Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hardware Vs. Software Blu-ray Player: Which Is Better?

In order to build a complete Home Theater system you need media reproduction hardware, i.e., video and audio playback modules, and some equipment to feed these modules with content. Due to the complexity of the video signal compared to the audio, the sound experience has been considerably ahead of its visual counterpart for many years: with the appearance of the compact disc, we have had digital audio since the dawn of the 1980's and various audio technologies are almost perfect nowadays offering high fidelity sound and surround sound systems with multiple channels.

A couple of decades later, the visual side of the hardware has begun to catch up: big high definition two dimensional displays and projectors are now widely adopted, a new generation of 3D displays is gaining speed fast, and good Home Theater experience is more popular than ever.

Conventionally, the media playing equipment has been represented by a box positioned near the TV: either a videotape player, a Laserdisc player, a DVD player, or as of recently a Blu-ray player (or HD DVD player for people not having enough luck to make the right choice in the HD format wars). But over the years, the personal computer has begun to establish a new trend as being an all-in-one machine for education, work and entertainment (like movie playing, browsing, gaming, etc.). A similar approach towards convergence has been shown with the introduction of the newest generation of video gaming consoles. They have moved closer to the PCs in terms of functionality as being advanced media entertainment devices rather than just boxes for gaming.

So, the good old video playing hardware box is more and more often substituted by software running on an already available PC at home. Indeed, the media player software has a bunch of advantages and since the latest broadly popular storage media is the Blu-ray disc, let's look at some of the better sides of the Blu-ray player software over its box / hardware counterpart (of course, pretty much the same is valid for the DVD playing options):
  • A software Blu-ray playing product could be considered a part of an all-in-one media entertainment solution.
  • BD playback software is to a big extent independent from the particular underlying hardware. And as the desktop PC hardware is modular by nature, this brings three more advantages out.
  • A Blu-ray software player can be easily updated with new functionality. Any new features could come with a downloadable software update. The recent introduction of Blu-ray 3D format is a suitable example.
  • If you want or need to change your PC's optical drive it will be cheaper compared to a dedicated hardware Bluray player full change.
  • If there is a need of more processing capacity with the appearance of new BD profiles in the future then only a CPU or/and a graphics card update can be easily made in the case of a personal computer.
  • BD playback software comes with more features compared to any Blu-ray hardware player.
  • Since most of the software Bluray players offer free trials, you can test them before making a purchase.
  • As most of us already have a PC, the additional price of the software Blu-ray player is lower compared to a dedicated hardware box. Blu-ray player software could be bought for prices as low as $50 and often even for less if you take advantage of a promotional Blu-ray software offer.

Some possible disadvantages of the software players include:
  • In the majority of cases, you will need your PC to be situated in the living room. And this may be a problem.
  • Compared to a dedicated hardware player, preparation to watch a movie will take a little bit longer.

Regardless of its minor disadvantages, Blu-ray player software will gain more and more popularity as if you already have a computer with a BD drive, you can download a software player instantly, cheaply and you don't need to purchase any additional hardware. In case you are looking for a media playing product like this, you can read our 2012 Windows Blu-ray player reviews in order to make the best choice for your particular needs.

For more software reviews examine our Review Maze.


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