided but can be found in double sided versions that effectively double the capacity to 17.1Gb.
BDR discs are recordable Blu-Ray Discs, these come in two types, BD-R that are write once like a blank DVD and BD-RE that are re-writable like DVDRWs are. These come in two capacities as well, 25Gb for single layer and 50Gb for the double layer version.
As with the Optical Drives themselves, there are other types of media available today, but they've gone to the wayside in favor of the more popular format.
Closing and Comments:
I've said it a couple times already but it bears repeating as I can't stress it enough, it can be very confusing when purchasing an Optical Drive, there are so many to choose from that you need to pay very special attention to the specifications listed by the manufacturer when it comes to the types of media that can be read and recored to by the drive.
Now you also have the choice of SATA or IDE versions of Optical Drives, the SATA version is not quite as common place, and really not much of an improvement over the IDE standard. There are newer revisions in the works though that will increase the performance of SATA optical drives, btu at the present time there is no real advantage of one over the other.
Author: Kristofer Brozio
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