Selecting the Best Optical Drive for a Gaming Computer
Optical drives are used to read information found on CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs. Some type of optical drive is found on nearly every computer and they have permanently replaced floppy drives as the primary mass storage transfer technology. There are three major types of optical drives available and this guide will explain each in detail.
CD Drives and Discs
CD Drives have been available for quite some time since they replaced the aging floppy drive technology. Games, music, and programs have all been stored on CD drives because they are simple and can store up to 700 MB of data.
CD drive technology advanced to allow the writing and rewriting of data onto CDs. Writing data to a CD is a process called burning. CD burners have a write speed, usually around 24x, which indicate the speed they burn information to a disc. The higher the speed, the faster the drive burns data. All that is required for burning is blank recordable CDs and a burning software program. The most popular burning software is Nero and is usually bundled with a CD/DVD burner drive. Also, CDs can be recorded on, erased, then re-recorded. For this you need to make sure you are using rewritable/recordable CDs as ordinary CDs can only have data written to them once. These rewrittable CDs (called CD-RW for CD rewritable/recordable) have dropped price considerably since DVDs and Blu-ray discs have hit the market.
DVDs further improve on the data storage capacity of CDs while still maintaining the same size of a CD. DVDs can store almost 7 times as much information (4.7 GB) as a CD. DVDs accomplish this greater storage capacity by means of using a shorter wavelength of light to write the data. This allows more information to be packed into the same amount of space.
Most modern computer games are stored on DVDs because of the extra available space. For example, a modern computer game can be written on three CDs or just one DVD. Using the one DVD is much more practical and cost efficient. For this reason, a gaming computer needs, at the very least, a DVD drive. Just as CDs can be written and rewritten, DVDs can as well. If you plan on moving files frequently from one place to another or if you want to make a backup of your important files to DVDs, I recommend purchasing a DVD burner. The Nero software also includes DVD burning functionality. Asus and Lite-On produce quality DVD drives/burners and they generally fall in the $20-30 range.
Blu-ray drives and discs are the latest and greatest of optical technology. Blu-ray discs competed with high definition DVDs in the mid 2000s and coupled with the Playstation 3's use of Blu-ray discs as the primary storage medium, Blu-ray technology emerged as the winner of the latest optical technology. Blu-ray discs can store 25 GB of data on a single layer. Further improving on the concept of using lower sized wavelengths to write the data, Blu-ray discs use the 405 nm blue laser compared to the larger 650 nm red laser used by DVDs. This enables more data to be written on a disc having the same dimensions as a CD or DVD.
Although they cost more than their CD and DVD counterparts, Blu-ray discs are the future and the prices are dropping rather quickly. If you are the type who likes making backup copies of movies, songs, or other tasks that require large amounts of storage space, I recommend purchasing a Blu-ray burner. With modern computer games becoming larger and larger in size, it won't be too long before you see games being stored on Blu-ray discs rather than having to use 2 or 3 DVDs. For this reason, purchasing a Blu-ray drive is a way of planning for the future.
I prefer to use either Asus or Lite-On for optical drives as these manufacturers consistently receive high marks from customers. For a guide on selecting the best Blu-Ray drive for a gaming computer, please see our article here.
Other Articles of Interest
1. Selecting the Best Memory for a Gaming Computer
2. Selecting the Best Video Card for a Gaming Computer
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