When it comes to having the best possible solution for media playback software of both disc and digital types of media, we lean toward the type of enthusiasts that have powerful audio/video systems at home. Let it be a fancy living room setup, or a fully dedicated home theater room, these types of individuals typically do not want to settle with anything but the best. This is why this isn’t going to be a top list of options, but simply what we believe to be “the best Blu-ray player software” for Windows 10 or Windows 11 as of 2021.
This is a result of our collective gathering of opinions and experience over the last so many years, with a solid focus on current/modern software versions of what is currently available in the market.
Moving straight to the point, the winner is PowerDVD 21 Ultra.
This happens to be one of the best options out there regardless of what you are trying to playback (outside of some oddball formats). If you have a DVD or Blu-ray (or Ultra Blu-ray), this will be the best option for playback on a computer, hands down. The same applies to if you bought or download a digital version of a movie (sometimes a disc comes with a free digital copy). This is because the codec licenses are all paid for and are the real thing (DTS, Dolby, etc). This is why movies typically sound far greater playing them with PowerDVD vs free options like VLC Player (which uses free open-source alternatives for decoding).
Sound and video can be noticeably better, sometimes quite better. PowerDVD also supports the more advanced modern formats, like Dolby Atmos, DTS-MA, and more. This is, clearly, very important if you are a serious audio/video enthusiast.
There are multiple versions of PowerDVD, including a standard option. However, “Ultra” is the way to go since it doesn’t cost much more than the “Standard” edition and offers a huge upgrade in support and features. They do this purposely so you would be mad not to buy into the Ultra edition (one to lure you in, the other to land the sale).
Let’s take a look at some of the pros!
- Blu-ray and Ultra Blu-ray support, in addition to CD, DVD, and AVCHD. This also includes both disc and ISO formats, as well as BD-Live support.
- 4K and 8K playback supported, allowing you to take advantage of the latest TVs in the market.
- Proper codec support for the latest DTS, Dolby, DSD, AAC, and Lossless HD codecs. This is one of the most important features that we could possibly stress about. It also offers PCM-out so that you receiver can do the work instead. If you are going to decode DTS or Dolby content to a multi-channel system, you might as well do it correctly.
- The TrueTheater feature, which enhances the image on the screen as well as audio. This can bring new life to darker images, or images lacking color detail. It can also help with HDR content when your TV isn’t HDR compatible (which could lead to a darker image at times).
- Wide support for popular digital formats, like MKV, MPEG, MOV, FLV, and more. Digital content can come from so many places (hopefully, you stick to the legal ones) and isn’t always consistent when it comes to what format it is in. Therefore, keeping up with the popular formats is always important.
- Support for 3D content. This is something that has died a little in recent years, mostly because there wasn’t a lot of popularity surrounding 3D movies at home. Either way, the movies still exist and so do TVs that support it. So you will need software that does the same (else you will lose the ability to playback 3D content).
- Support for 360-deg and VR content with support for Oculus and HTC Vive headsets
- Cloud support and the ability to share media with family and friends
- Streaming to mobile devices (Android and iOS)
- Audio CD ripping features
- YouTube and Vimeo playback features
- (and more)
It is a very powerful software that has a lot of neat features built-in to not only playback but also enhances the content you are trying to watch. All of which is fully customizable to your liking.
Some of the caveats
Nothing is perfect though. This software does come with some caveats to keep in mind. So we will cover some of these as well.
- Resources. It does require additional resources compared to simple players like VLC. Because of this, some entry-level systems that do not have a dedicated video card (or chipset) may experience jitter/stutter, especially with digital formats. So it’s best to make sure you install it on a decent computer or laptop that has this (stay away from systems that depend on integrated “Intel graphics” to get the job done). Most desktop computers allow you to upgrade to a card if you don’t already have one.
- Side note: Turning TruTheater settings off may help to prevent these issues on lighter systems, but then you lose those really good features that can help make the image better.
- Licenses. When you decide which computer or laptop to install it on, keep in mind that Cyberlink has always been very strict (some would say stubborn, ourselves included) when it comes to how a license is defined (“user” vs “computer”). Some applications will let you install them on your “main” computer, as well as one laptop for when you travel (this flexibility can really make a company popular for individuals that have multiple devices). This would be a licensed themed around “the user”. Cyberlink is not one of those companies, however, despite the price of its software, it focuses on “each computer” instead.
- This can really put a lot of pressure on the average consumer because you can only have it installed on “one” system at a time. So if you want to also include it on your laptop, you’ll have to buy a whole other copy just for it, even though it’s the same “user” using the software (which can get quite expensive and wasteful).
- Smartphones are an exception to this since the companion app is free. This lets you stream content to your mobile devices.
- Expensive. It is a little expensive. Normally, this would make total sense for what it is. Not only are you paying for the development of the software, but, again, you are also paying for the proper licensing to use true DTS and Dolby codecs (as well as others). However, we add this as a point anyway because of the last point about licensing. It gets plenty more expensive if you want it on more than one system you own. For us, this can be a deal-breaker for many applications. Thankfully for Cyberlink, they are the best at what they do, which allows them to survive and remain at the top. However, it does leave an empty space that could be filled by other companies in the future.
Nothing is perfect. Everything comes with a potential catch (or catches). However, if you are an enthusiast, this isn’t going to be much of a problem. The system you are looking to install it in is likely as powerful as everything else you have going. You are likely only interested in installing it on that one system. For everything else, you can take a step back with something like VLC Player. When it comes to price, it likely doesn’t come close to what you have spent on everything else. So “perfect” doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t stop something from being “the best”.
About that price. the MSRP for PowerDVD 21 Ultra is $99, although you can almost always find it on sale. Right now, it is $79 (one license), with the option of subscribing to it at a yearly cost of $54. The latter of the two options just locks you into all of the future versions. Some may find this useful, however, most will likely save money if they simply upgraded manually every 2-3 years (technologies like Dolby Atmos don’t exactly pop up every single year, after all).