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Cyberlink PowerDVD 14: Media playback app has what you need — almost

Jon L. Jacobi | April 17, 2014
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.

I mentioned support for the HEVC, aka h.265, which seems to be as efficient as advertised. The 1080 HEVC version of Big Buck Bunny I rounded up weighed in at 150MB, compared to 850MB for the h.264 and Ogg Vorbis 1080 versions I already had. Despite being less than one-fifth the size, the picture quality was very, very close. My HEVC sample's playback wasn't quite as smooth as the other two files, and there were occasional anti-aliasing artifacts, but considering the relative file sizes, the tiny flaws were more than tolerable. Based on my admittedly small sample size, you can expect great things from h.265.

While PowerDVD 14 is packed with technology, it's missing some features you would expect from a true all-in-one media playback solution. The first is the aforementioned lack of tag editing, but there's also no support for TV tuners or recording. Also missing is sound enhancement, such as the TruBass and WOW in Windows Media Player or the Sound Enhancer in iTunes. I'm shamefully addicted to both, especially with older songs that didn't have the benefit of modern recording technology. I'd also like the ability to change the speed of audio files (you can alter the speed of most video) and apply video FX à la VLC.

PowerDVD 14 comes with a one-year 10GB subscription to Cyberlink Cloud, which allows you to sync media to the Internet and play it with the Power Media Player app. There's an activation code for the app included in PowerDVD, though you might have to size the player larger to see it. PowerDVD also supports DLNA serving and playback, subtitles, and social media; it lets you play YouTube videos offline as well.

PowerDVD 14 is the best thing going for Blu-ray and DVD movie discs and a very good video file player that supports all the latest technologies and codecs. It's the closest of all the players I'm aware of to being a one-stop solution. Alas, close only counts with horseshoes, so buy it for Blu-ray and keep the freebies handy. You might also want to wait a week or two for Cyberlink to iron out the bugs.


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