Monday, June 23, 2008

Blu Ray Hardware/Software for your Home Theatre PC

One of the key pieces of your home theatre PC (HTPC) if you plan on experiencing high definition audio and video is the Blu Ray drive and the software that drives it. At the moment, there are many Blu Ray drives for the PC with a wide range of prices. This article lists out some of the commonly available Blu Ray drives for your PC and also takes a look at the software available to play Blu Ray discs.

Blu Ray Hardware

  • Lite On Blu Ray ROM Drive (DH-4O1S-11): This is the Blu Ray drive that powers my HTPC. I was able to get one at my local Fry's for about $100 on sale. These retail between $130 and $180 at most online retailers. For its price, this is an excellent Blu Ray drive and effortlessly plays all Blu Ray discs that I have thrown at it so far. This is a SATA drive, which means less messy cabling inside and plays Blu Ray discs at 4x speed. This is a relatively quiet drive which means it doesn't detract from your home theatre experience. It comes with a default black bezel which can be replaced with an included silver front bezel if you so choose. The software that is bundled with this drive is the PowerDVD OEM version. This version of PowerDVD will play Blu Ray discs with one small problem: the OEM version will only output 2 channel stereo sound. So you cannot hear any of the high definition Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats which really sucks. To upgrade to the version of PowerDVD that supports the high definition audio format, you need to shell out about $80 which in my opinion is a rip off. Back to the drive, please note that this is a BD-ROM only which means you cannot write Blu Ray discs, neither can you write CDs or DVDs. This drive has an internal 8 MB cache and CD's are read at 32x and DVD's at 12x speeds.

  • LG Blu-Ray/HD-DVD ROM Drive (GGC-H20L): This drive can read both Blu Ray and the now obselete HD-DVD discs. This drive can only read Blu Ray and HD-DVD discs but also has the capability to read and write CD/DVD's. The drive like the Lite-On drive above connects via SATA. This drive can write in dual-layer mode which means that you will be able to write 8.5 GB of data to one dual-layer DVD. This drive can read CD's at 40x speed, DVD+R/DVD-R at 16x speed and DVD+RW at 8x speed. LightScribe technology available in this drive allows you to burn images of your custom art-work directly on media that supports LightScribe.

Blu Ray Software

  • PowerDVD: This is the software that came bundled with my Lite-On drive. It has a very slick interface and works quite well. My only gripe is that the OEM version bundled with my drive only plays audio in 2 channel stereo mode, which means that I can only hear audio from my Blu Ray discs in stereo. To get access to the high definition audio formats, you will need to upgrade to the retail version which will cost you between $80-$90 extra.
  • ArcSoft TotalMedia™ Theatre: This is another software that can play Blu Ray discs. It costs $90 and includes support for Dolby Digital, DTS-HD Master Audio formats.
  • AnyDVD HD: This software has full support for Blu Ray and HD-DVD discs including decryption of Blu Ray and HD-DVD movies. This software also costs between $80 and $90.


Adi said...

Hi mav, i am coming to india and planning to buy a LCD HDTV. I will get the PAL /NTSC converter. how did u get ur TV shipped, im worried how the airlines will handle it/. PLease let me now ur thoughts at

Topper said...

Nice post! Even with the OEM PowerDVD software, you should be able to bitstream multichannel audio if your HTPC has S/PDIF connector and you have a receiver capable of decoding the various audio formats.

BTW, what 10ft interface software (Vista MCE, etc) do you use with your HTPC?