Ever since the late Steve Jobs declared war on optical discs for distributing music and movies, the industry and media have been telling us the optical disc is dead. Far from it, I’d say, especially if you think about whether you’re comfortable with entrusting your precious data with cloud service providers. There isn’t a month going by without a hack or a security breach, ransomware being demanded and other such alarming events. Backing up to optical media has its benefits. And with the right equipment and the media to match, your risk of data loss is considerably lower. The OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive might fit the bill.
The OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive is a professional external USB 3 Gen.1 optical drive. It has an all-aluminium enclosure, a robust external power supply unit and an LG WH16NS40 drive mechanism inside. That LG burner is one of the few that can write M-DISCS and those are exactly the discs you want to backup to. They’re not using a dye chemical but something that resembles rock.
I tested OWC’s optical flagship drive with Archival Grade DVDs that I have purchased 12 years ago (!), with 25GB and 50GB Blu-Ray discs of a decade ago and with new M-DISC Blu-Ray discs of 25GB and 100GB (BDXL). Most of my test discs were made by Verbatim, but some were of the Kodak Professional Gold brand type. Advice number one: never use cheap media if you care for your data. Go with Verbatim’s premium discs.
The OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive burned all of my discs without a single coaster. It connects to the Mac with an included USB 3 cable that looks like you can dock a ship with it. It’s silent and the aluminium enclosure is very good at dissipating the heat from the burning process. All the discs I burned did so at a speed above their official rate.
The new M-DISC BDXL I tested was rated for 4x burning, but the OWC drive together with Toast Titanium 15.1 managed a consistent performance of 6x. This big-capacity disc was loaded with 86GB of video movies in an hour. OK, so that is not the 10 minutes or so it takes to copy that amount of data to a 450MB/sec SSD, but we’re dealing with archiving, not production.
I tested the OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive for a whole day burning all my data to optical discs and it never got hot and probably in part at least, never ran into a failed disc. The nice thing about the OWC’s consistently trustworthy performance is that you can repeat this so that you can have an off-site backup/archive set stored somewhere else.
Even nicer is that you can store those M-DISCs I tried in places where you would ruin ordinary optical media because it’s too damp or too cold, or hot. M-DISCs aren’t sensitive to this sort of environmental changes and data on them will probably last for many decades. Why am I so sure about that? Because I still have optical Verbatim Archival Grade discs burned 12 years ago that I can read without any problems. And my storage was anything but ideal.
The OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive is also the best solution — much better, in my opinion than a Superdrive — to burn discs you create with projects on them for clients to view and evaluate. Photographs, presentations, videos — all of it is easily transported to a client for screening on location. If your client doesn’t have a reader, OWC has a portable one and if the Pro Optical Drive is anything to go by, it will perform brilliantly.
The OWC Mercury Pro Optical Drive costs $129.99.