Over the past few years our collection of personal data has grown significantly as well as the need to backup that data. DVDs are no longer sufficient. Just our wedding photos use over 9 GBs of space, which would require about three DVDs.
I began backing up this data on other hard drives, in addition to our Time Machine backups. I even resorted to storing some data on a portable drive that I keep in our safe deposit box.
Unfortunately, hard drives are bulky. I wanted to be able to backup data to a disc format that would require less space and I could more easily pick and choose when and what to backup.
For about a year I’ve been looking at some external Blu-Ray drives that might meet our needs. Since my primary desktop is an iMac I don’t really have the option of installing a drive. In addition, most other systems we own are laptops.
Last week I considered whether or not to purchase several portable hard drives or buy a Blu-Ray burner. I decided to purchase a burner.
I ordered a DIGISTOR External Blu-ray Burner USB 2.0 (Tray Load) from Amazon. The price was good for an external Blu-Ray burner (~$200). It arrived last Friday and I had a chance over the weekend to put it through its paces.
Considering it’s connected via USB it’s performed very well. I’ve backed up data to three discs and even experimented with ripping and converting a Blu-Ray movie. And this was all done using Toast 10 on my iMac. My system burned full, single-layer discs in about 15-20 minutes.
The drive has an interesting feature. It includes a rechargeable battery that can power the drive on a single USB cable for a limited time (3-4 hours according to available information), for use with systems that can’t provide enough power through the bus. It also includes a cable with two USB connectors for sustained burning operations.
I went ahead and ordered the standard power adapter, which is not included, directly from DIGISTOR for about $20 after shipping.
I haven’t had the drive for very long so it’s too soon to know how the drive will perform over time. The size of the drive is somewhat surprising; it’s smaller than I had expected. So far, I think this was a good buy.
The same can’t be said for the media. My first set of 25 single layer Blu-Ray discs cost $50; about $2/disc.
Updated 08/16/2011: So far I’ve used the drive to successfully burn about 12 Blu-Ray discs. In addition to those discs I had three failures. However, I don’t think those were caused by the drive. Two bad burns appear to have been a problem burning some files from my Mail.app profile (Toast reported that it couldn’t find a specific file in the profile).
The other burn was one that I seemed to have caused. I was going through some mail at the desk and at one point I carelessly tossed a stack of papers on top of the drive that jolted it a bit. Almost immediately it reported a failure so I think it just moved the drive enough to throw the laser off.
I neglected to mention that OS X doesn’t support Blu-Ray drives natively. You’ll need a third-party burning application to use a Blu-Ray drive in OS X. I’ve been using Toast 10, which I already owned for DVD/CD burning.
The standard power adapter works as expected.
And just in case you were wondering… I was able to rip a Blu-Ray movie that I own. However, the entire process on my iMac took about 20 hours to complete for one movie (10+ hours to extract and 10+ hours to transcode).
Updated 10/22/2011: The drive is still working fine, though I haven’t used it much. I recently upgraded my Core Duo iMac to a Core 2 Duo (and Lion). Today I tried ripping a Blu-Ray movie and the results were very different. This time, it only took an hour and a half to rip the movie from the disc. I’m not sure how much of the speed increase is attributed to the processor upgrade or a possible enhancement to the ripping software. The conversion software estimated it would take about three hours and forty minutes. The actual time is probably going to be closer to 5-6 hours, but that’s still half the time the Core Duo processor required.