Review: CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra

February 3, 2012 – 13:42 by in Featured, Reviews Print Share 6 Comments
Overview
Manufacturer: CyberLink
Price (RRP): $99.95
Best Price: $89.95
Platforms: Windows 7, Vista or XP, all 32 and 64-bit editions
Requirements: DVD drive for playing DVDs and CDs, Blu-ray Disc drive for playing Blu-ray discs, 2GB RAM+ for Blu-ray disc playback, 300MB free hard drive space, HDCP-compliant display for Blu-ray playback, 3D display or glasses for 3D playback, Intel G45, AMD Radeon HD 2400, NVIDIA Geforce 8800GT or above for 3D playback, Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ or above for Blu-ray disc playback
Softwarecrew Rating:
 
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PowerDVD has always been one of the most popular commercial DVD and Blu-ray players, but these days that’s just the start of its abilities.

CyberLink are now trying to position the program as more of a universal media player, a one-stop shop for all your media playback needs – and PowerDVD 12 Ultra takes that a notable step forward.

Launch the program and what you’ll encounter first of all is PowerDVD’s media library, for instance, which now makes it easy to organise and navigate your videos, music, and digital photos: you can rate content, add a description to your file’s metadata, run keyword searches, create playlists, and even share your files on YouTube, Facebook or Flickr. Nothing hugely ambitious, but all very straightforward and easy to use.

Keyword searches make it easy to drill down through your media library

There are some neat navigation shortcuts, too. So if you hover a mouse over a folder of photos or videos, for example, then a scroll bar will appear, and dragging this will quickly display thumbnails of everything in that folder without you having to open it first.

And CyberLink have significantly expanded their file format support. The program can handle around 50 video types, for instance, including tricky examples like 3G2, 3GP, FLV, and MK3D. It’s now able to read RAW images, too. And the program’s audio repertoire is notably extended by new support for OGG and FLAC files, making it a much more capable music player.

For all this, we’re still not sure that we’d use PowerDVD as our only media player, just because it’s so big. Double-click an MP4 file and the program took more than 8 seconds to load and start playing it on our test PC; VLC Media Player was launched and running in around a third of that time.

Still, if you have PowerDVD open already then it’s now far more capable than previous editions at browsing, organising and viewing your media files, and that’s all very welcome news to us.

TrueTheater

PowerDVD 12′s core movie-playing functionality sees only a few incremental changes, this time around.

PowerDVD can handle both regular and 3D Blu-ray discs

The program gains support for DTS-HD 7.1 sound, for instance – at least, in the Pro and Ultra editions (PowerDVD 12 Standard users must get by with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1).

CyberLink’s TrueTheater 3D can now convert all your media types, including regular Blu-ray discs, to 3D. As with previous editions, the results generally aren’t that great, but can make for an entertaining watch, particularly with material of more personal interest (old home movies of your own, say). And TrueTheater’s other features are well worth having, delivering quality upscaling, noise removal, enhanced contrast, and stabilisation of shaky videos at a click.

Elsewhere, PowerDVD’s “Instant Seek” feature, which supposedly allows you to quickly browse and find specific scenes within a movie, now works on Blu-ray discs. Which is good news if you like the feature, although we’re yet to really notice any benefits from it at all.

And a new Zoom button on the toolbar makes it easy to zoom in on any video, DVD or Blu-ray by up to 400%. A thumbnail view of the screen shows the area of the frame you’re actually looking at, and you can drag this around to move the focus wherever you like. We’re not entirely sure how often you’ll need this feature, but if you ever do then it’s certainly convenient and easy to use.

Mobile devices

PowerDVD 12 Ultra sees its mobile device support expanded, in theory at least, with new DLNA functionality. So as well as acting as a media server and player, the program can now function as a Digital Media Controller (DMC) and Digital Media Renderer (DMR), which essentially means you can push content to and receive content from other DMC and DMR devices.

