Editor’s Note: Some of the products reviewed here allow you to circumvent copy encryptions contained on commercial discs, an act that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) forbids, even for personal use. Top Ten Reviews does not endorse piracy or any other illegal activity. Some consumer advocates are actively seeking exceptions to the act’s provision for personal use of copyrighted material purchased by consumers. There’s no evidence that any consumer has been prosecuted or sued for circumventing copy protections for personal use.
The top performers in our review are Wondershare Video Converter, the Gold Award winner; Any DVD Converter Pro, the Silver Award winner; and Aimersoft DVD Ripper, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
DVD was once the popular home entertainment format. When it was introduced, this technology was the highest quality, most durable and had the greatest capacity of any digital media you could buy. And even with the rise of high-definition discs like Blu-ray, digital downloads from services like iTunes and Amazon, and streaming video, DVD remains one of the dominant media formats in wide use.
However as new technology like smartphones and tablets gain more prominence, the usefulness of DVDs is declining. You can’t watch a DVD on mobile devices, and many computers are moving away from optical disc drives altogether. The day will come when playing a DVD on any new device simply won’t be possible.
MP4 is the digital video format that is used by the vast majority of mobile devices, gaming systems and media player software. When you convert DVDs into MP4 format, you can expect the digital file will be compatible with any device that is in your pocket or on your desk and is the preferred format of video-sharing services like YouTube.
DVD to MP4 converter software allows you to watch DVD movies on all the electronics you own. It also lets you back up your DVD library for the day when optical discs go the way of formats like VHS and LaserDisc.
The process of converting your DVDs into MP4 files is relatively simple. Once you’ve installed the converter application onto your computer, insert the disc you want to convert into your optical drive and load it into the program’s interface. Every program we reviewed makes this step simple with an Add DVD button in the main window of the software.
The application then allows you to choose what content you want to convert. You can convert an entire disc, just the feature presentation, or you can select other content, like bonus features and commentaries. Most of the programs on our lineup have the ability to automatically choose the main feature, which can make the conversion process a little easier.
Once you have your disc loaded and selected the content you want to convert, you then need to select a conversion profile. These profiles have preprogrammed settings that are tailored for specific devices and video formats. When you’ve selected the profile that matches your device, simply click Convert and the application gets to work. When it’s done, you have a video file that you can then sync and watch on the device of your choosing.
Before a DVD to MP4 program can convert any content, it must overcome Digital Rights Management protections found on almost all commercial discs. These protections are meant to guard against illegal piracy, but they also keep you from watching content that you’ve paid for on devices that won’t connect to a DVD player.
Most of the products we reviewed have this ability integrated into the software, while others require you to download a plug-in to bypass copy protections, and others still won’t convert protected discs at all. Programs that lack the ability to circumvent copy encryptions are limited to converting non-commercial or unprotected discs.
All the DVD converter programs we reviewed contain a library of preprogrammed conversion profiles that allow you to optimize an MP4 file for playback on multiple devices, from smartphones and tablets, to gaming systems, set-top boxes and even televisions. The best applications have profiles for a wide selection of devices and formats to choose from to fit whatever device you happen to own.
There will be times that you don’t want to convert a whole movie or yield a file that looks exactly as it does on DVD. The products on our side-by-side comparison chart usually offer a basic array of video-editing tools that allow you to trim unwanted footage from your conversion as well as crop the frame and adjust picture qualities such as brightness, contrast and saturation. These tools give you the ability to get exactly what you want out of your conversion without having to do extra work in a standalone video editing program.
As simple as most of these products are to learn and use, there will be times that you need some assistance. The best DVD to MP4 converters offer an array of help options that include tutorials and articles that show you exactly how to use all of the application’s tools. If you have a question or problem that can’t be solved by these online resources, you can also contact software manufacturers via email, and some offer live chat services where you can get immediate service.
We ranked several DVD to MP4 conversion software programs by subjecting them to battery of tests to determine which one is the best.
Although all the programs in our review are built around the same basic concept and most of them have very similar workflows, there are marked differences that make some programs easier to use than others. In our tests, we evaluated how easy each program is to learn and use, how long it takes to perform common tasks like beginning a conversion and customizing content. We found that the programs on our lineup are generally easy to use and learn, but there are some that are more intuitive than others.
Converting a DVD movie into an MP4 requires these applications to compress the original content found on the disc. This compression can result in degraded audio and video files. In our quality tests, we examined the converted files and compared them against a digital download of the same movie. We searched for imperfections in the picture, such as pixilation and blur, as well as audio problems like loss of volume and panning effects.
The time it takes to perform a conversion is a major consideration for converting your DVDs – especially if you have a large library of discs. In our tests, we found that there is a wide disparity in conversion times. Some programs took less than 30 minutes to convert a full-length movie while others took more than two hours. However, we noted a correlation with faster conversion times and output quality: If you want a high-quality conversion, you’ll have to wait a little longer for it.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of the average consumer. We purchased each of the programs in our side-by-side comparison chart. The manufacturer had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to manufacturers in advance of publication.
When we completed our evaluation of DVD converter software, the following products claimed the top spots on our side-by-side comparison chart:
Wondershare Video Converter – This program produces a conversion that is nearly indistinguishable from the original disc. But it also takes the longest time of any other product we reviewed to perform a conversion. It has a large, but not the largest, library of preprogrammed profiles for devices, formats and media players. It also has all the customization and help options we look for in the best DVD converter software.
Any Video Converter – This DVD converter runs faster than Wondershare but yields a lower quality video file. You do have the ability to adjust the quality up, but that will mean that your conversion will take longer and your file sizes will be bigger. It has a wide selection of conversion profiles to choose from and is the easiest program to use in our lineup.
Aimersoft DVD Ripper – This is another program that creates an excellent MP4 file from your DVDs. The quality isn’t perfect, but the flaws in the converted audio and video are small and won’t distract you from the viewing experience. It takes less than an hour to complete a conversion, and it has one of the most comprehensive conversion profile libraries of all the applications in our lineup.
There are a lot of good DVD to MP4 converter choices on our side-by-side comparison chart. The best programs strike the balance between quick conversion times and high-quality results. They also offer a large selection of conversion profiles so you can tailor a conversion specifically for the devices you want to watch your favorite movies on. For additional information, read through our articles on DVD to MP4 converters.