RealNetworks' RealDVD aims to help you migrate all of your dusty DVDs away from your bookshelf and onto your hard drive for viewing at any time on your laptop or desktop computer. While various programs have popped up over the years that also perform the same function, RealDVD lets you copy all of your DVDs onto your PC and presents them in an attractive and intuitive browser. And it's legal, too.
Installation and Interface
After purchasing the $29.99 RealDVD from www.realdvd.com, the 9MB file takes less than five minutes to download over a broadband connection. We were up and running in no time. The user interface is very intuitive, so if the whole idea of copying DVDs sounds too complicated, fret not. The home screen has a black background, and you're immediately presented with your movie library and options to copy, play, or resume.
Movies that have been added to your Library appear as thumbnails on RealDVD's home screen; if the app can't find the cover art for the DVD, it simply presents the title on a blue background. We wish we could have searched for album art on our own, but we weren't able to add a custom image. On one computer, the program wasn't able to find art for Two For The Money, but it did on another computer. We suggest trying twice if RealDVD doesn't find the art the first time around.
We like that you can sort movies by genre, rating, cast, and director. If you click a movie, you can view a small blurb of details on it, brought in through Gracenote metadata. The interface is incredibly intuitive and just as simple to use as iTunes; just choose the movie you want to watch. That's it.
Why the MPAA Won't Sue You
Wondering how it's legal? So were we. RealNetworks has a license to allow users to play back their movies, but not share them with anyone. And it informs the user that copying movies that aren't owned (i.e., rented) is illegal. Each file is locked under DRM, but you can authorize up to four additional computers for $19.99 each to play back on those as well. That allows you to store movies on an external hard drive and move it from your computer to another PC in a snap. You can only play back copied movies with the RealDVD program.
When you insert a DVD into your notebook, you are presented with three options: Watch DVD, Save DVD, or Save and Watch DVD. We copied two movies, Two For the Money and Finding Nemo, in 33 minutes and 34 minutes, respectively. So while you probably won't be copying movies the morning you leave for a trip, it's certainly feasible to copy a few the night before.
Because RealDVD stores your movies as exact copies and doesn't rip them--which makes the software legal--the file size of each movie folder averaged 7.5GB. So if you have a big DVD library, you'll want to invest in a massive hard drive (or be selective about which movies you store on your notebook). An external hard drive is a perfect option for porting movies to other RealDVD enabled notebooks that may not have a DVD drive.
We loved that our movies retained their DVD quality, and that we could pause one movie, go back to our RealDVD library, start another movie, and switch back to resume the first one exactly where we left off. Our movies looked like they were playing directly from a DVD. We didn't notice any lag even when switching quickly from one title to another. Like a DVD, the menus and special features, such as deleted scenes, remain intact, and you can interact with them as if the disc was in your drive. RealNetworks claims that RealDVD can help save up to 10 percent of your laptop's battery life, since the movies are stored on a hard drive and the PC doesn't need to power the optical drive. (We'll be updating this review with battery test results.)
While we wish that DVDs copied a bit faster, we can't complain that the software accomplishes this task in roughly 35 minutes per disc. We loved having out entire DVD collection at our fingertips and not having to worry about packing up a bulky case for a flight or long commute. At $29.99, RealDVD is very reasonably priced, and if you have a large DVD collection, it's well worth the cost to bring all of those movies with you.