“ Manufacturer: SlySoft / License Type: Complete Package / Sub-category: Image / video / sound sollection / Platform: MacOS / Windows „
SlySoft AnyDVD is a piece of software which runs in the background of your system, decoding the copy protection and DRM of DVDs, Blu-rays, HD-DVDs and audio CDs in real-time. This allows you to copy (or "rip") the contents of your store-bought discs to have them on your PC, or to simply make backup copies of them should your originals become damaged or lost. It also has the added bonus of allowing you to watch imported discs which aren't intended to be used in your particular region.
I use AnyDVD HD, which contains support for high-definition formats such as Blu-ray. The standard version is identical except for its lack of high-definition support. The HD version is the one I'll be reviewing.
~ [ Variety of Features ] ~
AnyDVD opens your discs up for you, and gives you unfettered access to their contents. As well as allowing you to copy the contents of your discs you can also play discs from different regions, perform restricted actions when watching DVDs and Blu-rays (such as skipping warnings and trailers, or zooming straight to the main menu) and you can use it with any format of disc currently on the market.
The software doesn't have any native burning capabilities, so your copied materials will have to be burnt to disc using a third-party application.
~ [ Reliability ] ~
The software will begin to fail to decode the latest discs after a couple of months, because newer DVD and Blu-ray releases use improved copy protection technologies. The software therefore requires fairly regular updates in this anti-copy arms race, and it's rare that you'll run into any problems at all if you are sure to update it when it updates are available. When supported discs are inserted the software will spend several seconds scanning the disc to ascertain which copy protections are present, and it will then decode them accordingly. Once this is done the software works perfectly, and you're free to use the disc in any way you please thereafter. If the software fails to perform this initial test you'll most likely be prompted to update it.
~ [ User Friendly ] ~
The software's GUI is an incredibly simple tree-list of options, divided into tabs. When the options aren't open you can have an optional tray icon next to your computer clock, or you can have the whole thing disappear into the background never to be seen again (well, until you want to change something). The options are all signposted very well and changing options which might adversely affect your experience will throw up a confirmation dialogue.
~ [ Installation ] ~
Downloading the software doesn't take long; the installer is under 6MB. Installing the program may require you to reboot your system before you can make use of it, so it's a good idea to plan for this and to save any opened documents or web pages before you start. When installed you have to register the program with the included license otherwise it will operate as a restricted 30-day trial version.
~ [ Update Possibilities ] ~
As mentioned the software will have a new update every month or two, and this is necessary to ensure that newly released discs can be decoded properly. The software itself can be set to check for new updates automatically every day, assuming you are connected to the internet at the time. Updates are offered as full replacements for your installer, so you'll be installing the program as you would if you are a new customer. Luckily you don't need to reboot after an update.
~ [ Pricing ] ~
AnyDVD's price is quite fair, and licenses can be bought for different periods. For AnyDVD HD a single year's license (that is, a license which entitles you to use the software for a year and to receive updates for that period) will cost you about £55. A license for two years will cost around £70, three years £80 and four years £90. There is also an option to buy a lifetime license which will set you back £95, which renders the four year license a waste of money. The standard AnyDVD without the HD component is around £20 cheaper, but will obviously be unable to decode Blu-rays and HD-DVDs.
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
If you watch most of your movies on your PC and don't want your drive to become region locked, or if you wish to copy your discs for safe keeping, AnyDVD is essential. The price is reasonable considering how effective and consistent the software is, and especially how stable it is (I can't even comment on the customer/technical support at SlySoft because I've never had a problem with AnyDVD which required their input!).
Backup your discs and enjoy your imports with SlySoft AnyDVD.