Although we’ve run into our fair share of challenges with Blu-ray movie playback on the PC, the latest version of PowerDVD seems to have settled everything. With the majority of today’s GPUs and displays supporting HDCP, the promise of buying a Blu-ray drive and getting instant access to Blu-ray movies is very real. Blu-ray movies are routinely available for $20 or less, and buy-one-get-one-free promotions seem to happen every other week at Amazon.com. For movie enthusiasts who want to enjoy a movie with all of the detail that was intended to be present by the director, moving to a high definition world is a solid choice.
The real question is then: Do I get a Blu-ray reader and drop CD/DVD burning and save $50? Spend an extra $50 to get a combo drive that reads Blu-ray and HD DVD? Or just go with a PlayStation 3 for an extra $150 and get HDMI high-definition Dolby TrueHD support along with, you know, PS3 gaming support?
Going with a Blu-ray reader is the cheapest way to get into BD. Since CD and DVD burning are still important features to have, you can get by with a two-optical drive setup. With a new system, however, going with the combo drive makes more sense. You’re going to need CD/DVD burning anyway, and Blu-ray burners are still too expensive for casual use. That’s the easy comparison.
The HD-DVD combo drive is one that’s worth discussing. As it stands, Blu-ray continues to outsell HD DVD in the US by an almost 2:1 ratio. With the exception of Paramount and Universal, you can enjoy movies on Blu-ray, including the exclusive Disney, Sony Pictures, and Fox. The chances of Blu-ray going under are slim to none. HD DVD is still a technically strong format, and exclusive movies such as Transformers and the Bourne Ultimatum are just as fun to watch as the best Pixar or 007 movies. There’s a very real possibility that HD DVD and Blu-ray will continue to exist and thrive in the same way that the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii are all able to thrive. If anything, HD DVD is the format that is at greatest risk for dying out. Spending an extra $50 for the integrated HD DVD drive really makes sense as “insurance” against one format dying.
Admittedly, in my experience, PowerDVD and WinDVD are less reliable with some of the newer HD DVD titles. Likewise, if you’re already spending $50, the question is whether or not a stand-alone HD DVD add-on is an option. In the last holiday season, there were several promotions where it was possible to get a HD DVD player for about $100. While these standalone units only support 1080i, TVs with proper 3:2 pulldown will give you a complete reconstruction of the original 1080p image. Perhaps more importantly, these stand alone units are often eligible for the “5 free HD DVD” promotion...
Asus’s drive is one of the cheapest ways to enter the Blu-ray world on the PC. It offers good plug-and-play sensibility unlike the barebones Pioneer drive which lacks a Blu-ray software bundle. From that perspective, the ASUS BC-1205PT is an exceptional value. The only uncertainty is whether or not the HD DVD/Blu-Ray combo drive from LG for an extra $50 offers a better value. If you don’t already have a HD DVD player, it may.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Preview Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion pack and follow-up to developer Stardock's previous game in the series, subtitled War of Magic. That 4X strategy game was highly-anticipated and slated to compete with games such as Sid Meier's Civilization V for your turn-based strategy play-time, but was released in an incredibly broken and unfinished state that it never fully recovered from. Lead designer Brad Wardell apologized profusely to fans and set out with his team to go back to the drawing board and try again.
Almost two years later, the result of that proverbial mulligan is currently undergoing closed beta testing. In today's article, Will reports his thoughts on how Fallen Enchantress is shaping up, and will tell you whether or not you should be keeping an eye on it as it nears release later this year.
The Elder Scrolls Online Details Leak - Should Fans Be Excited? The Elder Scrolls Online, long rumored to be in development, was officially announced yesterday. Still in development at Zenimax Online Studios, this MMO aims to combine traditional genre mechanics with the spirit and sensibilities, not to mention setting and lore, of the immensely popular series of single-player RPGs. Though the game is set for a full unveiling in the next issue of Game Informer magazine, what appears to be the entire cover story article has been leaked to the interwebs already. In today's article, you'll find summary and analysis of all the alleged details, as well as feast your eyes on the very first screenshots and concept art from the game. Of course, the burning question now is, should you be excited?
