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How good are no-frills DVDs?

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Overall my observation is that laptop DVD drives are fairly picky (and very fragile).

Most laptops use a very delicate snap-in center hub design and a flimsy plastic tray, and I've seen these get really flaky as they get used a bit. If by any chance the device has been exposed to cigarette smoke, or a dusty environment, that won't help either. A DVD lens-cleaner disk can help.

I've worked with good solid DVD burners in desktops that will burn at any speed on any old media, my favoites are either Sony or TSST (Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology).

If you burn a ton of DVDs on a laptop, the easy fix is to get an external DVD burner drive, preferably USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt interface if you have it.