Bad news for 4K Blu-ray users on desktops, laptops, and HTPCs. There’s no more 4K Blu-ray playback on Intel chips. Computers equipped with Intel 12th gen Alder Lake, and 11th gen Rocket Lake processors, including those on the latest Windows 11 OS, are no longer able to playback protected 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. Playing Blu-ray discs at 1080p isn’t affected.
This change is necessary due to the DRM component Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) needing to be deprecated due to security issues. Intel introduced SGX, hardware-based memory encryption, with the 6th gen Skylake chip back in 2016.
This news was further cemented by CyberLink, the makers of the PowerDVD software that’s bundled with OEM optical drives.
“The removal of the SGX feature, and its compatibility with the latest Windows OS and drivers, has caused a substantial challenge for CyberLink to continue supporting Ultra HD Blu-ray movie playback in our player software.”CyberLink SGX FAQ Page
It’s important to note that CyberLink is not able to help as they do not control the DRM. Control lies with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
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Is There a Next Gen SGX Solution?
Intel has removed SGX support on 11th and 12th gen CPUs. This decision is expected to remain for future chips. There is also currently no replacement next-gen 4K DRM solution from Intel. Functionality could be restored to these chips if the Blu-ray Disc Association decides to remove DRM or other SGX-related protections from their format.
Does SGX Affect AMD Ryzen Owners?
AMD Ryzen does not have SGX or an SGX alternative. AMD users were only able to get UHD BD playback from other workarounds such as the Libredrive firmware. Gaming consoles with AMD chips and Blu-ray disc drives can playback UHD discs.
What Does the Removal of SGX Mean for Older Intel Chips?
Those who built their HTPCs with older chips that support SGX, namely 7th gen Kaby Lake to 10th gen Comet Lake (since 6th gen Skylake doesn’t have HDCP 2.2, which could lead to potential HDMI 2.0 compatibility issues), will not have to worry about this change.
For those who are looking to upgrade, you have 4 choices:
- Use a stand-alone UHD BD player.
- Use a Xbox Series X or PS5 gaming console.
- Rip your own 4K movie collection to your HTPC or NAS and playback with your console, HTPC, or set top box.
- Play your Blu-rays with BD drive on 11th and 12th gen Intel systems at 1080p.
The Pain of Blu-ray DRM
It’s understandable to remove a less popular technology that’s plagued with security vulnerabilities. But the unfortunate truth is you’ve always had to jump through many hoops to be able to get 4K Blu-ray working on PC.
First, only certain players could play content. Then you are laid with restrictions such as screenshot restrictions, unskippable ads and intros, and limited menu controls. Then there’s the hardware. Sometimes, you can’t get firmware updates or AACS. Hooray for planned obsolescence… not.
Not to mention a full HDCP 2.2 compliant home theater system can still routinely throw handshake issues. But I digress.
The only thing DRM does is punish unsuspecting customers. Since its inception, the SGX requirement was a joke that could be easily bypassed by software like xReveal and Free BD Decrypter. What about the keys? They’re easily found online with a quick search on your favorite search engine.
Despite the irritation, this was probably the best move for security and compatibility. It’s just unfortunate that it takes so much effort to enjoy the content that you pay for. Hopefully, Intel, AMD, or the BRDA will provide a better solution in the near future.