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CyberLink PowerDVD 10 review

Seth Barton
21 Apr 2010
CyberLink PowerDVD 10
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
61
inc VAT

With key new features focusing on 3D display support, this latest version of PowerDVD is only for those who need 3D

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The explosive popularity for 3D movies has been hard to ignore. The box office success of Avatar proved to be irresistible to Hollywood as a whole, and a raft of other 3D features have quickly followed. All this hasn't been lost on CyberLink, with 3D playback being key to this latest version of PowerDVD.

However, getting 3D-compatible displays into homes has been slow going. Here at Expert Reviews, we're still waiting for review samples from the deluge of 3D TVs announced in January at CES. Although there are plenty of 3D-compatible displays out there now, these are mainly monitors and projectors which also require Nvidia's 3D Vision Kit (costing £117 inc VAT).

Even if you have a 3D display, then there's precious little 3D content to watch. Avatar has just been released on Blu-ray, but only in 2D, and at present there's no 3D version scheduled for this year. Whenever 3D movies start shipping, CyberLink guarantees that PowerDVD 10 will play them; with full support for all the various display technologies and methods.

Thankfully then, Cyberlink has come up with a clever technology to keep the owners of 3D displays happy in the meantime. Its TrueTheater 3D technology is best described as 3D upscaling, taking 2D video content and turning it into 3D. Disappointingly, it only works with DVDs at present, and not with Blu-ray movies or other video files.

Once activated, TrueTheater 3D analyses the DVD video and automatically makes choices about what should be in the foreground and the background. It does this using a number of methods, such as looking for areas of the screen (objects) that are moving in front of other areas.

The results vary wildly depending on the source matter. Animated movies work the best, thanks to the clearly defined edges to objects. Where there are geometrical shapes it's also effective, but it can't cope with confused scenes or those with subtly differentiated depth (like a tracking shot through a jungle or a pan across a wide open prairie). There's a slider, so you can tweak how powerful the 3D effect is, but you'll still find that while some scenes look good, others just confuse your eyes.

There are other new features, aimed at those who aren't on the 3D bandwagon yet. A new tabbed interface lets you switch between movie, audio and video playback quickly and easily. It includes support for many common video formats (such as MKV and DivX), but all this can be done by free alternatives. One bonus is TrueTheater Surround, which like Dolby's Virtual Speaker technology, turns stereo audio into surround sound to impressive effect.

It's well designed, but the new interface is for desktop use only, and the Cinema mode for living room use is still limited to disc playback. Speaking of Media Center, a PowerDVD 10 icon appears in its menu, but this simply launches the programme over the top of Media Center, with an identical colour scheme to help it blend in. This approach reduces Media Center's flexibility, for example, you can't quickly flick to the EPG to check on your TV recordings while your movie plays in a window. DVD playback is outstanding though, with great post-processing and upscaling tools that don't require any technical know-how to use.

If you're looking for Blu-ray playback software, then PowerDVD is still a great choice – though we're increasingly amazed at the price of such software given you can buy an actual Blu-ray player for as little as £100 now. A DVD-only version (CyberLink PowerDVD 10 Standard) is available for £32, but it's still a pretty steep price for sharper DVD playback. If you're looking to buy a Blu-ray drive for your PC, then save yourself a lot of money and look for one with an older version of PowerDVD bundled as OEM software. This release may make early adopters of expensive 3D displays feel better about their purchases, but everyone else should avoid it.

Details

Price£61
Detailswww.cyberlink.com
Rating***

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