Yeah, as far as system building goes, optical drives ("disc drives") are one of the easiest things to upgrade and interchange, so feel free to shop around for your own drives if you don't like any of the recommended ones. You won't have any compatibility problems.
Keep in mind blu-ray, being a new, advanced technology, is pretty expensive though. I've been in the market for a budget blu-ray drive myself for a while, and the very cheapest one I've found is $60 on newegg (plus don't forget shipping), which is almost 3x the price on a good CD/DVD burner. Here's the cheapo BD drive if you're interested
. Note that this drive is a reader only; you won't be able to burn anything with this drive. Also remember you get what you pay for. Most BD drives now start around $100. There's a reason this one costs less: it's slowwwww. Not just with Blu-Rays either; it's gonna be slow with your CDs and DVDs as well.
Also since this is an otherwise pretty low-budget rig you'll want to verify a couple of things before you drop the dough for a BD drive.
1. Can your GPU display your desired output resolution? Blu-ray displays 1080p if I remember correctly. You'll want a card that can take advantage of this. I've not been in the market for a mobo with integrated video for years so I may not be entirely up-to-date on this but I have a pretty strong feeling that wanting 1080p output necessitates a discrete video card. If I'm right about this, then you're looking at spending another $50-70 on a card. I'd recommend a Radeon HD 4650.
2. Can your monitor display your desired output resolution? Again, you'll need a pretty nice, new monitor if you want to see the difference in BD quality versus DVD. The bare minimum to start seeing visual quality differences is that your monitor and GPU can display 720p output (720p is the lowest resolution that is still considered HD). However my recommendation is to focus on getting a rig that can display 1080p as this is the best resolution available by what is, in my opinion, a pretty wide margin.
To put it frankly, it seems very unlikely to me that $300 can buy a blu-ray capable rig. Keep in mind that standalone blu-ray players start at about $275!! You may want to buy one of the PCs recommended above, then add on the BD drive and discrete card later. Both of these additions are a snap to perform any time.
Just in case you're not already aware, Blu-rays deliver up to 1080p video output (as well as 720p and 1080i for those who lack a 1080p-capable screen) as well as studio-quality sound output, while DVDs are limited to 480p (standard-definition) video output and more typical sound quality. The differences are dramatic and noticeable IF AND ONLY IF you have equipment capable of utilizing the added features of Blu-Ray. Entry-level sound and video equipment of this caliber both run about $200+
If your mom already has this equipment purchased, then she'll still need to up the budget a bit in order to get the right rig. $400 is pushing it but *MAY* be enough. I'm fairly confident $450 could get the job done, and $500 would be enough to do it without making sacrifices in other areas, such as burning capability and overall drive quality. If she's skeptical about forking this over, I'd point out that adding $200 to the cost of the build in return for blu-ray capability is still cheaper than purchasing a standalone blu-ray player by about $80-100.
If she doesn't have such equipment, she'll need to significantly up the budget to about $800 in order to experience a noticeable improvement in quality over DVDs.
Good luck and hope this helps!
This has been asked before in this thread but I didn't find an answer from you. What type of inputs does your monitor accept? If you're unsure, look at the jacks you can use to connect inputs. A small, narrow, trapezoidal jack with no pins is an HDMI jack. A wider, more rectangular jack with 15 pins is a D-Sub or VGA jack. A longer, also rectangular jack with 24 pins and either four holes or one narrow hole to the side is a DVI jack. A series of individual color-coded circular jacks comprises a composite input. A single-pinned, non-colored circular jack that is threaded at the base (so that the cable is screwed onto it) is an RCA jack.
DVI is the most versatile output afaik and is the most common for newer computers to support. They are found on both HD-ready and SD-only displays, so you'll need to find out whether your display is HD-capable by some other means. It's probably the best type of connector to have if you plan on using it with a computer, though. You can convert from DVI to either of the other two common formats easily via an adapter.
HDMI is the newest technology and is probably a bit higher quality than DVI, although I am unsure of this. Generally only HD-ready displays will have HDMI jacks as they were created explicitly for this purpose. While adapters can make HDMI and DVI interchangeable, I do not believe you can change from HDMI or D-Sub or vise-versa.
D-Sub is the older type of jack, which is restricted to analog signals. I frankly don't know what this means to the end user, but if your monitor can only use this type of jack I would recommend doing a bit of research to see what its limitations are.
Composite jacks are a bit different. The thing to look for with these inputs are whether or not your monitor has green and blue jacks, as these are the ones that can provide an HD signal. I've never seen any type of adapter that converts another type of signal to composite, which makes this input a poor choice for working with a computer. Fortunately I've also never heard of a display that only has composite jacks.
RCA jacks are ollllldddd and NOTHING works with them. Not sure why I even bothered mentioning them as it's unlikely any display purchased within the last 8 years even has one.
Edited by W-Unit, 26 July 2009 - 08:46 AM.