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Optical Drives

Buying Guide

CD - Unless you're fixing up an old system or on a really tight budge...
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Buying Guide

CD - Unless you're fixing up an old system or on a really tight budget, buying a CD ROM/RW drive is not very cost efficient these days. For a mere dollar or two more you can usually buy yourself a budget priced DVD ROM/RW drive instead. However, if you're on a tight budget or will never have the need to read or write DVD media then buying a CD ROM or burner is still a good option. Although the selection is a lot tighter these days than it used to be, with the dominance of DVD drives, you can still find many great CD drives on the market. The one advantage a dedicated CD burner will have over a DVD burner is that it can burn CD media at faster speeds - DVD burners usually fall short in CD writing speeds.

DVD - A DVD optical drive, be it reader or writer, is still the best bang-for-the-buck option when it comes to PC optical drive selection. Blank DVD media is cheap, abundant and offers large amounts of storage space for the money (4.7-8.4gb). Not only does it give you the ability to read and write DVD media but it also allows you to watch DVD movies on your computer - something a straight CD drive can't do.

Bluray - The price of bluray readers and writers for PCs are fairly proportional to those for TVs. As bluray technology advances and becomes more dominant on the market then prices will begin to fall drastically (just as we saw when DVD drives were initially released). Since it's still an early technology, write speeds are slower than DVDs and blank media is still fairly expensive. The gain? 25gb of data per disc is quite an unbelievable storage gain when compared to blank CD or DVD media.

Drive Interface - If you're buying an optical drive for a new system then you'll want to buy a SATA drive - the same interface as most current hard drives (unless in an older system). The only real reason you'd want to consider an IDE optical drive these days is if you either don't have enough free SATA connections or you're installing a new drive in an older system.

Speeds - When comparing optical drives you will be presented with three main speed readings; record speed, rewrite speed and read speed. These speeds will vary for every type of media (ie. a DVD burner will often have slower burn speeds for DVD media than CD media due to the differences between the two). If you're buying the latest and greatest then don't be surprised if the drive can write media faster than the blank media currently available in widespread distribution.

Media Compatibility - Most drives will be a "multi" drive, meaning it can read and write all common types of media associated with that drive type. However, you might find some drives that only support certain types of one media and not the other. A good example of this is DVD drives because blank DVD media comes in both the '-' and '+' types. Although most drives will read and write both +/- types, some will only do one or the other so make sure you read the specifications closely!

Lightscribe - Lightscribe is the ability for a burner driver to actually etch a label on the top of your finished disc. By using special blank media, lightscribe compatible, the laser of the drive will activate a chemical change in the top dye of the disc to show your text and images. Although you'll pay a very small amount more for a lightscribe supporting burner and blank media, it gives you the added convenience of neat disc labeling without the hassle of printing sticker labels.

There you have it - all the basic knowledge you need to be a pro in finding the right optical drive for your system!

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