Cross-platform bus-powered optical external Blu-Ray reader (August 18th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Other World Computing
- Bus powered
- Small form factor
- Blu-Ray reader, not burner
- Bit of case flex in the center
This is a very familiar conversation in the tech world. As 5.25-inch floppies fell before the might of 3.5-inch drives, so did the 3.5-inch to the Zip drive and other assorted media. The return of Steve Jobs to Apple heralded the death of the 3.5-inch drive, and his return also eventually kindled the wide acceptance of DVD Burners, what Apple called "Super Drives" like its ancient 3.5-inch HD cousin a decade before. Now, here we sit a full decade after the Super Drive (optical variety), and now the format is being purged from mainstream computers like its brethren. Once again, Apple led with the MacBook Air family about five years ago, but now, even many desktops and all-in-ones don't have the drive integral to the computer. Just the same, every once in a while, somebody hands over an optical disk that absolutely has to be read. Apple solutions purveyor OWC has an answer -- the MRSSBD6X 6x Blu-Ray reader, a USB 2.0 bus powered optical drive, capable of reading most optical media, and in its maxed out version, burning Blu-Ray disks as well.
As expected from an OWC product, the fit and finish of the product is well done. The case feels sturdy, with no discernible defects in the case plastic. I'd like a little more reinforcement on the top and bottom of the case, but even without, I don't feel the contained drive is in any danger. As shipped, the drive comes with a cable bearing a pair of USB A male plugs for data and power coupled with a USB B plug, for insertion into the optical drive. A brief pamphlet, in two easy steps, discusses how to connect the drive to a computer, and it really couldn't be any simpler.
The drive is powerable by three potential avenues -- an optional AC adapter, a single headed USB cable, or the provided dual-headed USB cable. The included pamphlet does address that the dual-headed USB cable is likely not necessary for drive use, and we found this to be true with every single relatively modern piece of hardware we tested it with. All told, a 2006 and 2010 Mac Pro, A 2007 and 2010 MacBook Pro 15-inch, a 2010 11-inch Mac Book Air, a Dell XPS 18, an array of commercial Windows 7 and 8 laptops, and an assortment of scratch-build PCs were tested for acceptable power, with all of the USB 2.0 ports providing enough power for the drive to function and burn properly with the single-head cable.
In OS X 10.4 through 10.8, Windows XP SP 3, Windows 7, and Windows 8, the drive is recognized with no issues, and no driver installation needed, as is expected. The drive ships with a DVD of essential utilities for disk burning, but in all the OSes tested, system-level utilities all were able to burn both dual-layer DVDs, as well as CDs. Music CDs were burned in Windows 7, Windows 8, and several incarnations of OS X with no issue, but oddly, iTunes performed slightly better in OS X Snow Leopard than in Lion or Mountain Lion, to the tune of seconds -- minor for sure, but notable. This behavior manifested itself in a different model of optical drive, so the issue lies somewhere within the Lion (and above) family and not in the hardware.
At this point in the industry's development, an optical drive is back to "optional" status, like it was when it launched in the early nineties. The MRSSBD6X works great for the occasional disk read, a movie on the road (with the appropriate playback software, which is not included), or moving data to optical media for distribution to others. While the unit we tested is excellent in its own regard, the capability to burn Blu-Ray disks only costs $38 more in the same form factor, and we do recommend that model over this one -- we feel that the added capability is more than worth the difference in price.