Productivity

Five Best Blu-Ray Playback Suites

Playing Blu-ray movies on the go on a laptop or in the living room on an HTPC with a Blu-ray drive doesn’t have to be difficult, but if you want true HD video quality and the experience of navigating disc extras and menus, you’ll need a Blu-ray media player that’s up to the task. Here are five of the best Blu-ray compatible media players, based on your nominations.

Image: Michael Spencer.

CyberLink PowerDVD

PowerDVD, in many cases, is pre-installed on systems that ship with Blu-ray drives. PowerDVD fully supports Blu-ray discs, upscales standard definition content, plays just about any other type of video and even supports audio playback and photo slideshows. PowerDVD Mobile allows you to take some of your media with you on your Android phone or tablet, while PowerDVD Remote lets you use these devices to control your HTPC remotely. The app also supports 3D Blu-ray discs and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. PowerDVD comes in three flavours, standard for $US40, deluxe for $US56 and ultra for $US60.

ArcSoft Total Media

Total Media and Total Media Theatre have full Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray support and can upscale other standard definition videos. Total Media can handle streaming video from YouTube and other internet sources and has the ability to change your system’s region code to match the disc you want to play. Finally, it can serve as an all-in-one media management tool and player for almost any video and audio type and format. Total Media Theatre will set you back about $US100, but you can download a free trial.

SlySoft AnyDVD HD

SlySoft AnyDVD HD is a great Blu-ray player (and all-around media player), but its real claim to fame is that it’s a great tool for freeing your discs and media from being locked in to specific players, regions or formats. AnyDVD HD plays any disc, regardless of its region code and doesn’t even require an HDCP-compliant graphics card or display.

What this means to you is that the tool gives you the freedom to watch your Blu-ray discs on any display you choose and over any video connection you have available. AnyDVD HD has also made a name for itself as the player that can play DVD and Blu-ray discs that other desktop players refuse to play. It’s available as a free trial for 21 days, but after that you’ll have to cough up €63 (about $US82) for a full licence, plus one year of software updates. The price goes up depending on how many years of updates you want to pay for, up to €119 ($US155) for a lifetime subscription.

PotPlayer

PotPlayer is from the same developer behind our pick for the best video player for Windows, KMPlayer. It’s free and plays Blu-ray discs, DVDs, HD videos and media embedded in ZIP and RAR archives. It’s simple and doesn’t offer the bells and whistles that a lot of the other, more expensive tools do, but if you’re looking for a simple Blu-ray player, it can’t be beat. There are 32 and 64-bit versions available and there are plenty of skins out there so you can customise the look and feel of the player.

Corel WinDVD Pro

Corel WinDVD Pro is another tool that ships with a lot of systems that have Blu-ray drives pre-installed. It supports 3D video and even comes with 3D glasses in the box, if you’re buying the most recent version. If you’re a 3D fanatic, WinDVD Pro promises to convert your 2D videos to 3D so you can enjoy them with your passive 3D glasses on, but if 3D is too gimmicky for you, it’s a very capable Blu-ray player that can also upscale DVDs. WinDVD includes a bunch of video enhancement tools that can make your videos look cleaner and brighter. There’s a free trial available, but a full licence will set you back $US59.99.

Honorable mentions this week go out to VLC, which is a natural choice for many people, as it’s free and most of us have it installed on our systems anyway. Another honorable mention is the venerable None — many of you said that you don’t bother with a specific Blu-ray player, and you prefer to rip your Blu-ray videos and stream them to your TV at home or load them on your laptop if you plan to take them with you on the go, or use a standalone Blu-ray player in your home theatre instead of dropping a Blu-ray drive into your HTPC.

Did your favourite not get enough nominations to make the top five? Did we miss a feature you love about one of the candidates above? Whatever you think, let’s hear it in the comments.


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