Unsure of what disk read speed one should look for. $50 gets a 4X BD-ROM drive, but I guess (reading reviews on Newegg) that this can result in stuttering? For $10 more, you get 10X speed, and $20 gets 12X (but only a 2MB cache, as opposed to the $60 models' 4MB cache -- is this important?) Then, the $70-$100 range seems to be all 8X drives... it's confusing, to say the least.
Additionally, am I correct in understanding that you also need to buy special software to play BD-ROM movies? And how much does that software set one back?
(1) You only need one drive, you can get a Blu-ray Player/DVD-RW drive. It will play the Blu-ray disk, and DVDs and write to DVD-/+R, DVD -/+RWs and CDs.
(2) Pay more attention to quality than read speed for the Blu-ray. The read speed will only be an issue if you are ripping the video off of the disk. I shy away from Liteon - Like LG, pioneer. Read newegg reviews (But take with a grain of salt). Also do a googe search to see if any independent reviews exist.
(3) Yes you need to BUY blue-ray software player - No free-bees UNLESS the drive comes with the software, retail box normally does, OEM versions are a Hit/Miss. Both of my Blu-ray drives came with cyberlink's software.
(4) make sure that the Drive is in DMA mode and not PIO mode!!!
I replaced both my laptop DVD-RW drives with a sony Blu-ray reader/DVD-RW drive. works fine. Have Two Blu-ray writers in desktop.