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Watch and rip Blu-ray movies on your Mac

Kirk McElhearn | June 25, 2013
If you like the quality and features of Blu-ray, and want to be able to watch discs on your Mac or convert them to other formats for viewing on other computers, all you need is a bit of hardware and software to make it all possible.

MCE Technologies sells a USB Super-BluDrive for $79, which includes software that can play Blu-ray movies (the same program I'm going to look at below, Mac Blu-ray Player). OWC also offers both internal and external Blu-ray drives, but you'll need to bring your own software to the party.

Bear in mind that a Blu-ray drive can also play DVDs and CDs. So if you're planning to get an external drive to connect to a Mac that is devoid of such a device, think about getting one that includes Blu-ray support.

Blu-ray playback software
At first blush, there are a number of different Blu-ray playback software options for Mac users. But if you take a closer look, you'll discover that they are often the same software but with different monikers, sold by companies with different names. I tried two such programs: Aurora Software's Blu-ray Player ($30 for a one-year license or $40 for lifetime usage) and Macgo's Mac Blu-ray Player ($60 for a lifetime license, but discounted to $30 until July 1).

In my testing, I found the interfaces to be exactly the same, aside from some different colors. The Preferences windows are the same; the About boxes are nearly the same, too, with just a slight difference in version numbers. This kind of similarity is common with DVD, Blu-ray, and other types of video-conversion software. For simplicity, I'll focus on Mac Blu-ray Player. (Note that Mac Blu-ray Player is due for a 3.0 update soon; I tested version 2.8.)

First, you should be aware of a couple of things. Because the software needs to acquire the decryption keys required for playback online, you need an Internet connection for it to work. Second, registering the software imposes constraints. When I registered Mac Blu-ray Player on my laptop, I couldn't use it on my desktop Mac. And, when I switched the registration back to my desktop Mac, the software told me I had activated it two out of five times. As the company's website explains it:

There are five times each year for Macgo registration code activation. If registration code activation is outnumbered, it will present a tip "Registration failed. Your registration code activation limit is reached."

Executive Editor Jonathan Seff looked at Mac Blu-Ray Player about two years ago, and found it quirky and unreliable. Since then, the company has definitely improved the software. When you insert a Blu-ray disc in a drive and launch the software, it detects the disc and displays a spartan "menu."

In watching half a dozen Blu-ray movies with the software (all recent releases, ranging from Sucker Punch to a just-released disc of Bach's "St Matthew's Passion"), I encountered none of those early problems with playback or stability. Video playback was smooth, with no artifacts, in both a window and in full-screen mode. Audio was similarly fine, although the app crashed once when I turned on subtitles for a movie that wasn't in English. I tested the app on both a late 2011 Mac mini (2.7GHz Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM) and an early 2013 MacBook Pro (2.5GHz Intel Core i5 with 8GB of RAM), using my Plextor PX-B120U 4X Blu-ray drive (discontinued but still available for around $100 online).

 

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