Poll: Do laptops still need optical drives?

Cast your vote in this poll, and then jump into the comments section below to let us know why you need (or don't need) an optical drive in your laptop.

The 13-inch version of Apple's revamped MacBook Air doubles the USB ports (to two) and adds an SD card slot, but it still lacks an optical drive. And it's not alone--other recent DVD-free 13-inch systems include Toshiba Satellite T235D and the Asus U35JC .

Optical allusions

Do laptops still need optical drives?

In smaller 11- and 12-inch laptops, we're used to not having an optical drive, although they do occasionally turn up. But to some, the optical drive is becoming like the telephone modem jack that used to be standard on every laptop--a bit of legacy hardware that rarely gets used.

The main reasons we used to need an optical drive were for installing applications (including games), playing DVD movies, and burning backup discs. Thanks to painfully overenthusiastic DRM, games are much easier to download and install via an online service such as Steam; the same goes for many apps (including the ones we use frequently, including OpenOffice, Reason, and Pro Tools LE).

Even video content is much more convenient when downloaded from iTunes or streamed from Netflix. Backing up is now a task for a high-capacity USB key or networked hard drive.

But we also know there are many people out there who will never give up their laptop DVD drives, and they have sound reasons for feeling that way (we learned earlier this year that people have a similar attachment to their computer mice ). Assuming optical drives are going to stick around for the time being in 15-inch and larger laptops, let's instead see how people feel about them in smaller systems.

Cast your vote in this poll, and then jump into the comments section below and let us know why you need (or don't need) an optical drive in your laptop.

Read the full CNET Review

Toshiba Satellite T235D-S1345 (black)

The Bottom Line: The Toshiba Satellite T235D-S1345 is a solid, slim, and affordable 13-inch tweener laptop for ultraportable computing; however, in a landscape filled with thinner and faster alternatives, it no longer stands alone. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Asus U35JC-A1

The Bottom Line: The Asus U35Jc-A1 is a thin, but solid, 13-inch laptop with no processor compromises and Nvidia Optimus graphics, covering all the basics--except an optical drive. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple MacBook Air Fall 2010 (Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz, 64GB SSD, 11.6-inch)

The Bottom Line: The second generation of Apple's MacBook Air fixes many of our issues with the ambitious original, adding more USB ports, an SD card slot, and a more powerful processor. / Read full review

About the author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.



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