CyberLink PowerDVD 12
When 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.
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.
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.
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.
- BDMV cannot be launched from the command line
- Refresh rate matching picks 24Hz instead of 23Hz for 23.976 FPS content
- Audio tracks are not listed by language/type in M2TS
- Only the first audio track is presented when playing back MKV
- PGS subtitles are not presented in MKV or M2TS file playback
- Cannot browse the network from the folder playback dialog
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.