You should be able to browse your library from any convenient iOS or Android device

To try this out, we installed the PowerDVD Mobile for Ultra app on a Motorola Xoom tablet. This provided an easy way to browse the music, photos and videos stored on our device, and a click on the Home Media tab also displayed our main PowerDVD Ultra installation. Once we’d explicitly reconfigured this to allow access from Home Media clients (which is turned off by default), we were then able to browse our library remotely.

Well, sort-of.

What we noticed immediately is that our tablet was displaying only a small subset of the pictures and music available on the PC (5 albums vs the actual 31, for instance). And that seemed to be due to the way the library was organised. By default we were set to view “All” media, which you might think would be enough, but actually only by choosing to view individual folders instead could we browse to whatever we wanted. Playback from that point was fine, but finding our content initially was an unexpected hassle.

Of course, in theory we could also push content to our tablet by simply right-clicking it in the library, selecting “Play to” and choosing our device. But in reality that proved even more difficult. PowerDVD would hang at the “Connecting” stage forever, or say it was playing media while nothing whatsoever was happening at the other end. Maybe these were problems specific to our device, network or library, but even so there was a definite lack of useful information to help us resolve the situation.

We had better luck with PowerDVD’s new Sync feature, fortunately, which in a click or two can be set it to sync your music, photos and videos with your mobile device. This only works with Android devices when they’re connected by USB, but otherwise it’s a handy extra feature and a welcome addition to the package overall.

Social media

As with previous editions, PowerDVD’s social media features mean you can view Facebook and Flickr content, add comments, and upload files from your library to YouTube, Facebook and Flickr in a couple of clicks.

PowerDVD 12 has much-improved YouYube browsing support

YouTube support is enhanced this time by the ability to browse the site’s Featured and Most Viewed videos, though, as well as access your own videos, your favourites, subscriptions and playlists, and you can now search YouTube for new videos, too. It’s useful, though not without problems: we miss seeing the source channel in your search results, for instance, and you can’t view or add to any comments on a clip, either.

If you can’t even find something on YouTube to keep you amused, though, CyberLink presumably hope you might go browsing the 17 million DRM-free MP3 tracks available from PowerDVD’s new, integrated 7digital music store. You can browse the latest releases and search the archives for your favourites, and buy in a click or two, just as you’d expect. And your purchases can be stored in the cloud for easy access from up to 5 devices, which could be useful if you’ve also installed the PowerDVD apps everywhere.

Put it all together and PowerDVD 12 Ultra offers excellent local playback across the board, with the program’s media library and extra file format support meaning it can handle just about any PC playback needs.

DLNA and media streaming support wasn’t nearly so successful, at least for us. You may have better luck with your network and devices, but if you’re interested in this area then make sure you run some very thorough tests before you buy.

There are plenty of other plus points about the new release, though, from DTS-HD support to Android Sync and the expanded YouTube support, amongst others. And so, on balance, PowerDVD 12 Ultra retains its place as the best Blu-ray/ universal media player around, and whether you’re new to the program or already a fan, there’s more than enough here to justify you taking the trial version for a spin.

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Verdict:
PowerDVD 12 Ultra is a great Blu-ray and DVD player, with excellent 3D support, and much-improved audio, video and picture playback, too. Network streaming didn't work as well for us, and the program is undoubtedly a little pricey, but it's still the best Blu-ray player around.
We Like:
Top-quality Blu-ray playback, wide 3D support, handles just about any video/ audio/ image format, TrueTheater enhances image and audio quality, media library helps to organise your content, improved social media support
We Don't Like:
High price, media streaming didn't work for us, can't view or add to YouTube comments from within the program, lengthy startup times not ideal for a media player
Softwarecrew Rating:
 

6 Comments »

  • Andrea says:

    The app is expensive and that was already covered in the review. It’s way too expensive, but what’s even more disgusting is Cyberlink’s upgrade policy. I can understand discounts being higher for more recent versions, but as a v.9 owner I have no discount to get to 12, not even 1%. That’s an insult, they won’t get a single dollar from me again.

