CyberLink PowerDVD 13 £34.99
8th May 2013 | 15:15
Can CyberLink's media playback software remain relevant?
With every yearly iteration of CyberLink's media playback software, the moniker 'PowerDVD' seems ever more archaic.
In its time it has had to battle to remain relevant in the face of operating systems introducing DVD playback features for free, high definition formats, 3D content and the move away from physical formats to streaming media.
To CyberLink's credit it's coped with being lumbered with the dated DVD reference well, and the PowerDVD brand is too well known to abandon now. It could have rested on its laurels and simply watched the money roll in from OEM installations, where PowerDVD comes pre-installed on laptops.
CyberLink PowerDVD 13 comes with all the features introduced in previous versions, most of them having been tweaked and improved. CyberLink's proprietary upscaling technology TrueTheater HD is present and correct, but now instead of just focusing on upscaling standard definition movie files and DVDs to make them look better on high definition displays, it also works its magic on upscaling high definition content for displays over 1080p.
As our media moves beyond 1080p, most notably for Retina-level resolutions and 4K video, CyberLink PowerDVD 13 is positioned to support higher resolution formats. In our tests, CyberLink PowerDVD 13 with TrueTheater HD upscaled the Blu-ray of Pixar's Up! without problem to our 2560 x 1440 resolution display, with some very pleasing results.
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With TrueTheater HD on its default settings the image was sharper, with subtle tweaks to the colour balance that made an already stunning high definition look even better. The TrueTheater effects can be easily tweaked with sliders, and there are handy options to split the video, or play it side-by-side so that you can compare before and after results.
As in previous versions, CyberLink PowerDVD 13 can also upscale 2D video to 3D, and while the process has been improved since its debut, it's still no substitute for native 3D video, which CyberLink PowerDVD 13 handles without a problem.
CyberLink's hand has been strengthened somewhat by Microsoft's decision not to include native Blu-ray playback in Windows 8, and to limit Media Player to only certain versions.
The process of loading and playing a Blu-ray has been sped up considerably, mainly by disabling some of the interactive features such as BD-Live, which to be fair not many of us ever used. If you miss them, though, they can be easily turned back on.
Opening other files such as photos and music is also very swift. The software supports a wide range of file formats, including AVCHD 2.0 and lossless APE audio, with CyberLink boasting that PowerDVD 13 is the only multimedia software to support MKV and DTS playback for Windows RT tablets, thanks to the PowerDVD Mobile app.
Streaming media to and from devices across a home network has been tidied up and improved, and you can pull in cover art, plot synopses and more from CyberLink's MoovieLive.com service. It's no killer feature, but it's quite a nice way of displaying your media collection, especially if you're using a PC connected to a TV.
The ability to import and easily synchronise subtitles from third-party websites makes this a very versatile media playback tool for the multilingual among us.
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Charging £34.99/AU$54.95/US$54.95 for the PowerDVD 13 Deluxe version, £59.99/AU$89.95/US$79.95 for the PowerDVD 13 Pro option and £79.99/AU$109.95/US$99.95 for the PowerDVD Ultra iteration was always going to be a hard sell in a world of pre-installed Windows Media Player and free VLC Player.
But there are enough features to make PowerDVD 13 worth considering, especially if you have a high resolution display and a home network full of media streamers.
If you just want to watch the odd DVD, however, despite it's name, we'd recommend avoiding PowerDVD 13 and sticking with good old free VLC.