How to watch Blu-ray movies on your PC

It's possible, but first you need to ask yourself the question: Is it worth the bother?

Reader Anibal is looking to outfit his PC with a Blu-ray drive and wants to know if there's any good, low-cost (or free) software for watching Blu-ray movies.

In a nutshell: no. I mean, you have choices when it comes to software, but plan on spending anywhere from US$40 (the current price for Corel WinDVD Pro 2010) to $95 (for CyberLink PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D). A third option, ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 3 Platinum, sells for around $90.

That was a little more palatable when standalone Blu-ray players were selling for upwards of $400, but now that you can find them for as little as $100, it really begs the question of whether a PC-based Blu-ray solution makes sense.

For one thing, you have to buy the drive. A quick check of sites like Newegg shows an average price tag of around $100. (On the plus side, some drives do come with one of the aforementioned Blu-ray programs, though usually an older version. Windows 7 compatibility is not a given.)

Then you have to make sure your PC and video card can manage a Blu-ray-optimal resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), and that the latter supports HDCP, the form of copy protection employed by Blu-ray discs.

Your monitor needs to support that protocol as well. And let's face it: Blu-ray is overkill for watching movies on the average 22-inch LCD. Unless you're connecting your PC to a big HDTV (I'd say 42 inches or larger), I really don't see much point in having a Blu-ray drive.

Based on personal experience, I think watching Blu-ray movies on a PC is more hassle than it's worth. It's costly, frequently aggravating (I had to jump through considerable hoops to find the right driver for my video card before any movies would play), and just plain inconvenient compared with a standalone Blu-ray player.

Agree? Disagree? Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts.

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
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