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My new PC came with a DVD drive, but little did I realise I would need a program to watch DVDís!
I have never used another DVD watching program in my life, because I haven't had the need, so I better say that I can't recommend this over any of the other DVD players out there. I can recommend it as a good product, but maybe, just maybe, there is another DVD viewer out there that is even better!
So what does PowerDVD do exactly?
First if all the simple explanation. You take a DVD movie from those oh so slick new cases (better than a chunky tape anyway). Press the button to open the DVD drawer, insert the shiny gold DVD and close the drawer! Now is where PowerDVD kicks in. By some clever inside-the-computer jiggery pokery Windows realises that your shiny disc is not a CD but a DVD, and even better it knows it's a DVD movie and not a DVD computer program. Cleverly PowerDVD now loads up, and automatically starts playing the DVD on the screen. Now you have two choices - either enlarge the window full screen, or size it as desired and watch it in a box while you do other things on the PC.
Of course, there is quite a lot more to PowerDVD than that, it's just that half the time you won't actually notice the other features.
Installation is easy, although their insistence of typing in an excessively long code at least doubles the total installation time. Once installed the next thing to be done is to configure PowerDVD to work with your system. It runs a series of diagnostics to figure out what your system can and can't do, and once that?s done you're ready to go.
PowerDVD doesn't just do DVD's though, it will quite happily play a whole host of other formats including Quick Time Movies, V-CD's and audio CD's.
It should be noted that to have full screen software DVD playback without dropped frames (ie. small skips) you need to have at least a Pentium 2 300-400Mhz machine. You can get away with less than this if you have a DVD decoder card, or your graphics card supports DVD decoding.
PowerDVD has support for the majority of 3D soundcards, and has full support for all the Dolby Surround sound features of DVD's.
As I said, PowerDVD does a lot of things, it just does most of them in the background. By it's nature you don't want to fiddle too much - you just want to watch the DVD. Most of the navigation is done by the control panel which looks like the front of a DVD player, and has the usual play, pause, skip controls on it, as well as giving you information about the DVD and camera angles etc.
A right click on the video window reveals a host of options, allowing you to choose the aspect ratio you watch the DVD in and zoom levels etc. It also allows you to skip to various parts of the DVD including menu screens. This is useful, as the on disc navigation that a lot of DVD's have is truly awful. It also allows quick access to things such as subtitles.
One great feature I find great is the ability to bookmark your place in a movie, so if you only get to watch half of it one night you can get back to that exact place the next night!
PowerDVD is fully customisable, with the use of skins. By default you get two, one of an Oscar style cinema curtain, and the other a futuristic design - there are more on the web though. They're a nice touch, but you only ever see them for about two seconds before you watch the movie.
At the end of the day you're going to need a program to watch DVD's with, and Cyberlinks offering does this as well as I think it can be done. It's not a revolution, nor is it particularly flash or chock full of bits and bobs. But it does the job, and at the end of the day that's the main thing!
It isnít cheap if you want to buy it, being around £30 which would be enough for 2 DVDís Ė but then you need it to watch them, so this or another similar program is pretty much essential!
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