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Review: Blu-ray player software for Mac

It's been a while since Steve Jobs declared Blu-ray a "bag of hurt", and in the years since Apple has been uninterested in the Blu-ray disc format. Maybe they don't want to pay the license fees, maybe they'd rather sell you movies from iTunes, who knows, but Blu-ray hardware from Apple isn't likely.

If you must play Blu-ray discs on your Mac, however, there are plenty of internal (for Mac Pro) and external Blu-ray drives that work just fine. Prices start at around US$50. The OS supports data Blu-ray discs, and you can burn them with commercial utilities like Toast. Despite Apple's dislike of Blu-ray, I find it a nice archival medium for photos -- 50 GB blanks are under $5, and are readily available in computer stores and online.

A while back I looked at software for playing back Blu-ray movies, and reviewed the MacGo app. It worked pretty well, and movies looked great on my Apple Monitor. Since then that app has been updated several times, and one of our readers suggested I survey the field again. So here we go.

MacGo performs better with each update. The US $59.95 software (discounted to $39.95 until Feb 3) is a solid application. I'm not seeing dropped frames, and the player can also play ISO files. Of course regular DVD discs are supported, as well as Blu-ray discs.

I also took a look at the Aurora Blu-ray player software. It's also on sale for $39.99, down $10 from its usual retail price. That's not all that was similar. Beyond the welcome screens, the Aurora player and the MacGo player appear to be largely identical. Even the preference windows are exactly alike. I asked someone from Aurora about the similarity, and they were a bit evasive. I suspect the 2 players have a common code base. The app works fine, no dropped frames, and it was a pleasure to use.

I also looked at the iDeer Blu-ray app. Wouldn't you know, they are having a sale too, but the app is $49.95 for a 'limited' time. I fired it up, and guess what? It looks just like Aurora and MacGo.

My 4th stop was software called DVDfab. It's $59.99 but I couldn't compare it to the other 3. I downloaded the trial and it came up with a series of error codes after the splash screen loaded.

All these apps have free trials, you can see if they work on your hardware. I tried them on both a newish Mac Pro and also a 2006 MacBook Pro with some success. If you want to watch Blu-ray movies on your Macs, I found 3 viable solutions (although they seem pretty much the same software) but they do work well, and they support multi-channel audio if you have the hardware to use it, and of course 1080p video.

In the end, if you don't want to pay and you're willing to set it up to work, there's a way to use VLC to ready Blu-ray as well.

All the apps require an internet connection to grab the decryption keys, which may be a limitation for some users. At this point, since the software apps are so similar, price matters and MacGo and Aurora have the best prices with the sales on.

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