CyberLink PowerDVD 12

Jan 31 2012

CyberLink PowerDVD 12When we were at CES, CyberLink was showing a beta version of PowerDVD 12.  There were some advancements in the product versus its predecessor, PowerDVD 11 - most notably automatic refresh rate switching, but the best part was that they gave me a copy to bring back and test on a variety of systems to provide a preview of what PowerDVD 12 has to offer. As much as I would have liked to publish this earlier, they asked that we not until today. This turned out to be a good thing though, because there was time to create a few videos and take a much more thorough look at the product than would have been possible otherwise; just keep in mind that the copy that was tested was not the final revision so some of the issues may not be present in the real release and I was not able to get the APK for their DLNA application for my Kindle Fire so that aspect will only be covered briefly.

2’ User Interface (aka Standalone Mode)

The most striking thing about the new 2’ user interface (UI) is how CyberLink has completed the move away from its traditional focus (disc based playback) to a position as more of an all-purpose media playback application. I did not find their content discovery and tagging to be as advanced or developed as the more established players in this space (like J River), but since the build I have is a beta and they are still new at this I think some slack is still warranted. If the product does not develop further, then it will be a concern. At this point, discs are still a big market so CyberLink has some time to figure that out because most buyers will be purchasing PowerDVD primarily as Blu-ray playback software, and secondarily as a general purpose media player.

The settings dialogs have changed a little, with the biggest difference being what is exposed in the advanced video post processing section. Unfortunately, (at least with the build of PowerDVD 12 that I have) the audio bit streaming preference still does not persist when a media file that does not have bit streamable high bit-rate audio is played (it reverts to PCM output) and must be reset to bit stream HD codecs again. When I met with CyberLink, this “feature” was discussed, and I got the impression that some progress towards changing the behavior was made; hopefully that was not just wishful thinking on my part.

DLNA

While I was not that excited about the 2’ UI, I was very impressed with the functionality provided by the DLNA features. This aspect went untested because my only Android device (a Kindle Fire) cannot use the Android Marketplace and the APK does not seem to be available for side loading. Besides the usual DLNA remote control and streaming playback that everyone else is doing, in the CES demo they also showed the ability to selectively transcode and download for later playback (using hardware accelerated transcoding feature – like QuickSync) all on the phone/tablet device – something that I do now on the PC before traveling.

10’ User Interface (aka Cinema Mode)

With our focus primarily on home theater scenarios, PowerDVD 12’s updated Cinema Mode (what is used from the Windows 7 Media Center UI) is quite interesting. Unfortunately, it still has the “Info” button problem where Media Center handles the button press as well as PowerDVD, so it shows an unwanted dialog (this is demonstrated in the video) but I really like the 3D rendered UI, refresh rate matching option and the ability to browse the PC from the application.

3D Playback

I like well-done 3D so it was pleasant to find that, for the most part, 3D playback works properly. This should not come as a surprise to those familiar with CyberLink’s earlier efforts in this area, as they have generally been quite solid as well. What was surprising to me was how well their 2D to 3D conversion worked with Blu-ray content; producing content quite similar in quality to titles converted in production (e.g. Thor). There are issues of course because of the real time nature of the processing, but it is mostly limited to areas like text overlays and off-angle architectural details (e.g. half open doors); so if 3D is an all-or-nothing feature for you, it works well enough that I think most will be satisfied. Opinions regarding 3D are often polarized (pun intended) and unfortunately PowerDVD embraces this stance, exposing 3D as an on-or-off feature, with no apparent setting to “play 3D in 3D and 2D in 2D”. So either toggle it as necessary or get used to dragging out the glasses every time.

Tested GPU

Issues

Like any beta product there were a few issues, and with that in mind I’m intentionally not going to get bogged down in what are most likely teething issues with the updated version of PowerDVD; instead, I would like to list what are most likely limitations in the product. Hopefully these are all just beta issues as well, but I’m not holding my breath.

