I own J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot. The DVD's bought and paid for. Needless to say, I'm not about to give Apple another $14.99 so I can watch the movie on my iPhone or iPod Touch. That's as ludicrous as buying the MP3s of an album I already purchased on CD.
Alas, though it's easy to turn a CD into iPod-friendly digital media--iTunes can do it, as can Windows Media Player--ripping a DVD requires a bit more muscle. That's why I tested the latest versions of two popular products: WinX DVD Ripper Platinum ($29.95) and Wondershare DVD Ripper Platinum ($39.95). (Apparently platinum is the, um, gold standard when it comes to ripping utilities.)
Basically, I wanted to see how well the two tools handled a new release like "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and an older one like "Back to the Future." Again, these are movies I own; I believe creating a digital copy constitutes fair use, same as ripping a CD does.
For these fairly informal tests, I opted for medium-quality MPEG-4 conversion using preselected "iPhone" profiles. Also, my system has a quad-core AMD processor with 6GB of RAM, so performance results will undoubtedly vary unless you have similar hardware.
From a feature standpoint, the two programs are pretty similar. Both give you an abundance of conversion options, meaning you can rip your DVDs for viewing on devices other than just the iPhone and iPod (everything from Apple TV to Zune).
I'm happy to report that both programs ripped all my sample DVDs with ease. Wondershare occasionally produced an error while opening a disc, but it never interfered with ripping the actual movie.
Wondershare definitely has the snazzier, easier-to-use interface, but one point in WinX's favor is that it automatically reads the currently inserted DVD. With Wondershare, you have to point it to your DVD drive. On the other hand, WinX doesn't let you preview the selected track so you can verify what you're about to rip.
Even so, WinX wins the day for two key reasons: it costs $10 less than Wondershare, and it's much, much faster. It blazed through "Cloudy" in just over 15 minutes, an amazing time. Wondershare took nearly twice as long (about 27 minutes) to complete the same job. Likewise, WinX finished "Back to the Future" in just 22 minutes, while Wondershare spent 48 minutes on it.
I'm sure some readers will point to free solutions like Handbrake, but that app (which I like and use regularly) doesn't rip protected DVDs unless you pair it with increasingly outdated third-party tools.
Ultimately, if you want a fast, effective, and fairly user-friendly DVD-ripping solution, WinX DVD Ripper Platinum is the way to go--with Wondershare's eponymous product running it a close second.