External DVD drive/player that works with both laptop and TV?
May 13, 2014 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for an external, portable DVD drive that plugs into a TV (via USB would be most convenient) and functions like a standard DVD player, while also connecting to a laptop to play CDs/install software. I can only envisage using the drive to watch DVDs on my TV, rip CDs and install software, so the ability to write to disk is not important.

These are my main criteria:

1. It would be nice if it were small. I am looking to get rid of my standard-sized DVD player to save space.

2. It should be cheap - I don't watch too many DVDs nor rip many CDs to my laptop, so it won't be used so intensively - though I don't mind paying extra for something that looks stylish.

3. I am in the UK, so it should be available here.

4. The laptop runs Windows 8 and my TV is a Samsung Smart TV (possibly this one or similar).

5. If it makes any difference, I can connect to the TV via some other method. I just want to plug in, insert a DVD and play it via the remote - just as easy as possible.

I'm looking for recommendations, as well as general information on whether this is standard behaviour for any modern external DVD drive.
posted by cincinnatus c to Technology (8 answers total)
No, but you could use a decent external DVD-ROM to play DVDs through your laptop.
posted by Oktober at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: To be clear, I want to watch DVDs through my TV, as stated in the question. As long as I live, I will not want to watch a DVD on my laptop.
posted by cincinnatus c at 2:56 PM on May 13, 2014

Maybe something like this? I use it with my laptop, very compact and stylish. There seems to be some sort of AV connectivity, but I have no experience with that. There are also older versions lacking blu-ray.
posted by HFSH at 3:13 PM on May 13, 2014

Thid isn't going to work the way you want it to work I'm afraid.

A cheap PC DVD drive via USB is a dumb device; simplified, it just reads the information off the disk and chucks it down the cable for the PC to work out what to do with it, i.e. if it's a DVD data disk (DVD-ROM) with files on it, or a DVD-video disk with a film on it. To do anything with the former, you need to decode the file system etc; with the latter, you need an MPEG2 decoder for the video stream and another decoder for the audio stream (dolby digital etc). This work is done in combination of software using the CPU and GPU of a PC - which then puts it on the PC screen.

A full blown DVD player has, in effect, a basic set of dedicated chips attached that is capable of decoding the MPEG2 for video, and converting that to an output signal for the TV - such as to HDMI (digital signal), or component or SCART (both analog signals). It's not a general purpose computer.

Your TV doesn't have the smarts with a quick glance (even though it's a 'smart' tv) to understand what to do with the raw data off of a basic DVD-ROM USB drive, so a PC USB drive simply won't give the TV anything it can understand, apart from maybe music CDs.

A standard DVD player won't be any use to a laptop for reading data disks, as it doesn't make the raw data stream available on an interface the PC could use - they're just designed to output a video signal, and the digital ones have restrictions on them as otherwise it would be too easy to commit copyright infringement.

There are fairly expensive PC-compatible DVD players that have some AV-output capability - the one HFSH links to, for example - but they rely on the TV itself being compatible and having the hardware necessary to decode the video formats - I see no indication of such on the TV-range listed, though I stand to be corrected on that. Even so, it's a hybrid frankenstein solution that is not likely to be that easy to use.

So, a few options.

a) buy both. A slimline/small basic DVD player for your TV (to take up less space), and USB DVD-ROM drives for a laptop are really cheap, as it's getting to be a rather obsolete tech. A usb DVD-ROM drive for your laptop is £10 to £15. A basic slimline DVD player with a remote for the TV is like £30-50. Frankly, it's just not worth the grief of doing anything clever.

b) the higher grade option is to still buy both, but buy a nicer player for your TV that also does bluray - with a HD TV like yours, you'll get a nicer picture quality, and a bluray player will start around £70-80, though films are more expensive on bluray - but it would be a reason to keep a box under the TV.

c) Just buy a USB DVD-ROM drive for your laptop; assuming your laptop has a HDMI out on it (most do if it's from the last 4 year ish) you can then plug the laptop into your TV when you want to watch a film. So you would be watching the DVD film on your PC doing the work, but it would show the result on your TV. This is the cheapest option, but you wouldn't have a remote for the laptop, so it would be more fiddly. It would also work with a VGA connection, but lower picture quality and more likely to encounter issues.

d) Same as c. for your laptop data needs, i.e. buy a cheap USB DVD-ROM, but take out a subscription for netflix and/or amazon prime video (check what your specific TV supports), and plug your TV into your internet connection via network cable. You can now watch a whole host of films directly off the internet legally and pretty cheaply on your TV via the apps, and you can rent/buy additional TV series and brand new films too - as well as BBC iplayer etc. Not the cheapest option, but by far the most flexible - and it's the way the wind is blowing, and the range of options in the UK is definitely growing of late.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:13 PM on May 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Here are your options.

1. Play your DVDs through your laptop and connect the laptop to the television via the laptop's video card. Use a USB DVD drive and connect that to the laptop.

2. Play your DVDs through a standalone DVD player connected to your television. Rip DVDs to your laptop using a USB DVD drive.

3. Connect your television to a standalone media center. Rip DVDs to your laptop using a USB DVD drive. Put the files on the standalone media center by using a Local Area Network (LAN) connection.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:11 PM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: This product doesn't exist.
posted by w0mbat at 9:30 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you get a cheap external DVD-ROM like Oktober suggests, and use this (also cheap!) dongle thingy to watch the DVDs on your TV?
posted by misha at 11:14 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who answered, but I already have alternative options covered. I was specifically interested in whether the product I described existed, and w0mbat answered most succinctly.
posted by cincinnatus c at 1:48 AM on May 14, 2014

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