I have now written a new guide that, instead of using a theoretical test, tells you the exact hardware and software requirements for Blu-ray and HD DVD playback. You can read our Is Your PC High Definition DVD Ready?
guide to find out more. For general Blu-ray (and HD DVD) buying advice, please also refer to our Blu-ray and HD DVD Buyer's Guide
Update 2 (November 2008):
This guide has been slightly updated.
High definition DVD will be coming to the PC in the near future. With 1080p resolution and high definition audio, many PCs will not be able to play back high definition DVDs smoothly. This guide will help you find out if your system is fast enough.
Software you'll need:
Currently, there aren't many commercially available PCs that can play back high definition DVDs due to the limited availability of Blu-ray/HD DVD hardware. The amount of movies available is also a problem. To test high definition DVD, we are going to approximate it by playing back some high definition H.264 movies and measuring the playback framerate using Fraps
The clips we will be using are encoded using the H.264 video codec, along with AAC audio, at a resolution of 720p (1280x720, progressive) or 1080p (1920x1080, progressive). This is actually quite close to both the Blu-ray and HD DVD specifications (and we've tried to keep the encoding parameters close as well) - both Blu-ray and HD DVD can use H.264 as the video encoder, as it is much more efficient than DVD's MPEG-2. There are now two 1080p trailers - the one originally used for this guide (PotC: Dead Man's Chest) and a new "I Am Legend" 1080p trailer that has been encoded using the Blu-ray encoding profile in MeGUI - you are free to use either.
The first thing you will need to do is to download a H.264 sample clips we've produced for use with this guide. We've produced both a 720p clip and a 1080p clip, from the theatrical trailer for the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". It is highly recommended that you download both files and test your system with both of them, as the amount of CPU cycles required by the 1080p clip can be as much as double that of the 720p clip.
Here are the files you need to download:
The next step involves setting up your system so this file can be played in Media Player Classic (MPC) and other multimedia players like Windows Media Player (WMP). It is possible to play back H.264 files in PowerDVD
, but PowerDVD is not free.