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Review: HP DVD550s USB Optical Drive

Cheerful, but not exactly cheap

With more and more PC’s and laptops being sold with no optical drive, external units like HP’s DVD550s are becoming more and more of a necessity to own.

I found myself in this position recently, when I opted to replace my office machine with a Mac Mini, completely forgetting that they don’t have any optical drive to speak of.

HP’s DVD550s was an answer to my prayers, but it’s not without its drawbacks, read on to find out more.

Function

The DVD550s is can both read and write CDs and DVDs, with write speeds presenting at 8x for DVD±RW and 24x for CD±RW.  In tests I found its performance to be more or less comparable with other similar drives that I’ve used.

Some other reviews have suggested that this drive is not Mac compatible, but I had no problems using it with both a Windows netbook and my Mac Mini.  The only gripe that I did find, was that the eject button on the drive didn’t work properly on the Mac Mini, which is very strange.  However, the eject button on my Mac keyboard still opened the drive as it would for an internal DVD drive.

As the name suggests, the DVD550s does not play BluRay disks, but that’s not surprising given the price of the drive.

Design

On first glance the DVD550s looks like a well designed and upmarket piece of equipment.  This example is finished in red, but it’s also available in blue, black and pink for around the same price.

HP Drive Front

Take a closer look at the casing though and you may be left feeling a little deflated.  Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with the design of it, but the plastics used do feel very cheap.  Those that are familiar with PC hardware will recognise that this is simply a laptop spec DVD drive shoved into a cheap plastic case, but perhaps I’m being too picky.

In terms of design, the DVD550s is certainly small and light.  In fact, it’s not much bigger than a CD jewel case, which is a bonus for those who’ll need to take it with them on a daily basis rather than keeping it in a drawer for occasional use.

Portability is improved further when you consider that this drive requires no external power supply.  Power is instead taken from the USB port of the PC or laptop, which is a nice touch.

HP Drive Back

The upsides; the back of the device is relatively clear cut, with just a couple of screws and the mini-USB connector visible.  Because the drive is powered via USB, you also don’t need to worry about having a power outlet available when you want to use it.

There’s only one downside, as far as I can see.  The USB lead that HP provide requires two USB connectors on your PC if you want to use it to write to disks, and the lead provided only measures about a foot, so you’re slightly restricted in where you can place the drive.

HP Drive Lead

It’s not a bad design, I just can’t help but think that HP could have spared a couple more inches, especially with some desktop and all-in-one PCs not coming with optical drives, and having oddly placed USB connectors.

Bundled Software

It’s worth pointing out that the DVD550s does come with a bunch of bundled software from Cyberlink.  To be honest though, most of the programs on the disk are only trials, and the programs themselves aren’t anything special.  It includes tools such as backup solutions and DVD playback suites, but you’re better off using other solutions if you can help it.

HP Drive Software

It’s just my opinion, but Cyberlink software tends to be bloated and poor performing when compared to other free tools out there.

Conclusions

Would I buy the DVD550s?  Well, I did.  To be honest my reasons for purchasing were that it was cheap and available from my local PC retailer.  There are plenty of other solutions available from other providers, and performance and price will vary differently depending on what you’re looking at.  That being said, for a simple DVD writer it is a little expensive, I’ve found comparable models online for £5-10 cheaper, but they’ve been physically larger and had slower disk writing speeds.

It’s not a bad little device, but it’s not super impressive either.  To my mind, for the £40 that I paid it should have a proper metal casing, but maybe I’m asking too much.  As this device will spend the rest of its useful life sat on top of my Mac Mini, the strength of the casing isn’t that important to me, but I still feel HP could have used a better quality of plastic in the casing.

One upside is that it’s available in the same sorts of colours that netbooks come in (black, blue, red, pink).  So, even if your netbook isn’t an HP model, you should still be able to pair it up with one of these drives without it looking to strange.

If you’re looking for more in terms of performance you could look at something like the Samsung SE-506AB BluRay player which should set you back around £80.

If you’re on a budget, and don’t care about writing DVD’s on the go, the LiteOn EDU108 is a good budget alternative, you can snap one up new for less than £25.

Author

Matt

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