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Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre 3 Platinum review

David Ludlow
13 Aug 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
55
(around £55)

A simple, efficient player for Media Center and the only one with HD DVD support; if you want the best desktop player, though, PowerDVD 9 is better.

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While CyberLink decided to stuff its PowerDVD 9 disc playback software with extra tools, such as TrueTheater for upscaling DVDs to HD resolutions and MoovieLive to provide information on the film you're watching, Arcsoft has stuck to the basics for TotalMedia Theatre 3 (TMT3).

You may think this means it's not worth bothering with, but the key point is that Arcsoft has focused on making the movie-watching experience more polished than with PowerDVD 9, particularly in Media Center.

The Media Center version of the application integrates neatly into Microsoft's software. It launches automatically to play Blu-ray or HD DVD discs (this is the only player that still supports the defunct format), and gives you the choice of using TMT3 or Media Center for DVDs. This is all very similar to PowerDVD, but the key difference is that with TMT3 you won't have to reach for a keyboard or mouse to access certain options. If you want to find out how much of a movie you have left to watch, you simply press the 'i' button and select information. In PowerDVD 9, you'd have to move the mouse to bring up the onscreen display.

We also found that TMT3 didn't display any error messages; with PowerDVD 9, we were presented with an 'Unsupported Format' error message when trying to play DVDs with a DTS soundtrack. We also found TMT3 more stable, as it didn't crash our test system once.

Picture quality when playing Blu-ray discs is just as good with TMT3 as with PowerDVD 9. The bigger question is about DVD quality. CyberLink introduced TrueTheater with PowerDVD 9, which can upscale DVDs to HD formats and generate extra frames of video to create smoother motion, in a similar way to expensive televisions.

TMT3 comes without any such extras by default. However, a plug-in called SimHD is available for $20 (around £12) separately or for an extra $10 (around £6) if bought with TMT3. This uses Nvidia's CUDA technology to upscale DVDs. The results are similar to TrueTheater's, which is to say that the picture looks sharper, but with more artefacts. We actually prefer the slightly smoother picture created by the graphics card's native scaling.

The problem with SimHD is that you need a CUDA-compatible Nvidia graphics card. The 9600GT is the only low-profile model we can find for a media centre PC, and it costs around £80. ATI and software support is being developed, though. The other problem is that it doesn't currently work in the Media Center version of TMT3, whereas TrueTheater works in both the desktop and Media Center versions of PowerDVD 9.

There's not much to say about TMT3 as a standalone Windows application. It does exactly the same job as the Media Center version, but the interface is designed to be used with a mouse rather than a remote control.

How good TMT3 is depends on what you want to use it for. Despite its lack of built-in upscaling, we found it a better choice for Media Center PCs, as it's support for remote control is superior and its more stable than PowerDVD 9. If you just want a desktop player, PowerDVD 9's wider range of features, plus its upscaling and processing capabilities, make it a better buy.

Details

Price£55
Detailswww.arcsoft.com
Rating****

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