Reliable blu-ray playback: stand-alone player or commercial software
November 16, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

How can I easily and reliably play Blu-Ray discs now and in the future? I have a HTPC, but the software bundled with the blu-ray drive is old, and a new version is around the sales price ofr a decent-looking stand-alone blu-ray player.

I built a Windows 7 Home Theater PC, and bought a blu-ray drive that came with PowerDVD 8. PDVD works for some older blu-ray discs, but I was informed I needed to download updates to play newer discs. I download some updates, try again, no luck. I reboot, try re-downloading updates, reboot again, no luck. Always back to the same message: download an update.

PDVD is up to version 12, and it's $125 for the ultimate edition, now on sale for $85. The pro version is $80, but I don't know if I'll want to play content with DTCP-IP, which is only available in the ultimate edition. This isn't the only commercial blu-ray player software, but commercial programs run $50-$100, while I've seen stand-alone players for around $50. Instead of booting up my HTPC, I could just turn on the player and pop in a disc, which sounds appealing, especially if it's the same price as software which might get outdated again.

I have tried using Media Player Classic - Home Cinema and PotPlayer, with no luck on playing Brave with either program. A few more programs are listed on Wikipedia, but I thought MeFites might have more insight on the reliability of these programs. If I can get any of these programs freeware to work, awesome. But I would like something reliable for the long-term. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just wanted to say I feel your pain, and you might find a solution....but for me I gave up on this awhile ago and decided to dedicate a PS3 to the venture. Bottom line, in my opinion, is: Sony does not want you to play Bluray on a PC. There are really only a handful of players that integrate with WMC, and they do so very poorly (you either have strange graphic problems as it switches desktop composition, or you have have to hackishly launch their player which may have a completely different feel than WMC)

If you're really interested in tackling this seamlessly on a PC however, you might want to look into AnyDVD-HD which will decrypt the discs. There's also MakeMKV (if you wanted to dump the discs to drive...look into a WMC plugin called Auto-rip 'n compress...I normally wouldn't recommend ripping DVDs or Bluray, but the Bluray implementation on Windows is so bad it's almost necessary).

Again I don't mean for this to sound too discouraging...just the only solution I found to reliably play Bluray that keeps up with all the crazy new and fun copy protection schemes is a PS3. I ended up dedicating my HTPC as a backend Plex server that the PS3 and other Rokus in the house can connect to. The HTPC is now mainly a media server (but can be switched to on a different HDMI port if needed)

Good luck!
posted by samsara at 12:37 PM on November 16, 2012

Response by poster: I don't have a Windows Media Center PC, it's a home-built kit running Win7 Home Premium. Most media gets played with Media Player Classic or VLC, but neither seem to do the trick with blu-ray. It plays pre-recorded or ripped content quite well, but I'd rather not have to rip my blu-ray movies just to play them back.

I haven't researched longevity of stand-alone players yet, but I hope that they would also have the ability to download updated data to play whatever movies I try to play on them. That seems like a much cheaper route than buying a PS3. Plus, our TV streams Netflix, and we don't play many games, so a PS3 seems like overkill.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2012

standalone blu-ray players eventually stop being supported also. I'm not aware of how much of a concern this is with the latest players, but the earliest players i dont think get updated anymore.

the PS3 is one of the earlier blu ray players and still receives updates to play the latest disks. If you do get a ps3, get the remote for it, its bluetooth instead of IR, so it isnt compatible with universal remotes.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks samsara and TheAdamist. I'm still hesitant to buy a PS3 as they look to run $200 used.

Time to hunt down reviews of software and hardware updates. CyberLink is nice enough to tell you which versions are no longer supported, and Blu-Ray has links to more info about players and software.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2012

I would like something reliable for the long-term.

I get my movies through a private bittorrent tracker and play them with VLC. 1080p blu-ray rips are just over 40 gigs, so you'll need a pretty fast internet connection. Though I doubt this sort of solution is what you had in mind, I guarantee it will be more reliable in the long term than any of the more legitimate options. Kinda crazy, huh?
posted by ryanrs at 5:22 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah ok, well with that in mind Arcsoft and PowerDVD were the best commercial solutions I found for the PC. Each have their pros and cons (with respect to video and audio quality), but if you're not too invested into a large screen and 7.1 dolby I think either would be fine.

There is a way to play Blu Ray through VLC. (I won't link it here since I'm unsure if it is properly licensed.) I'm not sure if the scene has changed, but the free routes ended up being somewhat cumbersome to follow and often forced one to become fairly adept at tweaking the codecs and parse-fu.

I think for peace of mind a decent stand-alone player is the way to go however. Three that come to mind that are decent and hover around the $100 mark are the LG BP620, Panasonic DMP-BDT220, and Sony BDP-S380 (or S185 which is fairly decent for the price). There's a bit of a trend towards digital convergence these days so you'll find many of them will bundle in streaming apps similar to what you already have on the TV. Some of your cheaper no-frills players around the $40 mark are the Panasonic DMP-BD655 and DMP-BD35K (personal fav, definitely look at this one).

But yea, you'll have to look around and weigh your options to see what fits right...research the reviews, etc. CNET and Amazon are the two places I normally look for comparisons...hope that helps!
posted by samsara at 6:09 PM on November 16, 2012

(oops, scratch the $40 comment, they haven't gotten that low yet...was seeing a refurbished/used price)
posted by samsara at 6:18 PM on November 16, 2012

Best answer: After trying to get various freeware options to work but having no luck with a new disc, I gave into Black Friday sales and bought WinDVD HD and Nero's video package with blu-ray player software. WinDVD works on my wife's laptop, and Nero had decent reviews. Both were on sale for less than any blu-ray player software. This should get me through a few years, at which time I'm hoping for better alternatives. Maybe there will be some viable freeware by then, or at least more info on software and hardware longevity.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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