Review: CyberLink PowerDVD 10 Ultra Mark II
|Best Price:||£75.99 (with free YouCam 3!)|
|Platforms:||Windows XP/ Vista (32/ 64-bit)/ 7 (32/ 64-bit)|
Every DVD and Blu-ray disc comes with its own bundled movie player, so at first glance you might not see why you’d want to buy another one in the shape of CyberLink PowerDVD 10 Ultra Mark II. Take a closer look, though, and you may well change your mind, because it’s a very impressive package.
The program handles Blu-ray very well, for instance, with support for BD-Live, HDMI Audio and just about every Dolby standard there is (Digital Plus, Digital EX, TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1, Logic IIx and more). Excellent DVD upscaling ensures your older movies will look great, too. And a range of TrueTheater processing options work to improve picture quality wherever it can.
Just as in PowerDVD 9, there are options to increase your frame rate (from 24 fps up to 60 fps), and dynamically tweak the brightness, contrast and colour to produce better results. And new to this version are TrueTheater Noise Reduction, an effective filter for removing video noise in your home movies, and TrueTheater Stabilizer, which compensates for shaky camera work. We found these all produced generally good results; just occasionally, with tricky source material, colours would appear a little washed out or overexposed, but if you do have problems then it’s easy to turn these optimisations off.
And if you’re a fan of Windows Media Center, don’t worry, you won’t necessarily have to choose between them. PowerDVD 10 Ultra integrates with Media Center, so you can use its powerful technologies to improve disc playback while keeping the MCE interface, arguably offering you the best of both worlds.
2D to 3D
The feature is controlled through a new 3D button on the toolbar. Click this, choose your 3D display (NVIDIA 3D Vision, row-interleaved or 3D Ready HDTV), then drag a slider to set your required “3D scene depth”. The 3D effect adjusts dynamically, so it’s easy to choose the best setting, then just click OK, sit back and enjoy.
Well, mostly. The results can look a little layered and artificial, hardly surprising considering the difficulty of what TrueTheater 3D is trying to do, and if you’re watching something like “An Education” then you’ll probably find they get in the way.
If you just want to spend a fun hour or two with some friends, watching an explosion of effects like “2012”, though, the added depth can add plenty of extra entertainment. And it’s practical to use, too, even on lesser PCs. We tried it out on a system with a basic 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo E4500. Typical CPU usage during full-screen DVD playback was around 30%; enabling the most resource-hungry 3D Ready HDTV mode pushed this up to about 40%, but playback otherwise continued as normal, with no stuttering or interruptions.
3D Blu-ray support
For the best 3D experience, though, you’ll want to make good use of PowerDVD 10 Ultra Mark II‘s Blu-ray support. The program’s support for a range of different acceleration technologies (AMD Quad-Buffer, MVC software decoding, IGP accelerated decode, and more) helps ensure smooth playback. And it will apply other tricks, where necessary, for example turning off Windows Aero to optimise performance (though you can tell PowerDVD not to do this, if it proves inconvenient).
New in the PowerDVD 10 Ultra Mark II edition, released July 2010, is the ability to handle the new Blu-ray 3D standard (Profile 5.0). PowerDVD was in fact the first Blu-ray 3D player to be certified for this by the Blu-ray disc association, so you can be sure that it’s able to handle every aspect of your discs, from the full high definition video and audio, to the 3D menus, subtitles, and BD-J (Blu-ray Java) interactivity.
Of course you will need a compatible HDCP-compliant 3D display, and 3D glasses. Right now 3D Ready HDTV, Micro-polarizer LCD or Anaglyph Red/Cyan glasses are supported. PowerDVD 10 Ultra will work with NVIDIA 3D Vision, too, but only on Windows 7, unfortunately – it’s not supported on XP or Vista.
Aside from the 3D kit, though, PowerDVD 10 Ultra is relatively undemanding, and should work well on even basic hardware. A Core 2 Duo E6750 (2.66GHz) or AMD Phenom 9450 (2.10GHz) ought to provide sufficient processing power, and as long as your graphics card is an Intel G45, ATI Radeon HD2400, NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT or above, then you should see the high quality playback you expect. (Still not sure? Check here for the official system requirements.)
PowerDVD 10 Ultra isn’t just for playing DVDs and Blu-ray discs, of course. The program has always been able to play some video files, and can handle all the main HD formats: AVCHD, AVCREC, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), MPEG-2 HD and WMV-HD. This version extends the list with support for viewing DivX, MKV (H.264), FLV (H.264) and mobile phone video formats, though (3gp, 3g2). It’s possible to play RM/RMVB files if RealPlayer is installed, and there’s now support for playing back subtitle files in all the main formats (SMI, ASS, SSA, PSB, SRT and SUB).
Useful? You bet, and that’s just the start. PowerDVD 10 Ultra sees the program gain many other useful features to enhance its media player credentials.
If you’ve come across a point in a video that you’d like to save, for instance, then you can now create a bookmark with a text description. Double-click this later to load and replay the video from that point.
A social networking element lets you add bookmarks or comments to a DVD, then share them immediately on Facebook, Twitter and MoovieLive.
If you’ve found a clip that’s so good you’d like to share it with the world, then PowerDVD 10 Ultra can upload it to YouTube in a couple of clicks.
And this Mark II release adds the ability to convert any video into 3D: just click the 3D button and add new depth to your movies. (Though as before, you’ll need a 3D display and glasses to benefit from the results.)
CyberLink are clearly positioning PowerDVD 10 Ultra as at least having the capabilities of a more general media player, then, and that’s fine with us. The program is never going to compete on performance terms with lightweight media players like VLC, but then it’s doing a lot more, and these latest features include many useful additions that will simplify and enhance your media-playing life.