Blu-ray is a great format for high definition playback without compromise; especially if you use consumer Blu-ray set top box players. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray format is also littered with copy protection. This is seamless to end users with set top boxes, but for those of us trying to get these movies to play on our Blu-Ray ROM equipped PCs – this copy protection stops us from enjoying our legally owned high definition movies.
Until recently, you’ve really had two choices in dealing with this. One, install multiple media players on your PC and hope that ONE of them will play the latest title you brought home or two – spend the cash and buy SlySoft’s AnyDVD HD product – which has proven over the years that it is THE definitive copy protection removal tool against Blu-ray.
Unfortunately, AnyDVD HD is a bit pricey (currently about $78) – and it is no longer a lifetime license (it is now two years) – so you will have to pay for updates eventually. For serious enthusiasts, this is a small price to pay for the level of functionality it provides.
Others are looking for a cheaper solution.
This “cheaper solution with all the bells and whistles” is what DVDFab Media Player promises to provide. A media player that will deliver up to the minute (on demand, in fact) copy protection updates to ensure ANY Blu-ray movie will play.
All for the low price of $50 (less with a coupon if you can get one).
But does it stack up against other products like the reigning champion ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 – or even more important – other products backed with the power of AnyDVD HD behind it?
I dug out a number of Blu-ray movies from my movie nook to test the claims. I chose a number of them that are known for protection issues (like Inception) as well as a handful of others.
DVDFab Media Player offers two playback modes: full navigation mode or quick and simple mode. One former gives you the FULL Blu-ray experience, the latter gives the more simple “jump to the movie” type playback with Internet populated data about the title.
First up – Aliens from the Aliens Anthology collection. Full Navigation Mode failed to play the title. It spins and spins – but eventually the disc just stops and no on-screen indicator tells you what’s going on. It just doesn’t play. Quick And Simple Mode does work as advertised.
Next up, In Time with Justin Timberlake. I was unable to get Full Navigation Mode to play on this title either. After about 20 seconds, Quick and Simple Mode worked as advertised.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was next on my list. Changing In Time to this disc took some time for the program to see – and when I selected Full Navigation it crashed. I restarted the player and tried again. This time it came up with the language selector and I chose English but had to wait many seconds for the main menu. Unfortunately, while the video bed played for the main menu, the menu itself failed to show up – making it impossible to start the film. I tried Quick and Simple, but it didn’t work. I restarted the program and Quick and Simple then worked as advertised – although some of the pre-generated stills showed placeholders the second time.
Inception has always been known for having protection issues. Full Navigation was up first. The previews came up fine, but in the middle I tried to hit the top menu or pop up menu and it appeared to hang, although the disc kept rotating. I waited until it bombed out proper then closed the program. I restarted in Quick and Simple – and it worked as advertised although it claimed the video was INCEPTION: MAKING OF.
I busted out the Sapphire Series version of Braveheart. Full Navigation worked, although menu selections were slower than I would expect. Quick and Simple didn’t seem to work, even with a program restart.
Jurassic Park from the Ultimate Trilogy went in next. The company said that it can take up to a full minute for a disc to start as it was deprotected. They weren’t kidding. While I didn’t time it, Jurassic Park took a long time. The Full Navigation was a bit choppy but worked. I had to restart the program to get Quick & Simple to work but once it did, it worked as advertised. I closed the program again to do Full Navigation mode – wondering if it would be faster on a subsequent play. It was not. Worse yet, the progress indicator wasn’t really progress – it fills and resets several times – making it an activity indicator, not a progress bar.
Last, a simple B flick catalog title, Vamp. This should be as barebones as it gets. Full Navigation worked great; it even worked with the mouse (most titles do not). I flipped out of Full Navigation and tried to hit Quick & Simple – and it hung partially rendered. This is obviously an issue across the board. A restart of the program and Quick & Simple worked … better .. but still didn’t work properly.
To complete my testing, I loaded up fan-favorite ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 ($99) and decided to take these for a spin with this tool – first WITHOUT AnyDVD and then WITH AnyDVD if any failed. It is worth noting that this app disables Aero and changes Windows 7 to “Basic” display mode during playback.
Vamp came up fast and easy – full mouse menus – no issues.
Jurassic Park was up next. This requires ArcSoft’s pop up remote to control to navigate the menus. Playback and menus were fast and smooth – MUCH better than DVDFab’s product. BDLive code ran great – I accessed the WHAT’S NEW BD-Live tool and was able to play a trailer for the new THE THING remake. Totally different experience.
Braveheart worked totally as it should. Menus came up quickly and smoothly. Inception was also flawless. No issues. Prince of Persia was also flawless – able to skip the previous and the menus worked great.
In Time told me that ArcSoft needed an update to play this disc. Instead of updating TotalMedia Theatre, I opened AnyDVD HD and enabled it. I tried again in TotalMedia and it worked! I disallowed it internet access and I was able to navigate the disc correctly and start the film. This doesn’t mean an update wouldn’t fix the issue with TotalMedia – but it was nice to know I could fall back on AnyDVD HD and get an immediate solution.
Finally to round off the follow up testing – I threw in Aliens. All the menus showed properly and I was able to access and play the movie without AnyDVD HD’s help.
Most die hard HTPC fans know that the best possible solution for Blu-ray playback is TotalMedia Theatre backed with AnyDVD HD as the backup (not often needed, as you can see). For near $200, though – that is outside a lot of people’s reach. Unfortunately, DVDFab Media Player is not the answer to this price issue – at least, not yet. The product is still 1.x and over time, this product might be ready to act as a challenger for the champion.
But that time isn’t now. Save your money – throw $30 or $40 into the pool at get something that will solve your problems – not add new ones.