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CyberLink unifies HD and BD playback

First INQpressions CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra
Wed Jan 03 2007, 10:54

Product: CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra
System Requirements: Computer equipped with DVD, HD-DVD or BD drive
Price: $100

WHEN NEW, DRM-burdened standards appeared on the market, at first there were no players able to reproduce the content on the rare PCs equipped with either HD-DVD or Blu-ray optical drives. InterVideo and CyberLink both came with beta versions of their respective playback applications, but now CyberLink is offering an all-in one solution.

One for All, All for One

New version, new UI... everything is integrated onto the main app window

PowerDVD Ultra is actually based on PowerDVD 7.2, and it supports H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-2 HD, VC-1, MPEG-4 and of course, first HD standard out there, Microsoft's WMV-HD. I have couple of documentaries filmed in this format including an IMAX series of DVD's, most notably Coral Reef Adventure and Magic of Flight, and watching them always relaxes these journo eyes. Too bad that the standard didn't get picked up, since the picture quality is equal to that of HD-DVD and easily beats Blu-ray one which is grainy.

During installation, PowerDVD will recognize what kind of optical device you have and adjust the background and the logos accordingly to the detected device. For instance, on a computer equipped only with DVD drive or a Blu-ray drive, it will display "BD Edition". If you have HD-DVD drive, it will display "HD-DVD Edition".

Right now, this version does not support running HD-DVD and BD movies at the same time, but an upcoming patch will enable you to have simultaneous HD and BD playback, so in early February you will be able to run both HD-DVD and BD movies on two monitors on the same computer [although why you want to is beyond me - Ed]. Of course, only if you have dual-DVI card with HDCP and two corresponding monitors. It will make for an interesting image quality comparison, that's for sure.

One of the pretty cool features is also "Next Angle", which enables you to skip those boring anti-piracy "I would not steal a DVD, but you treat me as though I would" and other ads with a single touch of the keyboard.

No screenshots if running BD...unlike HD-DVD or WMV-HD

Sadly, the screenshot function is unavailable when watching Blu-ray movies because Sony thinks that someone will steal the screenshot from already bought media, of course. This sadly, has nothing to do with guys'n'gals from CyberLink, who have to adhere to recently cracked AACS DRM-malware.

Testing, testing...
I've tested the software using following configurations:
INQtest #1 - Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700, Asetek VapoChill Micro, Intel D975XBXLKR "BadAxe 2" motherboard, 2GB GeIL PC-8500/9600 MultiSpec, MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB, 250GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.8, Sony BWU-100A, OCZ 850W PSU
INQtest#3 - 2x AMD Opteron 280, Tyan Thunder K8WE (SNAP 8131+nForce Pro chipset), 4GB Corsair Reg. ECC DDR400, Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX 256MB, 400GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10, Plextor PX-760A, all powered by Tagan EasyCon 580W
Theobook - Samsung Q30Plus, Intel Pentium ULV 1.20 GHz, 512MB PC2-5300, Intel Extreme (slow) Graphics inside 915 chipset; 12.1" screen and external DVD-RAM drive
We ran playbacks of Superman Returns: Blu-ray and HD-DVD Combo Edition, sadly only the DVD part, Terminator 2: Rise of The Machines in Blu-ray, DVD and WMV-HD variants and Magic of Flight in DVD and WMV-HD version. We checked to see any picture quality issues and haven't detected a single one; sound cracking, also with no problems, and CPU/RAM utilization.

From what I can witness on all three test configurations the memory footprint of PowerDVD Ultra remained pretty low and does not exceed 200MB of system memory even after running a BD movie for over two hours, and even owners of systems with 512MB of RAM could expect BD/HD playback. Of course, if they have quad-core or enough GPU horsepower to pull that one off. Running regular DVDs and DivX movies does not break into the 100MB barrier. For support of DivX, Xvid and other formats, we recommend that you download K-Lite Codec Pack.

If you do not have a card that is able to do PureVideo/Avivo in 1080p resolution, and those are only the highest end parts, your CPU will have to handle the load of 2.07 Mpixels being verified and DRMized prior to publication on the monitor.

In Short
CyberLink did a pretty good job in delivering a dual solution onto the market. We did not experience any stability issues and playback was flawless regardless of the type of media used and thus, we give our recommendation with a certain proviso on the high price, which stems from the royalties for both HD-DVD and BD.

The Good
(Currently) Only unified solution on the market
Small memory footprint
Good hardware support ATIAMD AVIVO, Nvidia PureVideo
Excellent Sound Quality Dolby Digital Plus, True HD, DTS...
MultiChannel MP3 sounds awesome

The Bad
Price equals more than two copies of PowerDVD7
Direct competitor supports more standard formats like DivX Pro, 3GPP and QuickTime from the box
Skin list does not work, nor there is a status indicator showing anything is happening

The Ugly
CyberLink should have went on and delivered simultaneous HD/BD version at launch, or have an exact marking what can and what cannot be done with the app right now.

Bartender's Report
Four of out Five Pints ?


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