Playing DVD films on a Windows PC is simpler these days, now that Microsoft has finally included DVD playback capability with Vista – only ten years after the launch of the DVD format. Before Vista, PC-using film enthusiasts were consigned to finding their own software solution from a third party. Step forward CyberLink, maker of PowerDVD, one of the most popular DVD playing suites around, and one sporting useful features not found anywhere else.

We’re now entering the high definition age, and with Blu-ray currently set as the best bet for a true hi-def experience at home, CyberLink has introduced PowerDVD 8. Of the three versions available – standard, Deluxe and Ultra – it’s the latter Ultra package that also incorporates support for the latest HD video codecs such as MPEG-4 AVC and AVCHD, and thereby the Blu-ray disc format.

While deeper pocketed users can take advantage of the BD compatibility, CyberLink has also added features that should appeal to a younger audience, such as Movie Remix, which allows a certain amount of mash-ups of clips from commercial films. You can overlay your own captions, graphics, even voiceovers to existing DVD films – with plenty of scope for comic effects. To overcome DVD’s DRM limitations which hinders copying from a disc, the effects are overlayed on the original film, which means the disc must be in the tray whenever you want to play these remixes.

The unique features of PowerDVD extend to playback of DVD-Audio discs, once mooted as a replacement for CD with better quality sound reproduction, plus other specialised formats such as DTS 96/24 and DTS-ES Discrete for multichannel audio systems.

In use, we found a few minor foibles with PowerDVD 8 Ultra, such as unreasonably high sound volume through our laptop speakers, even at the lowest settings, and annoying adverts for CyberLink’s Power2Go product in the configuration panel. But these are outweighed by the facilities on offer, such as its very broad compatability with many DVD-related formats, and neat techie touches like the option to see codec and bitrate info about the playing media. And most importantly, high-definition video from Blu-ray played well on our laptop screen, even if it could not be piped out via DVI to an external screen, due to DRM restrictions on displays that do not carry HDCP certification.

CyberLink PowerDVD 8.0: Specs

  • Windows XP/Vista
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz or AMD 2GHz or faster
  • GPU with DirectX 9.0
  • min 256MB video RAM for BD
  • HDCP-compliant screen required for BD playback
  • Windows XP/Vista
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz or AMD 2GHz or faster
  • GPU with DirectX 9.0
  • min 256MB video RAM for BD
  • HDCP-compliant screen required for BD playback

OUR VERDICT

With the latest iteration of PowerDVD, CyberLink has brought the product right up to date, and is a must-have program for anyone who wants to access just about every DVD video and audio format, and the latest Blu-ray Discs too.

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