The Best HTPC Blu-ray Playback Software

For many, setting up a HTPC can be a rewarding experience.  A major factor is the ability to customize and run ones own software.  It can also be a favorable alternative to getting a PVR from a cable company.

Even when faced with so many options out there, one of the best choices remains Windows Media Center, arguably the best HTPC software available, and already available on your Windows 7 PC (go ahead, check for yourself: Click Start Menu > type “Media Center”).

With leading software developers such as ArcSoft, your Media Center experience will be even better.  Enhancements, such as a Blu-ray TMT 5 playback plug-in will allow you to watch your movies without leaving Media Center.

The ArcSoft TMT 5 Blu-ray plugin’s tight integration with WMC means you can launch Blu-ray playback from the main menu, and combined with a Media Center remote, the integration can be even better.

The ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 Blu-ray plug-in is included with the ArcSoft TME2 software suite bundled with select DIGISTOR External Blu-ray burners.

Additionally, DIGISTOR has two exclusive bundles for internal Blu-ray drives, perfect for a small form factor HTPC





Aside form the plug-in for WMC, there’s another good reason you’ll want to use TMT 5 for your HTPC.

You can play previously ripped Blu-ray movies meaning no disc is required for viewing.  Launching the TotalMedia Theatre 5 outside of Media Center allows you to play movies that have been ripped to a folder. Movies ripped to ISO can also be played if mounted using a free virtual disc program such as DVDFab Virtual Drive.  Both files rips, and ISO rips can give you all the original features (menus, chapters, extras, etc.) and can be stored on your hard drive for playback anytime.

Installation is as easy as installing the ArcSoft bundle and the plug-in will be installed automatically as well.  This will give you the choice to launch outside of Media Center as well – this can help use less system resources for Blu-ray movie playback.

In order for Windows 8 users to have Media Center, an upgrade is required.  Unfortunately, Media Center is no longer free as in previous version of Windows.  The type of upgrade depends on which version (Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro) you are using:

Also with Windows 8, the ability to playback Blu-ray movies is still not natively supported.  When attempting to play a Blu-ray movie, this is the message you’ll get:

Fortunately, ArcSoft TotlMedia Theatre 5 is Windows 8 compatible, so you’ll be able to enjoy full Blu-ray playback from your Windows 8 HTPC.

Blu-ray BDXL Writable Discs Are Here to Stay

New advancements in optical disc technology are continuing to make their way into the consumer market.  For instance, BDXL is the newest format in the Blu-ray category. BDXL consists of 100GB BD-R/RE and 128GB BD-R discs.  Boasting even more capacity, these discs should (at one point or another) be part of your archive arsenal.

But you don’t need to wait to enjoy the benefits of Blu-ray.  You can start enjoying the benefits immediately with units such as the DIGISTOR line of Blu-ray products.  For those concerned about future compatibility with this new format, fear no more.  All DIGISTOR Blu-ray drives and the include REWIND™ software, comes with built in support for BDXL straight out of the box.  This hardware/software combination, along with REWIND’S endless disc-to-disc spanning, means your archive can truly be limitless.

In addition, there’s already so much out there for existing dual layer (50GB) and single layer (25GB) counterparts.  Watch as prices on these BDXL discs drop and most likely have a trickledown effect on single/dual layer discs as well.

By adding just 1 additional layer (3 total) to the typical 50GB disc, there’s now 100GB available space at your disposal.  How can this be done you ask?  Simply by putting more data on each layer (33.3GB to be exact).  Think of how many of us have small hard drives with data we want to keep, and ideally stored on something other than conventional USB flash, hard disk or SSD that’s completely vulnerable to electrometric fields I might add.  Simply put, no other format has this much capacity and electrometric immunity that Blu-ray XL can deliver.

Let me help by breaking it down to the all the various formats available on Blu-ray discs:

25GB BD-R single layer – A solid, reliable, most cost effective powerhouse that’s the fastest of the bunch for writing – up to 16X on some burners.  Due to their simplicity, they’re inherently the most compatible for use with stand-alone Blu-ray players and PS3 gaming console.

50GB BD-R dual layer – Offers more space per disc with a reasonable price premium.

100GB BD-R and 125GB triple/quad layer:  The latest and the greatest, requiring new Blu-ray hardware and updated software to burn. DIGISTOR supports BDXL media in REWIND, and we also sell 100GB BD-R discs.