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Watch and rip Blu-ray movies on your Mac

Kirk McElhearn | June 25, 2013
If you like the quality and features of Blu-ray, and want to be able to watch discs on your Mac or convert them to other formats for viewing on other computers, all you need is a bit of hardware and software to make it all possible.

blu-ray on mac

One of Steve Jobs's most memorable comments may be the way he referred to Blu-ray as "a bag of hurt" back in 2008 during a Q&A with members of the press:

"I don't mean from a consumer point of view—it's great to watch movies—but the licensing is so complex. We're waiting until things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace before we burden our customers with the cost of the licensing and the cost of the drives."

As Macs users well know, things haven't settled down (at least not from Apple's perspective). Four and a half years after that comment, OS X still doesn't support Blu-ray playback, nor has any Mac shipped with a drive capable of even reading or burning data on a Blu-ray disc. And given that few Macs even include optical drives these days, Apple's never going to bring Blu-ray to the Mac. (The company can already sell you HD movies and TV shows directly from the iTunes Store, so why would Apple want to embrace Blu-ray?)

While Blu-ray was in its early days when Jobs made his "bag of hurt" comment, the format has come a long way, and the Blu-ray disc is holding its own in the marketplace. True, people still buy more DVDs than Blu-ray discs, but that could change in the next few years.

And even downloading HD movies is easy, there are several reasons to buy Blu-ray discs. The picture quality is better (with higher bit rates and less compression), as is the audio (with several different mixes for multichannel systems). If you lack a fast Internet connection (or are subject to bandwidth caps from your ISP), it may be quicker and easier to buy a Blu-ray disc than wait to download a file that might top out at 8GB. Also, even with digital extras included with many movies now, you don't get the full complement of bonus content you do with a disc. Finally, an optical disc is a good, hard-copy backup.

Sold on Blu-ray yet? Then it's time to learn how you can watch and even rip Blu-ray discs on a Mac.

The hardware portion of the equation
The first step to be able to play Blu-rays on a Mac is to purchase a Blu-ray drive. You can get an external, USB Blu-ray drive for less than $50, though you might want to look around the $80 to $100 range to find a good one. (The cheaper models are usually from unknown vendors and often get poor reviews from users.) Many of these models are bus-powered, so you don't need a power supply; just connect them to a Mac that has powered USB ports, and you're up and running. You won't need any special drivers to mount the Blu-ray discs, but once they're mounted, there's not much you can do with them.

 

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