Tired of constantly switching between iTunes, Windows Media Player, VLC, and other programs for different media tasks? I am. Cyberlink's PowerDVD, with its support for Blu-ray and 4K as well as most other types of video, audio, and images has the potential to be that all-in-one media solution we've been searching for. The latest iteration, PowerDVD 14, is close but no cigar due to some missing basics. However, the addition of support for up-and-coming technologies such as h.265 and the UltraViolet media delivery system make it a uniquely powerful player.
PowerDVD 14, which runs on Windows PCs, comes in three flavors — the $50 Standard version, which handles DVD and HD files; the $80 Pro, which adds Blu-ray and 4K support; and the $100 Ultra which throws in 3D and the company's Power Media Player app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. All three versions include PowerDVD Remote for iOS and Android which allows you to use your mobile devices asyou guessed it — a remote control for PowerDVD.
In terms of what you see on the screen, PowerDVD 14 is the best Blu-ray/DVD/video player out there. Normal playback includes hardware acceleration, but there's also a CPU mode with TrueTheater enhancements which will make a lot of material — primarily DVDs — look more high-def. The interface is handsome and well thought out, with the notably unintuitive exception of having to click on the fast forward icon to slow down a video. There's also a ten-foot interface for use from your couch with the aforementioned remote software.
My initial encounters with PowerDVD 14 were frustrating, due to the way it handled background tasks such as media collection and network path scouting. A pre-release update mostly fixed this; however, I still ran into instances where the program would seem to hang, especially at first run. The only other issues I ran into were the inability to drag files from an archive directly to PowerDVD (VLC can handle this), and just the audio portion of certain FLV videos being played.
In my other codec support tests, PowerDVD 14 played AVI/PCM, DivX 5, DivX HD, MPEG 1/2/4, Xvid, most FLV, Quicktime, AVCHD, WMV, h.264, and OGG Theora. Audio track support includes AAC and 5.1 Dolby Digital. PowerDVD 14 now also supports HEVC, the High Efficiency Video Code — more on that in a bit.
In my music tests, PowerDVD 14 played 5.1 surround, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG Vorbis, APE, lossless WMA, Apple lossless (new), M4A, and all types of wave files up to 96kHz/32-bits (the max my system supports). PowerDVD also supports JPEG, BMP, TIFF (compressed and uncompressed), and PNG photos, and it offers some nice fades when you play a group as a slideshow. The photo browser is top-notch and presents your images in calendar style according to the data taken. Alas, there's no tag editing for photos or music files.
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