Do you own a Blu-ray DVD player at home? Have you ever thought about being able to watch Blu-ray movies while traveling but do not want to spend a ton of money for a new laptop? I know that I have more than one laptop that cannot watch Blu-ray movies because at the time that I purchased them there was simply no option for it. Now to get that functionality I would have to spend quite a bit or get a bulky external drive and lug that around [and still spend a ton of money]. Well at least that is what I would have had to do. Thankfully Asus offers an option that removes the need for either of these.

This is the SBC-04D1S-U [try saying that three times fast] – an ultra slim portable USB 2.0 Blu-ray DVD player. Let us see if it lets us take some Blu-ray high-def love on the road or if it is just added weight in your laptop bag.

Package
The box that the SBC-04D1S-U ships in is classy. I actually like the dark blue color and scroll work on the front. The angled view of the drive itself gives you no doubt as to what you are getting when you pick this up.

Inside the box you get; in addition to the SBC-04D15S-U you also receive a stand and a copy of Cyberlink’s Power DVD software.

The SBC-04D1S-U
The Asus SBC-04D1S-U is a pretty cool looking drive, well much cooler than most of the other ?slim? external drives I have played with. Asus has chosen to make it out of a glossy black plastic. This gives it a sleek look, which goes nicely with the angled design. You can use this either horizontally or with the included stand to save on desktop space.  Its dimensions are; 157mm x 142mm x 21mm [6.18 x 5.59 x 0.82 inches] and weighs in at 412 grams [14.53 Ounces]. This is a nice size if you want to carry this one around with you in a small laptop bag without overloading.

To connect to your system Asus has included a dual USB 2.0 cable [2x USB B to 1x Mini-USB]. This provides power and a data path for the SBC-04D1S-U.

When plugged in the top [or right side] has a blue glowing? well for lack of a better word we will call it a star to show that the drive has the proper power to operate.  The front of the drive has the usual logos, eject button, and drive access light. Not much to talk about there.

Overall the SBC-04D1S-U feels like a solid well-built product despite its small size and weight.

Features
The SBC-04D1S-U supports a nice variety of formats. Unfortunately it does not support Blu-ray disk authoring, but that is not too big of a deal as right now the price of black Blu-ray disks is more than most people would want to pay anyway.  Still even though you cannot write to Blu-ray you can write to DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD-DL, DVD-RAM and of course CD-R, and RW.

However, most of these features are not what you are looking for from this drive. Most people are going to use this as a playback only drive and then for Blu-ray. There is a very small minority that might pick this up if they are using an ION based netbook, but as there are very few 1080p [or even 720p] rated netbooks I have a feeling this one will be a very small minority indeed.  

Performance
We tested performance in two different ways. The first was purely synthetic and covered access times read by Sisoft Sandra 2010, the second and more important covered actual playback of different types of media. We used a retail DVD movie, a movie burned to DVD and a retail Blu-ray movie. We tested these against the internal Blu-ray drive in an HTPC system to see if there were any noticeable differences in playback.

As you can see the Asus SBC-04D1S-U has a drive index of 8MB/s with an average access time of 164.81ms when accessing a SD-DVD. This is better than what we got out of our PATA internal drive at 4.5MB/s with an access time of 168.27ms.  When we dropped in a Blu-ray movie, things got interesting. According to Sandra we get 15.5 MB/s while the Optiarc is only capable of 6.1MB/s this means that the USB 2.0 Asus SBC-04D1S-U is faster than even an internal Blu-ray player. The Everest testing we ran showed a similar performance lead by the Asus External drive.

In real world testing we saw no problems playing both Blu-ray and SD-DVD movies. The external nature of the SBC-04D1S-U did not hinder it at all. The performance across the board on both our mobile platform and the HTPC system we use was excellent and the integration with Windows 7 [though CyberLink?s Power DVD] was flawless.

Value
The Asus SBC-04D1D-U is a bit pricey at $189.99, especially considering that you can get a home Blu-ray player for about this from most local electronic stores. However, none of these are portable or have connection options to your laptop/netbook. Also the fact that it ships with a deluxe version of Cyberlink?s PowerDVD does help to offset the cost a little. As the Asus SBC-04-D1S-U has a mean time between failure of roughly 60,000 hours [which equals out to about 6.8 Years] you can count on this drive working for you. Of course if you do have a problem it is likely to be right out of the box. If this is the case you can setup an RMA through the Asus support site.

Conclusion
I have to say that I was more than a little skeptical of the Asus External Blu-ray drive. In past experiences with external USB optical drives I have seen poor playback performance when trying to display any type of high resolution content. The problem is that they cannot maintain a high enough sustained transfer rate to keep up with High-Definition content. But the dual USB 2.0 connectivity of the SBC-04D1S-U allows for better performance than your average drive. The SBC-04D1S-U works well as a mobile Blu-Ray player as well as one for use with a home HTPC. The down side to the SBC-04D1S-U is its cost. While $189.99 is high for many people, in reality it is in line with many home players that are not as portable [or functional] as the SBC-04D1S-U is. If you need [or want] a good external drive that can cover you for Blu-ray content at home and on the go then the Asus SBC-04D1S-U is a great option for you.