Upgrading your home PC with a Blu-ray Disc drive is the least expensive way to get your hands on the sought-after HD technology. PC Advisor rounds up five of the latest models, with invaluable buying advice.

Given that many of us are beginning to feel the financial pinch, traditional technology treats in the form of a shiny new home PC or laptop may not be on the cards this Christmas. But extending the capabilities of the PC or laptop you've already got may make sense, and help you keep up with the Joneses in a financially astute manner.

A Blu-ray Disc drive could be just the ticket. It combines the practicality of boosting your backup and storage capacity, while offering a feature you didn't already have: HD playback.

Buying a brand-new PC with Blu-ray support costs at least £600, and many cost twice that. By contrast, you can add the technology to an existing PC for less than £200. If you're prepared to get your hands dirty and install an internal drive, you can get one for even less: the Best Buy LG drive we've tested here costs a modest £145.

For a similar sum, you can of course plump for a standalone HD player. However, opting for Blu-ray on your PC rather than a dedicated player means it can do more than simply play pre-recorded Blu-ray discs. And, as we hardly need to tell you, blockbuster films in this format don't come cheap.

Should Santa bring you any such must-see movies, you'll be able to watch them on your newly Blu-ray-enabled PC, of course, but you can also enjoy HD content from other sources.

One of the biggest success stories of the year has been TV on demand. BBC iPlayer, ITV Catchup and 4oD offer much of their content as free web downloads, with a small premium for the HD version.
Apple iTunes also offers a selection of HD programming and, of course, BitTorrent and similar video-sharing sites proffer HD along with pirate versions of standard-resolution TV programmes and films.

You can watch all this content on your PC, or output it for playback on another device, including a standalone Blu-ray player, if you have one in your lounge.

You shouldn't ignore home video content either. HD video recorders are now fairly widespread - as with buying a new optical drive or standalone DVD player, it makes sense to acknowledge that HD is where things are heading. With the advent of Advanced Video Codec High Definition (AVCHD) camcorders that can record HD content to flash memory, there's only going to be more and more HD footage.

It's a definite advantage if you can review the raw footage on your PC, perform some simple edits and then burn it to disc.

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  5. Blu-ray Disc drive reviews

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