Even though CeBIT was just a short while ago, Cyberlink dropped into the bit-tech offices for a chat and demonstration of its new products. Cyberlink is one of the few Taiwanese software developers that can actually make intuitive, good looking software that works as intended and with the promise of even more features and a new 3D engine powering some of its ‘wares, we couldn’t help but find out more.
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First off, PowerDVD is something that many of us have been using for years, and it’s certainly gone from strength to strength. Even though there are free alternatives on the market such as VLC, PowerDVD offers oodles more features and is one of the few programs that will use the video acceleration on a graphics card.
The latest iteration set to be launched next month is PowerDVD 8, which comes in three flavours – the Deluxe version that retails for $99 and includes Blu-ray and DVD support or the standard version that retails for $50-60 but omits the Blu-ray option. There's also an Ultra version available at a later date with full bitrate HD audio support, DTS 5.1 (why is this Ultra only?) and it's also the only version with HD DVD support.
These will replace the current DVD 7(.3) Ultra which retails for the same price as the Dexlue, although if you want HD DVD support you’ll be limited to using this older version or the all encompassing and expensive PowerDVD 8 Ultra, because the Deluxe model is Blu-ray only.
Cyberlink has completely revamped the interface – no longer does it feature the large window and HiFi-esq interface at the bottom, now it looks more like a blend between parts of Windows Media Centre and an ordinary PC program, with a liberal helping of Mac aesthetics thrown on top. It’s good and even pretty intuitive, but the surface changes are only the start of what PowerDVD 8 offers – we’ll get back to that later.
Apart from being one of the few programs that will use the graphics card to accelerate video, it will also upscale DVD playback to HD resolutions and support the codec flexibility of the PC system. It supports the interactive standards: HDi, BD-J and BD 1.1 – this is a key feature given the mouse option rather than remote only. Having used PowerDVD Ultra for several months testing HTPC motherboards, we’ve found Cyberlink regularly updates its software to support new features – these updates are free and the good thing is that the software prompts you when there’s a new one available.
PowerDVD 8 now also supports dual subtitles – a highly requested feature, we were told, for predominantly where people used (Hollywood) movies to help teach them English and other foreign languages. Personally we’d be wary about the exact translation, but if you can learn and be entertained – why not?
For those familiar with PowerDVD of old, you'll know of the "resume from last scene" function: it's a sort of pause, but even when you close the program. The problem was you could rarely remember where you paused from and, as a result, this has been updated in PowerDVD 8 to include a screenshot of where you last stopped the disc, to help you remember.