The Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 is a lightweight and easy to move external Blu-ray USB 2.0 drive that connects to your PC via USB 2.0.

The old debate about whether to buy Blu-ray or HD DVD may have been replaced by a new one questioning whether Blu-Ray will itself be able to compete with the online services of the future. Regardless of the outcome, you can expect to see a number of new Blu-Ray drives coming out over the next 12 months.

What might distinguish drives such as this Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 and the LG BE06 from their rivals is that both drives are external models.

Equipped with a USB 2.0 interface, the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 can be plugged into any PC with a spare USB port. Unfortunately, you'll also need to connect an additional power supply, which slightly dampens the convenience.

Despite this, the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 remains lightweight and easy to move – perhaps a little too easy. While you can stand the Buffalo horizontally, it's designed to be placed vertically.

You can use it horizontally, but there aren't proper pads on the underside of the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2, and the drive is so light that it's all too easy to send it skittering across the desk.

Well built though it is, we wouldn't like to try sending the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 crashing to the floor too often.

Neither is the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 the most inspiring of drives to look at, with a rather stiff eject button that needs to be activated by a good stab of the finger. On the upside, it is external and, therefore, proves very easy to install.

The Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 is extremely versatile. HD DVD users will be pleased to see that they can read (but not write to) HD DVD media from the drive. As the format has in effect been shut down, you won't be rushing out to buy HD DVD media, but it's nice that those with existing HD DVD titles can continue to view them for the duration of the Buffalo's life.

In addition, the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 is adept at playing back DVD- and CD-ROMs, giving you access to the full range of formats. DVDs can be written to, and while the speeds don't quite compare to those of the very fastest standalone DVD writers, they do generally come close. Only the quad-speed DVD-R DL/+R DL formats are significantly slower.

The Buffalo BRHC-6316U2's Blu-ray write speeds are fairly generous. The 25GB write-once BD-R SL (Single Layer) format can theoretically be pushed to six-speed using the Buffalo.

NEXT PAGE: testing the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2