  1. BDMV cannot be launched from the command line
  2. Refresh rate matching picks 24Hz instead of 23Hz for 23.976 FPS content
  3. Audio tracks are not listed by language/type in M2TS
  4. Only the first audio track is presented when playing back MKV
  5. PGS subtitles are not presented in MKV or M2TS file playback
  6. Cannot browse the network from the folder playback dialog

Wrapping Up

From what I have seen from CyberLink’s efforts on PowerDVD 12, it is a worthy successor to PowerDVD 11. I am not convinced that it is worth an upgrade from that product if you already paid for it unless 2D Blu-ray conversion is a must-have feature; however, the value is quite clear versus earlier versions (i.e. PowerDVD 8, 9, 10). That said, the DLNA features, support for refresh rate matching (once it works correctly), or proper analog decoding of 7.1 DTS-MA might be enough to tip the scales toward 12 if those use cases are essential in your home theater. Personally, I’m going to wait and see how the DLNA features (especially transcode and store) actually work in practice before making any decisions.

Thanks to CyberLink for providing an early copy of PowerDVD 12.

Comments

So the 6550D cannot bitstream HD audio?  I wanted to get a cpu with the 6550D, but looks like that's out if this is the case.

I know you may not have a way to test this, but I have some of my blurays on my server that I compressed to 720p DVD-9 size using DVDFab so that my son could play them on his PC since it only has 54g wireless.  But what I don't understand is why PowerDVD will not play those ISO's mounted in my virtual drive.  If I just rip it uncompressed as "Main Movie" it will play fine, but not if I use the DVD 9 profile (it still is in a bluray format).  The more puzzling thing is a couple of my movies DO work, but most done like this do not.  Same program used to rip, same settings, etc.  They play fine in both TMT and WinDVD.

The 6550D can bit stream HD audio, the problem is just with the version of PDVD 12 that I have. When I get the final rev I'll test it again, it's probably just one of those beta software issues.

I can't speak to the DVDFab issues, maybe try using Handbrake to create a low quality version.

The 6550D does not support bitstreaming HD audio?

Edit: Sorry for the double post but the site keeps flagging my messages as Spam, and it did not seem like it posted.

htpc_user wrote:

The 6550D does not support bitstreaming HD audio?

Edit: Sorry for the double post but the site keeps flagging my messages as Spam, and it did not seem like it posted.

If that happens, just PM me and I'll unblock it.

 Sorry, but I'm unimpressed by any of the DVD or Blu-ray playing software from any of the companies. A hardware based BLU-RAY player can do an much better job than software player that also uses more power than an hardware based like my new Pioneer Elite BLU-RAY player does. The software players like Cyberlink and Arcsoft TMT5 have an long way to go before being equal to any hardware player.

maize1951 wrote:

 Sorry, but I'm unimpressed by any of the DVD or Blu-ray playing software from any of the companies. A hardware based BLU-RAY player can do an much better job than software player that also uses more power than an hardware based like my new Pioneer Elite BLU-RAY player does. The software players like Cyberlink and Arcsoft TMT5 have an long way to go before being equal to any hardware player.

I find it easier to update Windows software than hardware firmware.  Also, software doesn't really consume power; the whole of the computer determines how much power will be needed.  Build your computer right and you'll barely see an uptick in power consumption when watching a Blu-ray.  Even at the extreme low-end, the software player costs 1/3 of the price of an Elite player.  When the hardware player breaks, it's a paperweight.  Software, generally, doesn't break.  In the end, you didn't actually say what you found lacking in either the Cyberlink or Arcsoft software.

HTPC and the surrounding HW/SW ecosystem isn't for everyone. I'm happy you are satisfied with your standalone Blu-ray player, from what I've read about Pio's Elite line it's a solid set of devices. Do you have a specific area where you feel that the PC players are deficient? I've played with a few standalone BD decks over the years and while they are generally easier to setup (bring it home, plug it in, let the firmware update) and slightly easier to use, I am unable to perceive a PQ/AQ difference b/w it and a properly configured HTPC.

For me, the main reason I don't use a standalone deck is that it doesn't meet the requirements of my HT because they really only do one thing very well - play back physical BD discs. Dune's products are an exception to that of course, but since they don't support 3D and the VPP isn't great for non-BD content, that experience is still lacking compared to what is possible with a HTPC.

TBC, I'm not trying to imply that a standalone player can't be the right choice, just that there are many "right" solutions - where the "correct" one is highly dependent on your requirements and expectations.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the progress the PC BD players have made over the last couple years. Hopefully we can see more convergence b/w the two approaches (standalone decks get more connected/flexible, SW players continue getting easier to setup and use).

 Actully I still use my HTPC as an music server and to record TV programs when not at home. I Just installed an Ceton InfiniTV tuner card that replaced an Hauppauge tuner card that made my system unstable untill it rebooted after an bluscreen an few times, (very annoying) now it's an very stable system after the replacement. It uses an XFX HD5770 video card by the way. I've played around with the adjustments but still can't match the picture quality that I can get from the Pioneer Elite Blu-Ray player.

