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Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 Ultra review

Our Rating :
£58.91 from
Price when reviewed : £80
inc VAT

Network and handheld playback impress, but high price still limits it to PC-based Blu-ray enthusiasts

PowerDVD has come a long way since its origins, when you needed such software to play DVDs on a Windows PC. These days it’s Blu-ray playback that doesn’t come as standard, and so PowerBlu-ray may be a better, if somewhat clunky title.

Even that moniker wouldn’t describe what you get from PowerDVD today. The simple disc-spinning software has grown into a media playback suite with wide support for video, photo and music files. This latest version has extensive file format support, including popular container formats such a MKV, and had no problem playing any file we threw at it.

The two big new features for Blu-ray playback are support for DTS-HD 7.1 soundtracks and the ability to apply 3D upscaling to Blu-ray discs. We’ve seen the latter applied to DVDs and other video files before, and can’t say we’ve been terribly impressed. Sometimes it works quite well, but it’s inconsistent and this makes it very tiring to watch as your eyes struggle to make sense of what is often nonsensical. If you like to watch pick-and-mix favourite scenes from movies, something that PowerDVD encourages with its bookmarking and sharing features, then there’s fun to be had here – but we doubt many will get through a whole movie using it.

Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 Ultra

The Technology Operations Centre that will control all the technology during the games

Truetheatre make its return too, providing easy to use image processing tools – at least compared to more enthusiast decoding and post-processing software such as ffdshow. There’s an automatic mode that sharpens things up a little and reduces the appearance of more obvious compression artefacts. You can also tweak the settings to your own preferences, though again not to the same degree as the level of control in ffdshow. We found the default results to be pleasingly sharper and brighter in the main, though you’ll barely notice it on high-quality content such as Blu-rays.

Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 Ultra

We could try and justify this by talking about Trutheatre image processing, or the pseudo 3D mode – but it’s really here simply because we love Indy

The interface is straightforward enough, with locations for your content listed on the left and a big browsing and playback pane in the centre. It will pull in content from local storage, attached devices, UPnP and DLNA servers, and popular online site such as Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. You can quickly browse through media files from all these sources, download files en masse from online. It’s not as powerful as a dedicated music or photo app, so there’s no way to sort albums by year of release, or to tag faces in photos, for example.

It’s a small point, but we were surprised to find that the PowerDVD window didn’t respond to all the usual Windows 7 shortcuts for moving and maxiximsing the window – such as drag to top of screen, or Windows key and cursors to snap to screen edges. It also insisted on opening by default on the BD/DVD movie page, which is full of links to movie trailers and info, or ‘Featured Celebs’. We’d much rather it defaulted to the last open folder than popped up a page of promotional content to movies we don’t own.

Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 Ultra

Mainstream movie buffs may like it, but we’d rather not be presented with a load of promotional content upon opening the program

Where it shines is in dealing with video and mobile devices. You can sync any non-DRM protected file to a connected device – such as an Android phone or tablet. PowerDVD does all the hard work, recognising your device, from a database of thousands, and picking a resolution and codecs that will work best with it. In our case we took some Blu-ray quality content and it squeezed it down to 720×480 (which fitted nicely on the native 854×480 display) at 2Mbit/s using AVC video compression. The results were pretty impressive for single pass encoding, and we were more than pleased with the whole process.

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Price £80
Rating ****

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