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Video software Reviews
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Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player review

$60 (around £38)

Manufacturer: Macgo

Our Rating: We rate this 3 out of 5

Mac Blu-ray Player is a simple program that will turn your Mac into a Blu-ray playing media centre.

Apple was an early signee to Blu-ray Disc Association membership at the start of the 21st century. Yet the Mac company never did pursue the playback of Blu-ray films on its computers – or at least, not quite as far as releasing any hard or software for users for the very task. Thankfully, Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player is now available for the task.

By 2008, Apple had publicly declared its position on the format. Whether it was because adding the means to play HD films would undermine its own push to rent movies through iTunes, or because it really was just too difficult is not known.

"Blu-ray is a bag of hurt," quoth the late Steve Jobs when asked still why no Blu-ray for Macs. "I don’t mean from the consumer point of view. It’s great to watch movies, but the licensing is so complex. We’re waiting until things settle down, and waiting until Blu-ray takes off before we burden our customers with the cost of licensing and the cost of drives."

And the drives have certainly been expensive since Sony spearheaded the format ten years ago. Even now a BD-writing optical drive is still around three times the cost of a full-featured dual-layer DVD±RW mechanism.

All of which has left a large hole in the otherwise comprehensive multimedia capabilities of a modern Macintosh computer.

But a ray of hope appeared the year before Jobs’ famous reveal, which explained some of Apple’s reticence in following nascent industry support of the slow-burning format. The underlying advanced access content system (AACS) encryption that was a closely guarded – and expensive to license – secret had already been cracked.

The technical means to play high-definition video from an optical disc is relatively easy to accomodate. You just need an optical ROM drive built to read the finer blue-wavelength tracks from the disc; and a fast enough processor to decode the MPEG-4 video and its soundtrack in real time. High-end CPUs are not even essential if you can offload the task to the more-capable graphics processor.

But before Hollywood would agree to reselling its films to the public, it needed assurance that it could maintain control of how they could be played or copied. DVDs had also been protected with a DRM scheme, also broken little over a year after launch.

The AACS encryption along with HDCP and BD+ virtual-machine copy protection – and all the patents and licenses to use them – are what turn the simple process of playing MPEG-4 from blue-laser disc into the oft-quoted mixed metaphor of hurt.

Macgo’s Mac Blu-ray Player solution

While open-source projects have been refining the playback of all manner of commercial video and audio codecs, Macgo’s app is the first to combine all the essential libraries with the decryption keys and tools to unlock Blu-ray’s gorgeous high-definition content.

MBP Tron Legacy

High-definition Blu-ray comes to the Mac

Unlike comprehensive Blu-ray film-playing software for Windows, notably CyberLink PowerDVD, Mac Blu-ray Player is a simple playback app, with few aids to make its use entirely straightforward. While it makes a good fist at playing every disc we tried, it’s a far from slick experience.

NEXT PAGE: How Mac Blu-ray Player performs >>

Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player Expert Verdict »
Intel Mac
BD-ROM drive
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better
OS X 10.5
internet connection to update DRM keys
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 5 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 6 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 6 of 10 overall

If your aim is to play Blu-ray Discs on your Mac, Macgo’s Mac Blu-ray Player will certainly do the job. It’s the first commercial solution for playing full high-definition BD video on the Macintosh, for which it should be applauded. But without buying into a licence from the AACS-LA, Macgo is working with reverse-engineered tools devised by the open-source community, and thus far cannot give the full BD film experience. You can get a similar setup to this app, at no cost, by ripping the BD first and playing with VLC. But if you would prefer to play BD live from disc on your Mac, this elementary app is not just the best; it’s the only solution available today.

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