A week, as they say, is a long time in politics and a year is an eternity in the software business. There was a time when WinDVD was the PC DVD player of choice, but since the last version came out at the latter end of 2006, PowerDVD has essentially taken over that mantel. Now with a new owner and developer, WinDVD is trying to reclaim the crown by introducing a major makeover and a host of new features.
Version 9 has been issued in three manifestations – Standard, Plus and Plus Blu-ray – and unless you just want to play back conventional DVDs, you’re better off making the most of all the new features on the two superior editions. We’re concentrating on Plus Blu-ray to reveal the maximum benefits you’re being offered.
You’ll notice immediately you finish the install (which is effortless) that the interface is much cleaner and more pragmatic than before with concealable drop-down menus delivering your options.
In the configuration menus you can arrange to start in full screen, use transparent or normal subtitles, set up instant replays and adjust parental controls. While there are separate audio and video menus, some advanced tweaking can be done here with 96KHz/24-bit audio decoding and video acceleration. DVD and Blu-ray region settings have to be confirmed before you start and you’re only allowed to change regions 5 times before they lock up (unless you use the appropriate software to override this!).
The Personalise menu enables you to Zoom and Pan across a section of the video image and capture images (only in BMP format) and up to 15 second moving clips. Unfortunately the capture settings don’t work when WinDVD’s star turn, the All2HD is switched on.
All2HD is a means of converting ordinary DVD playback to ‘HD quality’ and the results are truly impressive. There’s a demo mode that can be enabled to compare before and after transformations and a slide control that increases the degree of sharpness as well as an anti-judder (Digital Natural Motion) facility.
Other video variations include colour and contrast correction plus effects like Cinema Enhancement, Vintage and Negative plus brand new filters such as De-block (reducing drop-out from compressed formats) and De-snow (which removes digital noise from MPEG, H.264 and VC-1 low-resolution video). Aiming to be relatively future-proof, you do of course have support for Blu-ray disks as well as for the now defunct HD DVD format, plus for AVCHD which is used increasingly in HD camcorders.
The latest audio Surround Sound technologies are also recognised, including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD and the install disk includes copies of QuickTime and Real Player.
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