AMD does take a little more effort because you need to turn off or dial down many of the video knobs to get a decent picture out.

babgvant wrote:

AMD does take a little more effort because you need to turn off or dial down many of the video knobs to get a decent picture out.

This is very true.  I've long been an AMD/ATI fanboy, but their default settings are far from ideal. But by following the HDTV calibration guide on this site and the video files recomended, I have been able to get some very good results with BR with TMT or ripped to MKVs,  HDTV via my Ceton card and OTA as well as SD material.  It just takes some time to get things where you're happy with them.

They still do not have the auto refresh rate working properly, if I run "BD Info" program most given Blu-ray's have a frame rate of 29.976 and DVD 12 insists on switching to 24 Hz. This is very inacurate and when I use my frame interpolation feature on my Panasonic PT-AE 4000 projector leaving the refresh rate at 24 Hz. causes jerky playback.

 With that said resetting the refresh rate to 23.976 doesn't cure things either. If I turn of the FI, then the natural frame judder covers things up.

 ArcSoft's TMT works, but no Cyberlink product does.

 

 

I am not sure that anyone is monitoring this posting any longer?  Thanks for this review, and the commentary that follows is also interesting.  We have used the Powerdvd version 7 for DVD and BluRay playback for several years.  Our entertainment center does not have space for a standalone BD player.  We recently (6-2-12) purchased and downloaded the Powerdvd 12 program for playing back 3D Blu ray disks.  The system is an Intel-based (I5, running XP - 32 bit that is needed to support legacy applications) with PNY's version of Nvidia GT430 graphics card (interesting that this card needed to have the screen area adjusted to fit the pc desktop, eg less that native 1080) connected to a 55 inch Samsung 3D TV (uses the 3D active glasses).  The first thing we encountered were many crashes: problem with "vthum.exe."  That error has stopped, however, the program has a problem rendering 3D:  whether self detection, or forcing one of the 3D modes, the resultant video played looks like garbage and the playback jumps.  We know that the 3D rendering from the Samsung set is ok since we have played the offerings from the "explore 3d" for about a year with no problem.  We did not notice a customer service communications path  except for the paid telephone call approach, and we would like to make this work (or alternatively delete it and get a refund because utilizing the paid telephone approach seems like throwing good money after bad).  Does anyone have any suggestions?

raspesd wrote:

I am not sure that anyone is monitoring this posting any longer?  Thanks for this review, and the commentary that follows is also interesting.  We have used the Powerdvd version 7 for DVD and BluRay playback for several years.  Our entertainment center does not have space for a standalone BD player.  We recently (6-2-12) purchased and downloaded the Powerdvd 12 program for playing back 3D Blu ray disks.  The system is an Intel-based (I5, running XP - 32 bit that is needed to support legacy applications) with PNY's version of Nvidia GT430 graphics card (interesting that this card needed to have the screen area adjusted to fit the pc desktop, eg less that native 1080) connected to a 55 inch Samsung 3D TV (uses the 3D active glasses).  The first thing we encountered were many crashes: problem with "vthum.exe."  That error has stopped, however, the program has a problem rendering 3D:  whether self detection, or forcing one of the 3D modes, the resultant video played looks like garbage and the playback jumps.  We know that the 3D rendering from the Samsung set is ok since we have played the offerings from the "explore 3d" for about a year with no problem.  We did not notice a customer service communications path  except for the paid telephone call approach, and we would like to make this work (or alternatively delete it and get a refund because utilizing the paid telephone approach seems like throwing good money after bad).  Does anyone have any suggestions?

I, too, had a PNY 430GT card at one time but I ended up returning it and putting my previous card back in.  My problem with the 430GT was with recorded and live TV.  There was this slight, but very annoying, stutter.  It only did it with recorded and live TV.  I believe I remember it having problems doing 3D also...not playing back of 3D but getting the TV to to switch to 3D mode with this card.  But I believe that was the fault of PowerDVD 11; not exactly sure.  If you can try switching cards, do that and see if it fixes anything.

I was hopefull that Power DVD 12 with Blu Ray support would be a great option.

Unfortunatly Blu Ray playback is a bit flawed via HDMI
at some transitions the video goes black, but the audio continues.

Apparently this is an issue for many users of Power DVD 12 and below.

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