this thing’s incredible

I’ve Renounced Streaming in Favor of This Dell DVD Drive

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

For many Africans like me growing up in the 2000s with limited access to legitimate software, buying pirated DVDs and CDs was our introduction to consuming media. I spent a lot of my formative years repeatedly listening to burned versions of albums like Dangerously in Love and watching One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl, all on a Dell DVD player.

But since then, given the availability of streaming services (and me knowing better), I’ve stopped using a video player altogether. (My laptop doesn’t even come with one.) But my passion for viewing movies and TV shows just wasn’t the same — until a few months ago when I was browsing Amazon and came across this Dell DVD drive that instantly brought feelings of nostalgia flooding back.

The first thing I did when it arrived was to see if my collection of discs would work with the noticeably lightweight player. They did (according to the manufacturer, the drive is compatible with more than 20 disc formats) — but watching these old favorites was an entirely new experience. Everything on my screen was crisper and even more vivid than streaming, with so much detail that I felt like I was in on the action alongside the characters. And compared to the Dell DVD players I’d used in the past, with this new model, I get a much improved fast-forward speed (8x, to be exact) — as someone with a short attention span and a love for K-dramas, this comes in handy, as I no longer have to force myself to sit through the cringe moments.

The writer’s external DVD drive with a detachable cord. Photo: Victoria Goldiee

Even with all the skipping I’ve been doing, I still have a high screen time, so it was a relief to learn that the machine has an estimated life span of over 150,000 hours, which means that I don’t have to worry about it breaking down for a long time. I’m still clocking many hours, though, especially since I started using the drive to change the video settings to enhance the viewing experience even further. For a rom-com, for example, I’ll set the coloring to retro/vintage, and when I recently revisited a Korean show I’d first seen as a kid, I chose a cinematic mode to make it feel like I was fully immersed in the 2000s again.

But perhaps the best feature of all is that the drive gives me exclusive access to the CyberLink Media Suite app, which lets me become a producer of sorts. At first, I assumed it would take some technical skills, but using the app is as easy as clicking on the “Burn a Disc” feature and choosing the format and quality you want before converting the copy to a file. With CyberLink, I’ve made playlists and, recently, a mini vlog of moments from my first interview to my most recent one as a way for me to look back on my professional journey as a culture journalist. Even though I hadn’t fully recognized its value at the time, the Dell DVD player from my childhood in Nigeria did inspire my career path — and its modern replacement, in a world where streaming isn’t as reliable, still does today.

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I’ve Renounced Streaming in Favor of This Dell DVD Drive