/ Technology

Would you buy a PC without a DVD drive? I would

Apple Mac mini

Earlier this week, Apple announced an update to its ultra-small desktop computer, the Mac mini. It was a fairly minor refresh except for one thing – Apple has removed the DVD drive.

Change is hard to grasp. One moment everything seems just as it ever was. A moment later you’ve had the proverbial rug pulled from under you. That’s not how it happens, of course; change rarely happens overnight. But, more often than not, we don’t notice it happening until an event draws our attention to it.

Apple’s decision to remove the DVD drive from its Mac mini was such a moment, albeit an indicator rather than ‘The Event’.

We’ve reviewed many laptops that haven’t featured DVD drives before, but that’s typically born of necessity – a desire for slimness and portability. Desktops, however, are rarely compromised like this – and the Mac mini (small as it is) previously had one.

Apple’s decision wasn’t a necessity, it was a conscious choice. And while the Mac mini probably isn’t for me, I’m certain I wouldn’t miss the disc spinner if I had one.

Apple’s going digital

That it’s Apple making this choice is no surprise. Of all the computer manufacturers out there it has the most to gain from the death of DVD. Its latest Mac OS is being sold exclusively via its online App Store, and iTunes is a major hub for purchasing and downloading music and films.

If you buy into the Apple ecosystem, not having a DVD drive is no great impediment. It’s no accident Apple hasn’t, and certainly never will, support the Blu-ray HD disc format.

Apple has offered up some alternatives. You can purchase an external DVD drive, or even ‘share’ the optical drive of another Mac or PC with the Mac mini if the occasion arises. But both solutions seem apologetic, especially as the ‘official’ external drive costs an optimistic £66.

In fairness to Apple, a Mac mini with the external drive still works out cheaper than last year’s version, but you’ll still need to add a keyboard and mouse to the price.

How often do you use DVD?

Most of us own films on DVD – me more than most. But I’ve got a TV and a DVD player to watch films on. My laptop has a DVD drive, but I’ve only used it twice in two years. Once to install some software (software I could have downloaded if I wanted) and a second time when someone gave me some images on disk.

It would have been inconvenient on both occasions had I not had a DVD drive, but an alternative wouldn’t have been hard to come by.

I’m probably an extreme example, but Apple’s move is a stark reminder that physical media – particularly DVDs – are in the twilight of their lives. It could be a long, glorious (defiant, even) twilight, but don’t be surprised when DVDs disappear from our high-streets to convalesce in car boot sales.

Would you buy a PC without a DVD drive?

No (74%, 489 Votes)

Yes (23%, 150 Votes)

I don't give a monkey's (4%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 664

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Dell have been selling Laptops without any optical drive for the last 6 + years; they expect you to use a docking station or external CD/DVD Drive – indeed in 2004 they actually made their own dula USB plug, the lower half was normal and the upper half was a power plug that fitted into a side USB socket on the X300

This ain’t new chaps !!!

Sam says:
29 July 2011

For a Christmas present my mum bought me a Dell Inspiron Mini 10, and it doesn’t have a disk drive so I got by using software like Daemon Tools which lets you create a virtual disk drive for ISO files and what-not, and downloaded my own movies. I think for a netbook, no disk drive is acceptable, but for a PC, you expect an Optical drive

Glyn Scantlebury says:
29 July 2011

I would buy a pc without a DVD becuase I find them so difficult to use when storing data. A memory card is so much easier, quicker and smaller.

Ted Lynch says:
29 July 2011

Will I agree that DVDs are on their way out but I think Apple are perhaps a mac mini refresh cycle too early in dropping the DVD drive. I regularly take photos for other people and they often want the RAW images which from a 16MP DSLR makes for some chunky files when you are talking about a 10s or 100s of images. Burning a DVD has to date been my medium of choice for this as not everyone, consumer or business, is happy tying up their broadband to do the transfer and decent quality 4GB USB sticks are not quite cheap enough to buy 50 at a time just in case yet.

When you start to talk about sharing digital video taken by a DV or DSLR then I would have thought putting a DVD/Blu-Ray record capable drive in would have made more sense and also allowed people to use the Mac Mini as the centre of their entertainment setup if the included optical outputs as well. Maybe a new high-end Mac Mini / BluRay / Apple TV combo is called for?

Roger K says:
30 July 2011

I bought a netbook PC without a DVD drive a couple of years back. I did not buy an external DVD drive at the time, but waited until I needed one. I think that was about 6 months later and a USB one cost about £20 or so. Last year I bought a new laptop as my main computer, and picked one with no DVD, so it is a bit smaller and lighter for travel. Of course I can use it with the external DVD drive. In the last 6 months I have used the DVD external drive once or perhaps once; the rest of the time it lives in a drawer. Most new software is downloaded. I backup to hard disks and/or online. I use memory sticks to transfer data, etc. and mine (several of 8GB) have more capacity than DVDs. I watch films via the TV with attached hifi – better picture and sound than a computer.
I can’t remember when I last wrote a DVD or CD on the computer, perhaps 2 years or more. I have lots of RW DVDs, now unused. I can’t even remember if my external DVD unit is read-only or RW.

I am still gradually copying my music CDs to computer using an old laptop (with built-in DVD) which is now part of my hifi stack, and it copies via wireless to a network hard drive which the other computers can read.

So a Mac mini with no DVD… no problem, at least not for that reason.

I still record DVDs on a recorder attached to the TV.


Although I agree with your conclusions about the need for any optical drive in a Netbook or ultra-portable Laptop, here we are looking at a compact Apple DESKTOP which has totally different needs.

On the face of it, it is a neat and tidy solution for a desktop. But if you have to start hanging devices off it to make it useful, the whole compact concept goes down the drain.

I don’t see it as any use without at least an external Hard disk drive connected and Apple don’t seem to have heard of USB3 or eSATA. For that sort of money, I’d expect something up to date that fulfils its function well. This does not.

robb192002 says:
31 July 2011

Yes. In fact Im sorely tempted to buy a particular product for a child, because it lacks a DVD drive. I am tired of expensive scratched game discs. I would be quite happy to reinstall O/S using a USB memory stick, or external drive.

Clive Jenkins says:
19 August 2011

I have used the DVD drive to install software which can not be downloaded from a site. I also subscribe to a computer magazine which has a free disc, this often has useful software.

Twice I could not play a dvd but when tried in the computer no problem at all!

I would not purchase a computer without a DVD drive.

Peter S says:
28 August 2011

Given a choice I would not buy a desk-top computer that didn’t incorporate a DVD drive – unless DVD drives that connect via a USB port were readily available.