As laptops continue to shed excess weight in the pursuit of ever slimmer form-factors, the internal optical drive has undergone a dramatic role reversal from unimpeachable mainstay to card-carrying member of the endangered species club. For many users, the tide of change poses the worrying possibility that everything ranging from their older CDs and DVDs to their newer Blu-rays may one day become irrelevant. Thanks to the growth of external optical drives, however, this dire outcome can easily be avoided. Few drives come to the rescue with as much swagger as the Rosewill RDED-12001 ($149.99 list) USB 3.0 External Slim Aluminum 6x Blu-ray Writer. It’s a sleek, portable drive that packs slew of nifty tricks of its sleeve, like read and write support for all optical formats from the ubiquitous (CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays) to the esoteric (triple- and quad- later Blu-ray XL). For anyone looking to save their discs from extinction it comes very close to being the perfect solution.
Design and Features
Measuring 0.79 by 5.36 by 5.87 inches (HWD) and weighing 0.84 pound, the RDED-12001 is marginally wider than the Samsung SE-506AB External Slim Blu-ray Re-Writer and weighs several ounces more since the latter has a plastic chassis. On the other hand, the RDED-12001 is encased in an aluminum chassis, and it’s well worth the extra ounces for several reasons. First, the brushed aluminum finish gives it that elusive touch of class that ultimately makes it more pleasurable to look at and touch. Second, the aluminum construction allows any heat generated by the drive to dissipate more easily, which results in cooler operating temperatures. Lastly, the aluminum chassis makes for an overall sturdier drive that’s better able to withstand bumps and bruises when you take it on the go, an obvious benefit for a drive designed to be tossed into your laptop bag or backpack. Unlike the top-loading clamshell design seen on the Pioneer BDR-XD04, the RDED-12001sports a tray-loading design. It’s intended for horizontal orientation, and four rubber feet on the underside helps absorb vibrations.
The RDED-12001 is bus-powered, which conveniently eliminates the need for an extra AC adapter. Accordingly, it connects to you system via a USB 3.0 Y-cable. This element stands alone as the Rosewill RDED-12001′s only design flaw. Simply put, we’ve always had a preference for external drives that eschew the Y-cable altogether because they’re not as easy to replace as standard USB cables and occupy two USB ports, which can be problematic when one strand is shorter than the other and can’t reach an available USB port on the other side of your laptop. Fortunately, both strands in the RDED-12001′s cable measure 18 inches in length. That said, we’d prefer to avoid the issue entirely and see a standard USB cable, which is why we were such fans of the Samsung SE-218BB Ultrathin Optical Disc Drive.
The RDED-12001 is compatible with both Windows (Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP) and Mac (OS X 10.6 or higher). It comes with the Cyberlink PowerDVD 10 suite, which is fine in itself except for the fact that it’s not compatible with Mac. Consequently, Mac users must install a multi-boot utility or simply opt for another burning program. Windows users don’t escape entirely unscathed, either, since CyberLink PowerDVD 10 can’t play 3D Blu-rays, which is unfortunate since the Rosewill RDED-12001 supports 3D playback. The RDED-12001 is covered by a one-year limited warranty.
Since it’s a plug and play device, setting up the RDED-12001 requires little setup beyond plugging it into your system. During testing, it emitted a minimal amount of noise aside from the soft whirring sound of spinning discs. This stealthy silence, coupled with the fact that the drive’s rubber feet adequately absorbed most of the accompanying vibrations, makes the RDED-12001 a fairly inconspicuous presence that also stayed cool to the touch thanks to its aluminum build.
Unlike HP bd530s, the RDED-12001 can read and write to a wide breadth of formats, including Blu-rays and double- and quad- layer BDXL discs, which can hold up to 128GB of data, putting it on par with the Samsung SE-506AB. Although BDXL compatibility sounds great in theory, its usefulness is questionable, though, since it’s an uncommon medium that isn’t widely available, which also explains why it’s not compatible with most standard Blu-ray players.
One of the points of distinction between the RDED-12001 and the Samsung SE-506AB is that the former does not feature AV connectivity options or built-in 2D to 3D conversion. While neither are of massive consequence, they do place something of a glass ceiling on an otherwise highly versatile drive.
The RDED-12001 is the first external optical drive with USB 3.0 compatibility that we’ve seen. Although anything with USB 3.0 sounds promising, the RDED-12001 ultimately didn’t exhibit greater agility than the USB 2.0-only Samsung SE-506AB (which has the same exact read and write speeds) when reading or writing media. On the plus side, both strands of its USB Y-cable were rarely needed, and in the event that one needs the extra juice (particularly when writing media), only one strand needs to be plugged into a USB 3.0 port.
The RDED-12001 didn’t present any problems when reading Blu-rays, DVDs, or CDs. Read speeds range depending on the format, from BD-ROM (6x), DVD-ROM (8x) and CD-ROM (24x) and write speeds Write speeds, meanwhile, range between single- and doble-layer BD-R (6x), triple- and quad-layer BD-R (4x), and all BD-RE formats (2x). Outside of Blu-rays, the Rosewill RDED-12001 can also burn DVD+R and DVD-R (8x) as well as single- and dual-layer DVD+/-RW (6x), and both CD-R and CD-RW (both at 24x).
All said, the Rosewill RDED-12001 USB 3.0 External Slim Aluminum 6x Blu-ray Writer is a great external optical drive. Its support of all major optical formats, coupled with its superior aluminum construction and USB 3.0 connectivity all add up to a product worth checking out. That said, however, it falls inches short of toppling our current Editors’ Choice for portable optical drives, the Samsung SE-506AB; notwithstanding the RDED-12001′s elegant aesthetic and the fact that both sport the same price tag and support the same optical formats, the Samsung SE-506AB manages to cling to its crown by virtue of its added versatility stemming from its AV connectivity as well as its built-in 2D to 3D conversion. If neither of those rank too highly on your list of priorities, though, the RDED-12001 is definitely worth a spin.
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