Microsoft Xbox One Can’t Play Recordable Blu-ray (BD-R) Due To DRM

David Mackenzie

Last week, we reported a frame rate mismatch issue with the Xbox One’s TV integration feature in the UK and other 50Hz regions, which leads to judder when trying to watch television broadcast through the console’s HDMI input. To investigate this problem, as well as assess the media playback competency of the Microsoft Xbox One, we got our hands on a retail unit to carry out further indepth testing. The full review will be up soon, but in the meantime we’ve found another issue that deserves an article of its own.

Xbox One

One of the first things we did was to try and run our custom HDTVTest test pattern disc on the machine, but we discovered that the Xbox One does not play Blu-ray movie (BDMV) content from recordable BD-R discs. We tried both single and dual layer discs of various brands and types to rule out media incompatibility, and none would play. This is not the fault of the drive, but is a designed-in software limitation – one of the stringent DRM policies that apparently has made it into the finished product. Microsoft’s own support site mentions that:

The Blu-ray player on the Xbox One console only supports mastered Blu-ray discs and DVDs.

We don’t intend on paying to have 1000 copies of our internal test pattern disc professionally replicated just to get past this silly lockout system, but it is nice to know that Microsoft are so concerned about our test patterns being illegally copied without our permission that even we are not allowed to view them. As a result, we had to find content on store-bought films that we could use to assess the performance, and fortunately we also had the excellent Spears & Munsil v2 Blu-ray Disc with its multitude of tests.

Contrary to the official suggestion, the Xbox One does play DVD-Rs.

This also means that home-produced Blu-ray Discs – wedding videos recorded to BD-R, for example – will not play (although admittedly this content is rarer now since most home-produced content is online). Want to calibrate your HDTV and all-in-one media playing console using a burned copy of the freely downloadable AVS HD 709 disc? You’re out of luck.

Most seriously of all, if independent studios ever release niche “Burn on Demand” content on Blu-ray recordables (such as Warner Home Video are doing now on DVD via their Warner Archive series for niche content that they deem not profitable to manufacture the traditional way), the current iteration of the Xbox One will not be able to play this legitimately purchased content. Newsflash, Microsoft: the people who are ripping and illegally copying Blu-ray movies are generally too cheap to pay for blank discs and Blu-ray burners anyway, so are pirating via downloads. (We did try copying our patterns to a USB memory stick, but the Xbox One can’t currently play video from these, either).

We’re putting the finishing touch to our technical review of the Xbox One’s Blu-ray, DVD and TV processing, so stay tuned!