Windows 8 RTM is around the corner -- and for all you early adopters this means that you won't be able to play your DVD collection on your PC or laptop. Yes, with Windows 8, Microsoft decided to remove DVD playback functionality from Windows Media Player and instead move it to the optional Windows Media Center program. However, this requires you a) to have Windows 8 Pro (which is a $40 upgrade for XP, Vista and Windows 7 users) and b) purchase the optional Windows Media Center Pack (pricing TBD).
Is this really such a big deal? Well, yes and no. Let's face it, DVD is legacy technology and will eventually be replaced by digital distribution. However, I bet that many of you still have a massive DVD collection that you like to watch on the sofa, in bed or on a cross-country flight.
Here are three great DVD playback alternatives for Windows 8:
1. Media Player Classic – Home Cinema: MPC-HC mimics the look and feel of the pre-Windows Me media player, which many still prefer. It's built from scratch, however, and offers codecs for even the most obscure video formats out there and, you guessed it, DVD playback. It supports both playback from physical DVD discs as well as copied DVD folders:
I always go with the latest (almost) daily builds that you can find here (current version is 1.6.3), which offer some bugfixes and always the latest filters. If you just want to play DVDs, the official/stable releases are the way to go.
2. VLC Player: While I personally don't much like VLCs interface when compared to the clean look and usability of MPC HC, to me it's always a strong number two when it comes to DVD and media playback.
3. PowerDVD 12: No matter what, when playing back DVDs or HD files on larger screens (17" laptops, HDTVs, home cinema projectors...), I usually go back to PowerDVD 12. The reason is very simple: PowerDVD 12 has some pretty good upscaling capabilities and color correction filters that both VLC and MPC-HC lack. This "TrueTheater" technology sounds like a marketing buzzword, but it actually works.
And yes, it's a commercial product but if you're really into getting most out of your DVD collection, it's the best choice.