I've been monitoring the progress of high-definition video playback on the PC for quite a while now:
- Next-Gen DVD: Are Those Additional Pixels Worth Your Money?
- High-Definition Video on the PC
- Is Your PC Capable of Hi-Def?
- Will Your Next Computer Monitor Be a HDTV?
It's been almost two years since I wrote that series, and I think we're dangerously close to viable high definition video playback on typical, mainstream PCs. One metric I follow closely is the price of the hardware, and OEM Blu-Ray drives are now only $99 shipped.
This drive is a DVD burner, in addition to playing HD-DVDs, Blu-Ray, and obviously DVDs -- and it also has very positive customer reviews. I couldn't resist, so I bought one.
I have no need for a standalone Blu-Ray player, but a cursory look tells me those are down to around $250 for decent models. And then of course there's always the PlayStation 3 option.
It's a shame OS X and Vista don't natively support HD playback of any kind (although Vista does include some copy protection mechanisms specific to high-definition video playback, which was the source of great hue and outrage). When you pair this $99 drive with some third party playback software like PowerDVD HD or WinDVD HD, you're set.
I'm particularly interested in high definition PC playback because the home theater PC I recently built is more than capable:
- Built in HDMI out (on the motherboard)
- Onboard video that supports H.264 acceleration
- A modern dual-core CPU
Also, I finally own a true 1920 x 1080 HDTV now -- yes, you can all stop making fun of me for using a creaky old brass and steam powered 852 x 480 EDTV -- so all the pieces are now in place for me to adopt Blu-Ray. I switched my Netflix account over to Blu-Ray this morning.
I'm not quite a high definition video early adopter, but I'm still on the leading edge of the curve. Funny how technology cycles repeat themselves. I distinctly recall being an early adopter of DVDs back in 1998, almost exactly 10 years ago. The 720 x 480 resolution and Dolby Digital sound seemed so impressive back then. I remember marvelling at the fancy interactive menus on the Austin Powers DVD. Of course, DVD quality is pretty pedestrian by today's standards. We've almost gotten to the point where DVD-level video quality is available worldwide in a typical web browser, not necessarily through YouTube, but through Vimeo and other alternatives.
With that in mind, I wonder how quaint Blu-Ray will seem in 2018?