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Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB review: Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB

The Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB makes a great accessory for the MacBook Air or any computer that doesn't have a built-in optical drive, thanks to its great design, solid performance, and affordable price.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
3 min read

If you have a MacBook Air, or any ultraportable computer that doesn't have a built-in optical drive, the Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB will make a handy accessory. This is arguably the thinnest and most compact portable bus-powered DVD writer on the market. And at a street price of around $40, it's almost half the price of the SuperDrive accessory for the Air.


Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB

The Good

The <b>Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB</b> is compact and thin, and requires only one USB port to work.

The Bad

The Samsung SE-218BB doesn't work with Blu-ray discs, and it isn't a slot-loading optical drive.

The Bottom Line

Compact and portable, the Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB makes an excellent companion for ultrabook mobile users.

The SE-218BB drive is bus-powered, meaning it uses a single USB cable (included) for both power and data. The only shortcoming, if any, the Samsung SE-218BB has compared with Apple's SuperDrive is the fact that the drive comes in black and with a pull-out tray, instead of a slot-loading design.

That said, for those who need an portable, handy external DVD burner and reader, the SE-218BB would be an excellent buy.

Design and features
Measuring 5.8 inches by .6 inch by 5.6 inches, the Samsung SE-218BB is about as thin as a pull-out-tray optical drive can be, and is much thinner than any others I've seen. While it's generally cooler and more convenient to have a drive with a slot-load design, the pull-out tray guarantees that the drive also supports mini CD and DVD disks.

You press a button on the front of the SE-218BB to eject the drive tray, then pull the tray farther out to load a optical disc on it. The eject button only works when the drive is plugged in and powered up. If you want to take out the disk while the drive is unplugged, you'll need to use a paper clip on its manual eject hole under the eject button.

On the back of the drive is a Mini-USB 2.0 port. To use the drive, plug into a computer using the included Mini-USB cable, and that's all you need. There's no other power port or separate power adapter.

Despite its plastic chassis, the optical drive feels solid, looks good, and seems high-end. The drive also seems able to handle somewhat rough environments, making it well-suited for travelers.

Unlike other portable burners I've seen that require two USB ports to draw enough power -- and come with a Y-shaped USB cable to accommodate that -- the Samsung SE-218BB just needs the one Mini-USB port to work. This helps make it more portable and means that you can use the drive with any standard Mini-USB cable, in case you misplace the one that came with it.

The Samsung SE-218BB can burn dual-layer DVDs at 6x (about 8MBps) and CDs at 24x (about 3.5MBps). For this reason, there's no need for the drive to support USB 3.0, since USB 2.0's speed caps at about 60MBps, much faster than the drive's burning and reading speeds. Its burning speeds are actually plenty fast for most situations and are those supported by most blank media on the market.

There's virtually no setting up required with the Samsung SE-218BB. Again, all you need to do is plug it into a computer using the included (or any standard) Mini-USB cable and you are all set. The drive worked with both Macs and Windows computers in my testing. It even worked with a few Android tablets.

As a bonus, the portable burner also is bundled with a copy of Nero Essentials 10.0 that includes Nero Express burning software, Nero Backup, and Nero InCD, a program that makes it possible to use a CD-RW or DVD-RW disc like an external hard drive.

The Samsung SE-218BB worked very well in my testing, burning 4.7GB of data onto a DVD in about 10 minutes, which is the expected performance for a 6x DVD burner. I tried burning different types of DVD formats, including data and multimedia files, and found no problem at all. The drive also worked fine as a boot drive in case you need to reinstall your computer's operating system.

Even during extended operation, the SE-218BB didn't get hot in my testing. It did get a little warm, which is expected for all optical drives.

With great design, solid performance, and an affordable price, the Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB makes an excellent accessory for any computer that doesn't have a built-in optical drive.


Samsung Portable DVD Writer SE-218BB

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 7Performance 8Support 8