So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Cyberlink PowerDVD v8 (Ultra edition)
Next-gen DVD playback for creative scalliwags
- Excellent image quality for DVD playback, easy-to-use interface, unique data sharing and video editing tools
- No HD-DVD support, Movie Remix could be dismissed as a time-waster
PowerDVD v8 is the best version of the software yet. The inclusion of Movie Remix and the MoovieLive service lifts it head and shoulders above its dull, one-note competitors. If you want more interaction and creativity from your video player, it won't disappoint.
Price$ 169.95 (AUD)
Cyberlink's PowerDVD software has been going strong for well over a decade now — practically since the birth of DVD itself. Just about every notebook on the market comes bundled with a Cyberlink video player, including such heavy-hitters as Dell, BenQ and Hewlett-Packard. This is a testament to the software's user-friendliness, as well as its enduring quality and reliability.
For its eighth edition, Cyberlink has decided to think outside the box, delivering a multi-purpose application that puts creativity at the forefront. The end result is much more than a simple DVD player, offering access to unique editing and community sharing tools. It could almost be described as PowerDVD for the MySpace generation (feel free to put that quote on the box, fellas!)
The two main selling points of PowerDVD v8 are undoubtedly Movie Remix and MoovieLive: two new applications geared towards creativity and sharing. MoovieLive (www.moovielive.com) is an exclusive online platform that allows you to share and collect data with other PowerDVD users. The service lets you write and upload movie reviews, download detailed disc information, discover average movie ratings and share Movie Remix videos (more on this later).
Each user has their own personal database that stores DVD collections, reviews and trivia for others to see. You can even make friends with other members who share similar tastes. The emphasis is on community building and content sharing, in a manner similar to social networking sites such as Facebook. Whether the service will take off remains to be seen, but it certainly has the potential to be fun and useful.
PowerDVD v8's second claim to fame is an innovative editing tool called Movie Remix. This basically allows you to re-cut a DVD's content however you see fit. From compiling a highlight reel of your favourite scenes, to adding animated graphics, subtitles and audio, the application can be used for to a variety of fun purposes. The results can then be uploaded directly to the MoovieInfo website, where members with the same DVD can view your handiwork.
Fan boys who yearn to create their own movie trailers will be in seventh heaven here, though they'll need to perfect that gravely voice-over first. The amount of enjoyment you get from Movie Remix will depend largely on the type of person you are. If you fail to see the point in adding funny subtitles to movies or making your own previews, then the tool will be of limited value. With that being said, we found it particularly handy for skit show DVDs, as it allowed us to keep the best bits while cutting out all the chaff. (Naturally, any edits you make do not affect the actual DVD data, which remains on the disc unchanged.)
PowerDVD v8 retains the same easy-to-use interface found on its predecessor. The wide ranging controls give you access to the usual playback options, including audio output (Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS are all supported), video enhancements (for light/contrast) and a sound equaliser. An assortment of special features unique to PowerDVD are also included, such as a karaoke setting for musical tracks, an instant replay option for misheard dialogue, advanced subtitle options and dedicated tools for notebook users, such as on-screen battery info and adjustable playback speeds. Handily, everything can be accessed from the main panel, with no drop-down menus or pop-up windows cluttering the screen.
Ably matching the high standards set by its forebears, PowerDVD Ultra v8 supports nearly every video codec and movie format under the sun, including standard DVD, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), AVCHD, MPEG-2 HD, WMV, SMPTE VC-1 and BD-Video. Unfortunately, HD-DVD support has been dropped from this edition, despite being present in the previous version. (That'll teach you for choosing the wrong format.)
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