State of the art: Blu-ray on the Mac

By James Galbraith, Macworld |  Hardware, Blu-ray, Mac

It may have beaten out HD-DVD in the bloody battle to be the high definition optical drive standard, but in the roughly year and a half since the format wars ended, Blu-ray DVD has yet to gain any real traction in the desktop computer realm. Indeed, Apple has done its best to downplay the relevance of any kind of optical drive in this new world of streaming media--the MacBook Air ships without an internal optical drive, its DVD Studio Pro application has been almost totally ignored in the last two Final Cut Studio releases, and the company provides no way of playing movies released on Blu-ray on Macs running OS X.

But while Apple hasn't exactly embraced Blu-ray, a couple of the company's applications--Final Cut Pro ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) and Compressor ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ), now allow you to create Blu-ray projects and burn them to attached Blu-ray drives to watch on the Blu-ray player in your living room.

If you're considering adding a second optical drive for DVD copying, or just want faster burn speeds than your older optical drive can deliver, you might be considering a Blu-ray capable burner. Apple has yet to offer Blu-ray as a standard or build-to-order option, but a few third party companies have been quietly testing the waters and marketing external Blu-ray burners to Mac users.

We recently looked at a handful of these new Blu-ray burners (namely, the LaCie d2 Blu-ray Professional Drive ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), the Buffalo Media Station 8X External Drive ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), the OWC Mercury Pro 8X Blu-ray Extermal ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), and the MCE 8X Blu-ray External Recordable Drive), and can offer a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a Blu-ray drive.

Connection: From eSATA to FireWire 800 and FireWire 400 to USB 2.0, we saw a wide variety of different connections, but surprisingly, didn't find eSATA to be faster on any of the drives we tested. In fact, the USB 2.0 connection on the Buffalo MediaStation was faster than FireWire 800 or 400 on some competing drives. If you haven't already added an eSATA card to your Mac, a Blu-ray burner is not a good reason to do so.

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