ANNO 2070 Review
The year is 2070. The majority of life on Earth was devastated when global sea levels surged after the melting of the polar ice caps. Swaths of previously habitable land are now deep underwater, and sovereign nations are a relic of the past. But there is still hope...
This city-building RTS/simulation game from Ubisoft tasks you with re-colonizing what little land areas are left on the planet following a global warming apocalypse. Does it have what it takes to be worthy of your time and money, or should it be cast out to sea with the rest of civilization? Find out in today's review!
Hear that? It's the sound of the largest computer chip manufacturer in the world churning out new processors to power your gaming rig. This week, Intel is launching their next generation of Core CPUs, code-named Ivy Bridge. Like last year's Sandy Bridge chips, they're low-power, quad-core powerhouses that also feature integrated graphics processors. Want to find out more? Maybe check out a whole bunch of performance benchmarks on both the CPU and graphics sides of things? Well you can, in today's review!
Intel Z77 Chipset & DZ77GA-70K Motherboard Overview
Looking forward to those new Ivy Bridge CPUs? In anticipation of their release later this month, Intel has already unveiled the new Series 7 chipsets designed especially to take advantage of what will be the 3rd-generation of Core processors. In today's article, we take a look at the architecture of the enthusiast variant, the Z77, and how it's used in the Intel Desktop Extreme DZ77GA-70K motherboard. Even if you're not particularly interested in the motherboard itself, you'll probably want to see some of the new features that come along with it, so read on!
Mass Effect 3 PC Review
This latest release from EA/BioWare is the final entry in their trilogy of sci-fi action RPGs, putting you in a dire situation: rally the troops to save Earth at all costs. There was a lot of hype surrounding the final act of what has been a vast and highly-customizable story-telling experience, and the reception among many hardcore fans has been less than stellar. Even people that haven't played the game have probably heard about all the nerd rage going on over Mass Effect 3's ending...
If you want to cut through all the crap and find out whether or not the rest of ME3 is worth playing, come check out Will's spoiler-free take on the first blockbuster game release of 2012.
Batman: Arkham City PC Review Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s smash-hit action game Batman: Arkham Asylum. As the name suggests, you will be reprising your role as the Caped Crusader and going against an even larger 'prison' filled with Gotham's criminals and villains. A textbook example on how to do a proper sequel, Arkham City takes what worked in the original, excised or improved upon what didn’t, and elevated everything to an even greater scope. The PC version suffered from a few months of delay, but in that time, Rocksteady worked closely to NVIDIA to implement some familiar technologies from the last game, such as PhysX and 3D Vision, along with new DirectX 11 optimizations. But how well was the whole package executed? Read on to find out!
Saints Row: The Third PC Review Saints Row is one of most unique series of games to build upon the open-world action template forged by Grand Theft Auto, and has met with plenty of critical and commercial success since it began on consoles back in 2006. This latest iteration, titled Saints Row: The Third promises the most outlandish fun and freedom of customization of them all, and in a much more PC-friendly package than its predecessor. Does it live up to those expectations and, more importantly, is it worth the price of admission? Find out in Will's latest review!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Review The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda Softworks’ latest offering in their series of epic fantasy RPGs, as well as one of the most highly-anticipated PC titles of 2011. As the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn, prepare to take the fight to the mythical beasts that have returned to the realm after centuries of slumber, all the while exploring a huge and highly-detailed open world.
The PC version of the game promises enhanced graphical fidelity, standard RPG trimmings such as hotkeys and quick-save, as well as unbridled mod support, something we’ll all be thankful for once they release that SDK. Skyrim has already sold millions of copies and set records for play-time on Steam... Find out why in today's review, which happens to be one of the biggest and most in-depth articles on the subject out there!
L.A. Noire Complete Edition PC Review L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!