Movie buffs know that the best Blu-ray player software and apps can transform a viewing experience. By allowing you to watch Blu-ray discs on your current computer set-up, the software can optimize your picture and audio quality. Most of the below software packages can handle standard DVD playback too, while also packing in various other multimedia functions such as photo and video organization.
We found that the best Blu-ray player software packages manage to optimize your viewing experience without straining your PC beyond its capabilities. They also tend to come with useful smart features, like the option to use your phone as a remote and the ability to wirelessly cast between your PC and TV.
One device you’ll definitely need to create an at-home theatre experience is a gadget with a physical drive that can read your Blu-ray discs. These don’t always come as standard on even the best home computers, so you’ll probably need to buy an external Blu-ray drive or a standalone Blu-ray player.
If you’re really trying to maximize your at-home viewing experience, we also recommend you take a look through our list of the best soundbars, so you have high quality audio on your movie nights.
1. PowerDVD 20: Best Blu-ray player software overall
PowerDVD 20 is a great program. Not only did it score the highest of all the programs we reviewed in our performance and usability tests, it also has all the tools we look for. For example, this program enables simultaneous viewing options, so you can watch your Blu-ray on your computer as well as your television, smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. Additionally, you can download a mobile app and use your phone as a remote control, which is great if you’re watching movies on your computer in bed.
If you’re using a Windows device with a touchscreen, you can use it to control this software. Not all Blu-ray player software can do that. It also has powerful upscaling technology that allows you to watch a standard-definition DVD on your big screen with minimal distortion. You can even connect to social media and let your friends know what you’re watching.
This program is light on your system resources; in our tests it consumed only 15% of our computer’s processing power. For comparison, other programs we evaluated took up to 45%.
- 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 $30 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.
- Red 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
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.