External optical drives tend to cost rather more than their internal counterparts. That’s borne out by this drive, with almost identical capabilities to the Lite-On iHBS212 and iHBS112, but with a recommended retail price almost twice that of the internal versions, to provide the more portable convenience.

Note that at time of posting this review, we couldn't find this drive being sold by any online retailer.

Some of the price difference is explained by the fact that it connects to Windows PCs via USB 3.0.

The ability to simply unplug the Lite-On eHBU212 and move it across to another PC could prove useful, even if the 15-20 minutes or so needed to install the ubiquitous but well-designed CyberLink Blu-ray software might undermine quick spontaneous setups.

The Lite-On eHBU212 is quite sleek, albeit vaguely old-fashioned when set next to a glossy and high-tech Plextor PX-LB950UE.

The Lite-On eHBU212’s specifications are essentially the same as those found on the iHBS212 and iHBS112 models. Its nominal 12-speed write-once BD-R burning is the biggest draw, and the Lite-On eHBU212 here manages to fly through testing, copying our 22GB of test files in just 15 minutes and 27 seconds.

External drives have never been quite as fast, and in this case – despite the faster speed of USB 3.0 versus SATA – it was placed around 10-30 seconds behind the best internal versions.

It was around 15 seconds faster than Plextor’s new external model, though, the PX-LB950UE.

The latter offers you a wider choice of interfaces – eSATA besides the USB 3.0 available on the Lite-On. However, USB 3.0 is as trouble-free as you might wish for (assuming your PC has the blue USB 3.0 ports, that is), and seems faster in practice than eSATA, so you’re probably not missing out by having just the USB 3.0 option.

The Lite-On eHBU212’s features don’t vary much from those of the Plextor. Both drives have HP’s LightScribe facility, which is slightly gimmicky, but nonetheless is a workable means of adding images to the surfaces of specially designed CD and DVD blank media. We’ve yet to see a BD-R disc that works with LightScribe printing though.

Lite-On eHBU212: Specs

  • External Blu-ray writer
  • USB 3.0 interface
  • 8MB buffer
  • LightScribe
  • Blu-ray speeds: 12x BD-R, 8x BD-R DL, 2x BD-RE, 8x BD-ROM
  • DVD speeds: 16x DVD±R, 8x DVD±R DL, 6x DVD-RW, 8x DVD+RW, 12x DVD-RAM, 16x DVD-ROM
  • CD speeds: 48x CD-R, 24x CD-RW, 48x CD-ROM
  • CyberLink Blu-Ray Disc Suite (PowerDVD 9 BD, PowerProducer 5, PowerDirector 7, Power2Go 6, PowerBackup 2, LabelPrint 2, Instant Burn 5)
  • 2-year warranty
  • External Blu-ray writer
  • USB 3.0 interface
  • 8MB buffer
  • LightScribe
  • Blu-ray speeds: 12x BD-R, 8x BD-R DL, 2x BD-RE, 8x BD-ROM
  • DVD speeds: 16x DVD±R, 8x DVD±R DL, 6x DVD-RW, 8x DVD+RW, 12x DVD-RAM, 16x DVD-ROM
  • CD speeds: 48x CD-R, 24x CD-RW, 48x CD-ROM
  • CyberLink Blu-Ray Disc Suite (PowerDVD 9 BD, PowerProducer 5, PowerDirector 7, Power2Go 6, PowerBackup 2, LabelPrint 2, Instant Burn 5)
  • 2-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

It’s hard to choose between this and the Plextor PX-LB950UE. The Lite-On is slightly faster, and would probably just get our vote. However, the choice of drive options may prove persuasive in the case of the Plextor, especially if you’re likely to want to use the drive on some PCs that may have eSATA but not USB 3.0.

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