Wait for the formats to bed in. That's often what the sceptics say about emerging technologies, but with Blu-ray on your PC they might just be right.

The best DVD recorder in the business only sets you back around £35, whereas this first high-definition drive from Pioneer costs a princely £130.

Awkward compatibility

Ultimately, a purchase like this comes down to how desperately you need to have a Blu-ray drive in your machine, but you also need to take a good look at the specifications, because it won't work with every PC.

Note that this is a SATA optical drive. The format's still proving unpopular on motherboards and there's no IDE alternative, so you need either a converter or a different motherboard/PSU combination.

Furthermore, this drive will only run if your graphics card natively supports HD. Both ATI and Nvidia have supported H.264 acceleration on their chipsets for some time now, but it's still not clear-cut.

Generally, you'll need an ATi Radeon X1600 or above, or an Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT or above. To be absolutely sure, look for cards that have the PureVideo or Avivo branding, although these are limited to just a few cards at the higher end of the range.

Crystal clear

We tested on a Core 2 Duo Vista machine with the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale. While we were delighted with the playback on a 19-inch monitor, it took a few direct comparisons with the DVD version of the movie to notice any difference.

The colours were certainly darker and the sharpness perhaps a little deeper, but on monitor playback at least the differences were very small.

TV is a different matter though, and with large LCD and plasma HD displays you're sure to see the clarity differences amplified and you'll see what people mean when they talk about HD. For now at least, HD on your PC is an expensive and extravagant option, but if you really can't wait for HD on your desktop then this drive has all you need.