Pioneer announces world’s first UHD Blu-ray player for PC

It’s the time for every cinephile to rejoice; Pioneer today announced two new Blu-ray disc drives for the PC, both capable of reading Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray discs. This is 2017, and PC disc drives are still a thing.

They are still a thing because Blu-ray has much higher bitrate and quality when compared to streaming services. Anyone with an eye for detail can tell the difference; most internet connections simply aren’t capable of handling the bandwidth requirements.

The Drives

The creatively named BDR-S11J-BK and BDR-511J-X are identical when it comes to the specifications, with the latter having some additional features for music playback.

Both drives are capable of reading UHD Blu-ray discs, but neither can write them; however, standard Blu-ray discs, DVD, and CDs are writeable.

Pioneer is also bundling a copy of CyberLink PowerDVD with these drives; customers can rest assured that they will be able to play their UHD 4K content, without spending an additional cent.

Here’s the part that might hurt: playback of UHD 4K Blu-ray discs is no easy task, as it demands top-end specifications – mostly because of artificial restrictions.

First, you will require Windows 10; Microsoft wants users to upgrade to the latest and greatest and does not offer the capability to play copy-protected 4K UHD content on its older operating systems – Blu-ray or Netflix.

Secondly, you will require a 7th generation Intel Core processor; only the 7th generation processors support Intel’s HDCP 2.2 copy-protection protocol. This isn’t about performance – this is about preventing piracy.

Thirdly, your monitor needs to support HDCP 2.2 as well, along with an HDMI 2.0a connection.

Finally, you will need to use a GPU that supports HDCP 2.2; Intel’s 7th generation Core processors come with HD Graphics 630 (or better), which is perfectly capable of this. However, if you are sane and would rather use an AMD or NVidia GPU, your range of choices is somewhat limited.

  • AMD Radeon RX 480
  • AMD Radeon RX 470
  • AMD Radeon RX 460
  • NVidia GeForce GTX 1080
  • NVidia GeForce GTX 1070
  • NVidia GeForce GTX 1060
  • NVidia GeForce GTX 1050
  • NVidia GeForce GTX 960
  • NVidia GeForce GTX 950

These are – as far as we could tell – the only GPUs that support HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. If you see a GPU missing from this list, do drop its name in the comments below.

Availability & Regions

Pioneer is launching the two drives in “late February,” however, the launch will be – for now – limited to Japan.

There are no details about the price or a word on a release for other regions. Speaking of regions; Blu-rays – as with any copy-protected media – are notoriously strict about what region they are playing in.

The two Pioneer drives allow users to change the region of the drive for up to five times. The fifth time will be the last one – the region will be locked after that.

Hopefully, Pioneer will release more details about pricing and a worldwide release soon.

Xbox One S

Playback of UHD 4K Blu-ray content demands the latest and greatest in PC hardware, but there is a cheaper choice.

The Xbox One S. Microsoft’s console is not only capable of playing back UHD 4K Blu-ray content, but it also supports HDR.

Whilst Pioneer hasn’t released any pricing details; the Xbox One S starts at $299 – unless it’s on discount. Microsoft’s deep discounts on the Xbox One S have even made a dent in its quarterly earnings report.

A Blu-ray player on the PC might allow for more freedom, but considering how much DRM it’s laden with; it might simply not be worth it.

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