For the most part PC video playback either works or it doesn’t. Every once in awhile, software makers add a few features that make it worth upgrading to the latest version. PowerDVD 9 from Cyberlink is one of these occasions. If you’ve been having trouble playing back Blu-ray or AVCHD movies on your system, consider PowerDVD 9 Ultra and Deluxe a dramatic improvement. The software is getting better at rendering complex high definition video on less powerful hardware, providing a better experience for HD video. This doesn’t mean your PC from 2001 will suddenly be able to play HD with ease, but PowerDVD seems less reliant on optimal hardware specs with this version. HD playback isn’t the only reason you may want to think about an upgrade.
Cyberlink TrueTheater Technology Enhancements
TrueTheater Technology adds a bunch of audio and video optimizations for enhancing movie playback on all levels of PCs, from notebooks to higher end home theater PCs. TrueTheater Motion does a better job of detecting video frame rates and creates a smooth video playback experience. TrueTheater Surround does a great job of translating multichannel audio into a stereo environment for a more real audio experience – this seems to be most true with either external speakers or a quality set of headphones – almost nothing can improve laptop speaker quality. TrueTheater Stretch improves image scaling for full screen viewing. Scaling is never perfect, but Cyberlink gets fairly close to perfect with this release. The one disappointment I have with the TrueTheater Technology offering is TrueTheater HD; HD upscaling enhances sharpness in PowerDVD 9, but I’m noticing more jagged edges as a result. Overall, I rate the TrueTheater Technology as a reason to upgrade.
Other PowerDVD Improvements
Most other PowerDVD improvements come in the realm of user experience enhancements. Cinema Mode integrates nicely with Windows Media Center to provide Blu-ray disk playback inside the Media Center interface. A new “FancyView” includes an animated catalog-style browsing, with much more visual candy. Movie Library adds a catalog management feature to keep track of your movie library. HDMI 1.3 support with Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio supports up to 7.1 channels of audio if you have the sound card to support it.
While you will still get a more reliable experience by having more powerful PC hardware, Cyberlink PowerDVD 9 goes a long way toward creating the best home theater experience you can expect from a PC.
Cyberlink is currently running a promotion so that if you purchase PowerDVD 9 Deluxe by 3/31/2009 you get $20 Instant Savings from TigerDirect.com.