The top performers in our review are PowerDVD 15 Ultra, the Gold Award winner; WinDVD Pro 11, the Silver Award Winner; and JRiver Media Center 20, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing DVD player software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
It's probably safe to say that everybody likes movies. Whether you watch them because of your love for a certain director or because you're obsessed with action-packed blockbusters, movies are fun to watch on the big screen and even more fun to watch over and over again in the comfort of your own living room. DVD player software can help you enjoy your long-treasured DVD collection as well as newer digital downloads, all while giving you control over video and audio playback optimization.
Though you can end up paying a pretty penny for some DVD player software options, you don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy high-quality video playback right on your laptop. While some of the units we have featured come in at just under $100, others, such as BS.Player, are lower priced, at around $30. Less expensive programs still have decent functionality and file type compatibility.
If you are looking for the best DVD player software, odds are you have a large movie library that you are proud of and want to easily enjoy. However, sometimes it can be tricky to keep track of your entire movie library, especially if it sits across multiple formats. DVD collection software can help you keep track of your film library, make wish lists and keep track of who you've lent your movies out to. For more about video player software and video and audio customization options, check out our articles on DVD player software.
As we tested each unit of software, we looked at the quantity and quality of various features, options and controls. We tested a variety of physical and digital video files to see which worked, and looked at the strain each put on the computer we tested with.
Performance: High-Quality, Lossless Video and Audio
Using this software to play your favorite DVD should be easy. We judged and graded each unit of player software not just on whether it performed well, but also on whether or not it was intuitive and easy to use. We also compared how much CPU power each program consumed and how long it took to start playing a physical disc, because it should allow you to watch a movie while browsing the internet or using other software without hogging the processor.
The best DVD player software will not sacrifice any video or audio quality. Many players offer Dolby and DTS support, so you get a crisp, clean sound, as well as lossless audio, even if you're using an HDMI cable or headphones. Quality software also offers various playback options, such as automatically resuming right where you left off and playback smoothing so you won't have to waste any time waiting for your video to load and buffer.
Options & Settings: Customize and Control
The benefit of using DVD player software over a physical player is that you have much more control over quality settings and controls, as well as more customization features, such as player skins and layouts. These customization options can help you organize your content and make it even more intuitive for you to use, which is convenient, especially if you'll use the software frequently. Furthermore, paid software should never hassle you with nag screens, which pop up when you first open the software or from time to time asking you to upgrade to a premium version, though you may experience this with freeware.
Sometimes you may want to rewatch a funny section of a comedy flick, or zoom in on a specific detail if you're watching a mystery thriller, and good DVD player software gives you this functionality. It typically lets you customize your video settings, letting you set bookmarks, loop and repeat a clip, or even just stretch the visual component to fit your screen. Some software has a built-in capacity to connect and optimize with your home theater's audiovisual setup.
If you are a Windows 8 or 10 user, you know that those operating systems do not come with native media players, though their predecessors did. Movie player software can fill that void and help you get back to your movie nights once again. Some are even optimized to be compatible with the touchscreen interface that Windows 8 offers on certain devices. Most are also capable of integrating with your personal video library on your computer's hard drive or an external drive. For fun, a few even give you the option to post directly from the software to your favorite social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, letting you share what you're currently watching and even a small comment about it, like a true movie critic.
Help & Support: Get Information and Upgrade Your Software
With great software comes great technical support, or at least it should. Consider products that offer both a way to contact the manufacturer as well as online documentation that can answer your questions or ease your concerns about a product – such as tutorials, a knowledgebase or a FAQs section.
One of our favorite things we saw that many of these software applications offer are user forums on manufacturer websites. Forums let you interact directly and indirectly with other users of the same product to ask questions, report issues or just talk over your common bond. Lastly, whether for Mac OS X or PC, your DVD player software should offer some kind of free upgrade option. Most come with free minor upgrades for life, then make you pay for major upgrades, though your software will continue to work fine if you choose not to upgrade. Very few manufacturers offer free minor and major lifetime upgrades.
Supported Media Types: Make Sure You Can Watch Your Favorite Videos
While most people use DVD player software to play DVDs, many users enjoy having the option to also play their favorite digital video files. Some player software allows you to play DVD-R/RW discs. Only a few are able to play Blu-ray discs, so if your movie collection is predominantly Blu-ray, you may want to consider Blu-ray player software, which typically has more all-encompassing options.
Compatible Operating Systems: It's Good to Match
Most DVD player software is available for Windows Vista and 7, but a few are optimized for Windows 8 and its touchscreen capacities. If you have already upgraded your computers to Windows 10, there are quite a few options for you, including Aiseesoft. For Mac users, there are considerably fewer options, though the ones available, such as Aurora, are fully functional and intuitive.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the software in our comparison through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. The results of our evaluations were not provided to software manufacturers in advance of publication.
Three DVD player software applications – PowerDVD 15 Ultra, WinDVD Pro 11 and JRiver Media Center 20 – rose above the rest in our comparison, mostly because of their stellar performance and usability, their many options and settings, their technical support, and even their system compatibility. These are the factors we weighed as the most important in our rankings. These software programs not only benefit Windows 8 and 10 users, but also those who want to enjoy movies wherever they take their laptop instead of being bound to a physical player at home. It doesn't hurt that most of the software optimizes video and audio quality, and lets you connect to your entire physical and digital library.