  • Chris Wiles says:

    We’ll ask CyberLink about this on Monday.

  • Richard says:

    We bought Cyberlink DVD 12 to update our system which could play DVD and BluRay but when we bought Senna our old Cyberlink package wouldn’t work.

    Spent a hundred pounds and upgraded.

    The result is that apparently unless we throw away our 3 year old 42ins Panasonic Plasma TV and buy a new BluRay compliant set we can’t watch not only the new BluRay discs but any of the old ones we used to. Apparently it’s to stop us pirating our own films, I suspect the professional pirates won’t be bothered about investing in a new TV.

    Having spoken with my companies IT dept they recommend abandoning Cyberlink and buying a playstation – technology that plugs, plays and actually works!

    In the UK it is a requirement that goods are fit for purpose and do what they say they will do, in my view Cyberlink’s are not fit for sale to the general public. Presumably when Cyberlink bring out a car we’ll be fine as long we’re prepared to buy a periscope (not included) to see out of the windscreen to stop us seeing our street in case someone has copyrighted the view!

    The children are calling for me to read them the Cat in the Hat. My system being incompatible is unlikely to be a problem…..enough said!

    Richard

  • Fritz says:

    I just downloaded the Cyberlink Power DVD 12 trial version and am already having problems with it when trying to play a Blu ray movie.

    I loaded the recent Star Trek movie in my blu ray drive and launched the program. I was not able to find feature that found the blu ray drive, only the folders on the blu ray disc, so I could not play the movie.

    Second, I went back to my blu ray drive and selected the Cyberlink Power DVD 12 trial version program to open / play the blu ray disc and program opened, but could no play the movie.

    Third, the following message came up “Blu-ray playback in the trial version is limited to PCs with hardware acceleration. Please upgrade to PowerDVD 12 Ultra to enjoy this feature.” When I clicked on the Upgrade Now button it takes you to the Cyberlink website to buy the full version of the PowerDVD 12 Ultra program.

    I had been using the WinDVD Pro 11 program and never had a problem playing this blu ray disc, and that program was very simple and easy to use.

    It seems the trail version of the program is not the PowerDVD 12 Ultra as was shown on the Cyberlink website. And it appears you must buy the full version of their PowerDVD 12 Ultra program to play blu ray movies.

    Given this approach to selling their products and the high price, maybe this is not the best program out there just to play blu ray movies on a computer.

  • Chris Wiles says:

    In the trial version, Blu-ray playback is limited as CyberLink are not allowed to ship the software codec for free. If you look at the trial limitations, one of these says “Blu-ray playback in the trial version is limited to PCs with hardware acceleration….does not support the playback of CPRM protected content.”

    Basically the trial version will not allow you to view protected Blu-ray commercial movies, which is understandable.

  • Chris Wiles says:

    Hi Richard,

    The “fit for purpose” only applies to physical products, not software! What works fine on one machine may not work at all on another. There are reasons for that – it can depend on the other software you have installed, your system hardware and many other dynamic reasons.

    As for software not playing the latest Blu-ray movies. I’m afraid that’s a Blu-ray issue. They keep amending the specs and the copy protection. I have exactly the same problem with my hardware Blu-ray player. Wouldn’t play some recent movies, such as Inglourious Basterds. The movie would skip frames. Some wouldn’t play at all. The only way around that was to get a drive firmware upgrade.

    It’s really easy simply to blame the player. Users simply do not understand how hard it is keeping up with the ever-changing standards and copy protection techniques.

    As for the Playstation. It’s far from “plug and play”. I’ve not heard anything so silly. In fact, the PS3 installs updates just about every other time you turn on the damned machine. And it does that for a reason! It has to keep supporting ever-changing standards. I stopped using my PS3 for that reason. It became annoying.