Installation and Features
Mac Blu-ray Player is a 32-bit Intel binary that is installed by dragging from the disc image to any location, such as the Applications folder. It requires no special admin privileges to install.
The application relies on the CPU to decode video and audio, so you will need a recent Mac to play films. For example, we found the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo in our MacBook to be just too slow; but the 2.5GHz Core i5 in a Mac mini (Mid-2011) was ably capable. From the latter, we saw CPU load average around 65% out of an available 400% from the Hyper-Threaded dual-core processor.
The core functionality of this media player has been extracted from VideoLAN Client (VLC), and anyone familiar with the top menu options in that open-source app will recognise many of the control and transport options available.
And as it's based on a that Swiss Army knife of video players, Mac Blu-ray Player will also play all manner of video files from your hard disk or network, not just those on optical disc.
In windowed mode, the same options as VLC are found in the top menu
(By taking open-source code and refining it, Macgo’s is beholden to the developer community to republish its work but the company’s /opensource page is resolutely stating it ‘will be uploaded soon’.)
The interface has been polished compared to the French player, starting with a inviting bubbly blue backdrop before any disc is loaded.
Pop a Blu-ray film into your Blu-ray drive, and MBP automatically loads the disc ready to play. This is where the Blu-ray experience differs from that seen by commercial BD players hardware and Windows software.
Instead of being greeted by the disc’s fancy menu screen, which normally enables you to navigate straight to the main feature, or select a chapter or bonus content, you’re instead presented with a simple text-based interface.
No fancy Blu-ray Disc menu screens – just one still image from the film and a few generic text options are offered in the Navigation Panel
For some BD film titles, a still image from the film is rendered here too.
The app automatically selects the first title, usually the main film feature; but searching thereafter on a chapter basis can be a tortuous task.
Also tricky is simply finding the remaining disc content you’re looking for. Often the main film is repeated several times in the Titles listing, with just the timing information shown for you to ponder over the disc’s content.
Mac Blu-ray Player does not give any indication of each title's content. And why is the only main feature on the disc shown here three times, one with a different running time?
In windowed mode, a silver tray below the video picture gives basic playback controls – and we do mean basic. There’s play/pause, stop, and a pair of buttons for track skip.
Missing are any fast-forward/rewind controls, although you can jump back and forth in increments – 30 secs is default, adjustable in the app’s preferences. Even this is tricky to operate: we often found that clicking once on the jump button would cause the player to repeatedly skip forward, until we’d stopped it by clicking on the Play button again.
There is no slo-mo or frame-advance control. Sometimes the track skip buttons would fail to work at all after a few presses.
Selecting audio tracks is a game of suck-it-and-see. There may be several audio tracks included with any BD film, such as DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital and PCM. Assuming all in the primary language, these will only be labelled English, English, English, English and English. And then there may be commentary, or audio description tracks, to fathom out.
None of the metadata about video or audio tracks is available to see, unlike VLC which can sometimes display such useful information.
Volume control can be activated by the scroll function of a mouse. In the case of the Apple Magic Mouse, we found this could be set off all too easily by a casual brush of the hand. And curiously, to make matters more confusing, the volume works upside down, so that stroking down the mouse puts the volume up.
App stability could be improved. It would quit unexpectedly on occasion. Or lock up when asked to play a track it rather wouldn’t, such as a short trailer offered as a nameless number in the Title listing.
Based on VLC, like that open-source video player Mac Blu-ray Player can play all manner of MPEG, AVI and MKV files, including subtitles in Matroshka archives
Deinterlacing is also available, handy for recordings of off-air broadcast TV.
When it is playing an HD movie, there’s no escaping the great quality of the picture. In our tests, lipsync was always correct and there were no visual artefacts from the video stream. The formidable image quality can almost make you forget the app's many idiosyncrasies, and we only hope that usability will improve with time.