We’ve rounded up and reviewed the best Blu-ray player software that’s currently on the market, assessing the programs for how easy they are to use and how well they handle the disc format. These programs are useful for anyone who has a stack of Blu-ray discs they want to watch, but only a laptop or computer available for viewing purposes.
Sure, you could buy yourself one of the best Blu-ray players and attach that to your TV. But if you’ve yet to invest in a television – or you’re trying to save on space by not buying clunky hardware – then the best Blu-ray player software is the way to go.
There’s a clear divide between the best Blu-ray software for Windows and Macs. We rate PowerDVD 21 as the all-out winner when it comes to playing Blu-ray discs on your computer, but sadly this program is only compatible with PCs. As such, Mac users will have to go for our second highest-rated option: Macgo Player. And when it comes to free Blu-ray software, there are no clear winners, but you can download an ad-filled version of Leawo without paying a penny.
Before you invest in some of the software, do check that your computer is up to the task. Some of these programs can be surprisingly taxing on your computer’s systems, as such you’ll need to make sure it meets the minimum specs listed on the company’s website.
If you do happen to have an excellent monitor and good quality soundbar to use, then you’ll be pleased to know that some of the top-rated Blu-ray player software is capable of scaling up to 8K and supporting high-quality audio too.
1. PowerDVD 21: Best Blu-ray player software overall
The latest version of PowerDVD offers some nice improvements on its predecessor. Specifically, there’s now support for 8K videos and also an option that lets you generate and share a hyperlink for movies stored in your media cloud, so you can invite friends to watch.
Of course, the software also lets you watch Blu-ray discs (specifically the Ultra version - unfortunately the basic version of PowerDVD doesn’t come with this functionality). You can also cast movies to other devices in your house using the software, or even install the PowerDVD app on your Apple TV or Chromecast device to browse your media library directly.
This software offers a lot more functionality than a basic Blu-ray player program, which is reflected in the price. At $99.99, it might seem quite pricey, but it does come with 100GB of cloud storage which allows you to store and share movies with friends. It also has some powerful upscaling technology that will make a big difference to image quality if you have a few older DVDs that you’re hoping to watch.
In addition to all of this, it also lets you watch simultaneously across multiple devices, so you can stream something on both your laptop and phone if you need. This also means that you can pick up wherever you left off, as the program notes exactly when you stopped watching a video.
- Read the full review: PowerDVD 20
2. Macgo Blu-ray Player: Best value Blu-ray software
If you’re just looking for Blu-ray player software and nothing more, then Macgo Blu-ray Player is the way to go. It costs less than $60 and delivers an excellent experience, but is for macOS only, with no Windows version.
It doesn’t have things like a power manager, virtual remote control, environmental settings and BD-Live support, but if those aren’t things you care about, there’s no need to pay for them.
Even though it lacks in some areas it does have the capability to upscale your standard definition movies to take full advantage of an HDTV or computer display.
We noticed that this software upscales as well as our top choice, making it a great option for those who still have old DVDs lying around. However, while it’s great at HD upscaling, it lacks the ability to upscale for 3D movies. So, if you have an old 3D DVD, you’ll have to settle for the standard definition version.
- Read the full review: Macgo
3. Leawo Player: Lightest on system resources
If you’re looking for a program to play Blu-rays while you do other things on your computer, the Leawo Blu-ray Player is the best choice.
When we tested this software, it used only about four percent of our system resources. Other programs we reviewed use nearly half of your processing power to play a movie. With the Leawo, you can watch movies on your computer and do other processor-heavy tasks without slowing down your movie or other programs.
Because it’s so lightweight, you’ll miss out on a lot of the extras found in the best Blu-ray player software. For example, you don’t get HD upscaling, environmental settings, simultaneous viewing options or BD-Live network support.
There is a free version of this software available for download, but be warned that a lot of users report issues with it crashing regularly.
- Read the full review: Leawo Player
4. Aiseesoft Player: Fastest playback
When we tested the best Blu-ray player software, we timed how long it takes from when you push the play button to when the movie actually starts playing. It only takes five seconds for Aiseesoft Blu-ray Player to start showing your movie.
This is the fastest time we recorded. For comparison, our top choice takes up to 15 seconds to begin playing. The longest time we saw was in WinDVD, which took 22 seconds.
However, there are some serious drawbacks to this software. It lacks many of the features we look for in this category, including HD and 3D upscaling, as well as lossless audio playback. It’s also quite heavy on your system resources, taking up to 44% of your processing power.
- Read the full review: Aiseesoft Blu-ray Player
5. Corel WinDVD Pro 12: Best HD upscaling
It not only plays Blu-ray discs perfectly, but you can also use it to play DVDs and CDs. It can also upscale standard-definition DVD footage for HD screens.
And it effectively smooths out pixelation and artifacts that can result from upscaling.
You’ll still get great features, such as customizable skins, environmental settings, BD-Live network support, power manager, social media connectivity and more. However, you won’t be able to use your smartphone as a remote control or take advantage of your device’s touchscreen.
