The Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 is a slick external Blu-ray Disc drive.

Traditionally external DVD drives such as the Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 have always been a versatile, if slightly expensive, approach to temporarily adding extra features to a number of PCs. The ability to pick up the drive and simply move it from one machine to another makes them invaluable for those needing to share facilities. Or for those uncomfortable with the idea of opening up a desktop PC.
 
The Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 allows you to add the ability to read Blu-ray media to any Windows or Mac PC, as well as reading and writing to DVDs and CDs. However, if portability is the largest concern, then the Freecom isn’t perhaps the lightest of devices. Its 1.2kg weight adds a fair degree of bulk to your luggage, while the large frame takes up a considerable amount of room. It looks stylish though, and the combination of its silver casing and black bezel strikes a pleasing tone.

The Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 comes in two versions. The standard Combo uses a USB 2.0 interface and costs around £135. But, for extra speed (and an extra £25), you can buy the Combo Pro with FireWire 400. Theoretically, FireWire 400 is the slower standard, but in practice, the FireWire interface tends to be better at drive operations.

In testing, whereas the Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980's USB facilities sent 4GB of data to a six-speed DVD-RW disc in 11 minutes and 31 seconds on USB, the FireWire interface managed the same task in less than 11 minutes. Burning to a 16-speed DVD+R disc took six minutes and 17 seconds on USB, and just five minutes and 57 seconds on FireWire 400.

The Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 has 12-speed DVD-RAM and LightScribe facilities to add to its DVD and CD-ROM burning. However, the main draw is likely to be the BD-ROM support. On PCs the Freecom lets you read BD-ROM media and play Blu-Ray movies. We found the playback to be smooth, but it’s a shame the Freecom can’t write to Blu-Ray media too.

The Roxio Creator XE suite bundled with the Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 makes a refreshing change from the usual CyberLink software. The interface is colourful and intuitive, and we experienced no mishaps during testing.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980: Specs

  • External Blu-ray Disc reader/DVD writer
  • USB 2.0 and FireWire 400
  • Max read speeds 8x (BD-ROM)
  • Max DVD speeds 8x/8x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Max CD speeds 48x/32x/48x (CD-R/-RW/-ROM)
  • Max storage capacity 8.5GB
  • Roxio Creator XE (PC)
  • Toast 9 Basic (Mac)
  • 250x165x48mm
  • 1.2kg
  • 2-year warranty
  • External Blu-ray Disc reader/DVD writer
  • USB 2.0 and FireWire 400
  • Max read speeds 8x (BD-ROM)
  • Max DVD speeds 8x/8x/8x/8x/6x/8x/12x/16x (DVD-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW/-RAM/-ROM)
  • Max CD speeds 48x/32x/48x (CD-R/-RW/-ROM)
  • Max storage capacity 8.5GB
  • Roxio Creator XE (PC)
  • Toast 9 Basic (Mac)
  • 250x165x48mm
  • 1.2kg
  • 2-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

As an external BD-ROM drive, the Freecom Blu-Ray Combo Pro 33980 has very little competition. As such, it can get away with a high asking price. We’d be a little happier if it supported FireWire 800, or cost a little less – and much happier if could actually write to BD-R media. Overall though the Freecom is still a slick package that may fill a need.

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