It is worth noting that this is the slowest-starting Blu-ray player we reviewed. During our test phase, we timed how long it takes each program to begin playing a disc after the play button is pressed. WinDVD Pro took 22 seconds. Others we tested took as few as 5 seconds.
- Read the full review: WinDVD Pro 12
How we tested Blu-ray player software
We tested out all the software packages individually, putting them through their paces and timing how quickly they responded to commands. A full breakdown of our reviewing process can be seen below.
At the time of reviewing, we ranked CyberLink PowerDVD 20 as the best option. Recently, a new version of this software has come out: CyberLink PowerDVD 21. We're currently reviewing this, but it's likely that either version of the software will meet your viewing needs.
Here's exactly how we tested these programs:
This grade is based on whether the software accommodates a variety of disc and digital file types without excessive drain on the central processing unit. We judged programs on their capacity to play the video without lag, buffering or any other distortions or delays. We also judged them on the amount and efficacy of audio and picture optimization settings.
This grade reflects how easy the software was to use, its important features and settings, and how well it performs each task. Good player software should have an interface that is immediately easy to understand and navigate, causing no doubt or frustration in accessing features. We also judged customization options and other features, such as the modifiable video effects.
We played a test DVD and monitored our computer's CPU strain while running the software without any extra features or programs activated. The percentage shows the amount of processing power used while playing a movie in full screen. Higher percentages will mean that your computer may run slower if you are running multiple programs, or you may hear the computer fan running to keep the processor from overheating.
It’s tempting to think that with the rise of streaming media and cloud storage for purchased movies and TV shows that things like DVDs and Blu-rays would soon be obsolete. However, in an interview with Twice, Blu-ray Disc Association representatives Dan Schinasi and Victor Matsuda paints a different picture.
They noted that physical Ultra HD Blu-ray players sales were up 133%. And the association is going to be broadening its efforts to spread public understanding of Ultra HD Blu-ray technology.
With Blu-ray here for the long haul it’s important to understand a few things about what makes the best Blu-ray player software for your computer.
Video & Audio: Quality Matters
The best Blu-ray player software can read a variety of discs, not just Blu-ray. Look for one that can also play DVDs, CDs and rewritable discs. It should also be able to handle digital video and audio files such as AVI, MKV, MP4 and MP3.
This kind of software has convenient uses beyond playing Blu-ray movies. Some programs have the capacity to upscale standard-definition movies to high definition, or 2D movies up to 3D. However, if you choose to create a 3D movie, you'll still need compatible equipment to properly view it, including 3D glasses and a 3D-capable TV.
Blu-ray movies are meant to sound as good as they look. Good Blu-ray player software provides Dolby and Digital Theater System support and lossless audio playback, even when you use headphones or connect your computer to another device via HDMI cable. Additionally, the software should be able to fully handle all intended DVD capacities, including multi-language output for any DVD that offers it.
Controls & Conveniences: Connect, Customize and Control
Tweaking various settings in a video player system can pay off when you finally get to enjoy a perfect-looking video. Most software offers modifiable video effects, letting you adjust picture hue, saturation and brightness. It should also look good when you are navigating the player; a few software options let you customize the player skin, layout and background.
Movie player software is a must-have for Windows 10 users, since it doesn't come with a free native media player. Some of the Blu-ray player software in our lineup has social media connectivity, so you can post status updates and comments via Facebook or Twitter about any video you're watching. Some programs work with the BD-Live network to access special features via the internet.
Because we all have so many different and constant uses for our computers, it's important that your media player doesn't drain your battery or dominate your CPU capacity while you use it. The best Blu-ray player software offers a power manager to help preserve your laptop battery life and reduce CPU consumption if you need to run other programs simultaneously.
Help & Support: Don't Get Stuck, Get Help
Software should not only perform its assigned functions well, but also provide you with optimal customer service should there be an issue. A good software manufacturer offers several means of technical support, whether it's direct contact with the support representatives via telephone or email, or self-help resources. The latter option encompasses, typically on the manufacturer's website, simple tutorials, a frequently-asked-questions section, and a knowledge base or a user forum where users of the software can communicate and help each other.
The best free Blu-ray player software
VLC Media Player is a free, open-source program that’s been around since 2001. It has adapted quite well to new audio and video formats as they’ve been developed and released. If you want a free Blu-ray player application, this is probably your best bet.
Figuring out how to use VLC to play Blu-rays takes a bit of research and involves manually inserting DLL files deep in your computer’s directory. You also have to create special folders, download obscure files from third-party websites and more.
This kind of virtual surgery on your computer has the potential to cause major problems if you don’t do it properly, and you run the risk of getting malware if you download the needed files from an untrustworthy source. And you never know if the instructions you’re getting from the internet are correct until you spend a good deal of time trying to get the software to work.
If you don’t know what you’re doing in this regard, it’s best to stick with paid programs.