CyberLink – PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D review

an old favourite enters the third dimension
Photo of CyberLink – PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D

Cyberlink’s PowerDVD has been around for longer than we’d care to remember, and it’s always prided itself on packing in as much of the latest technology as possible. So it’s no great surprise to find that version 10 adds full support for almost every 3D display technology on the market, as well as a few more social networking-themed additions to its MoovieLive service.

Anyone who bought PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D before 7 July, 2010 would have been rather disappointed to find a complete lack of 3D support, but a free ‘Mark II’ upgrade was made available on that date which adds all the missing bits.

As ever, there are multiple varieties of PowerDVD 10: we reviewed the full-fat Ultra 3D version, which is the only one offering all the 3D and Blu-ray goodies. These include full support for 3D Blu-ray discs, although with only a couple of these near-mythical beasts in existence, this is hardly a must-have feature yet.

More interesting is the new TrueTheater 3D gizmo, which can add simulated 3D playback to almost any kind of movie content (except Blu-ray movies) in real-time by clicking the 3D button on the player bar. As well as Nvidia’s 3D Vision shutter glasses, it supports most passive (polarised) and active (shutter) systems plus good old B-movie red/cyan anaglyph glasses (it doesn’t ship with a pair, though), so even without a 3D TV you will be able to enjoy some degree of 3D-ness. This agnostic stance is an indication of the disarray of the 3D TV industry, which seems unlikely to agree on any single 3D display standard soon.

Other enhancements to the TrueTheater video tweaking settings include dynamic image stabilisation and noise reduction. Added to the existing dynamic lighting, resolution upscaling and frame-rate upscaling for non-HD material, the results playing a standard DVD – or even your own video clips – can be quite impressive, though TrueTheater settings aren’t available when GPU hardware acceleration is enabled. On the audio side, HDMI 1.3 audio ouput streams are now supported on compatible soundcards. Playback of Real Player video formats (RM/RMVB) is now supported, but only when Real Player is installed. Other new supported video formats include MKV and FLV H.264-based files.

Cosmetically, not much has changed since the previous version, although the settings menu interface has finally moved from horizontal to vertical tabs. Cyberlink claims that Blu-ray disc load times have been reduced significantly, and we can confirm that; it now only takes a few seconds to load a disc. New icons on the transport menu include the aforementioned 3D button, plus a link to the new Moovie Mark feature. These are annotated, shareable bookmarks, created by clicking the icon at any time and entering text into a small box.

Collections of these Moovie Marks can be uploaded in a timeline format to MoovieLive and downloaded by other users so they can read your comments at the appropriate moments during the film, and although it works well we’re not convinced of its utility; but perhaps we’re just grumpy (or lonely) old souls. You can also send live comments while you’re watching a film to Facebook, Twitter or MoovieLive. Of more general interest, perhaps, is the new YouTube uploader, a simple tool accessed via a button in the video library tab.

Company: CyberLink

Definitely a worthwhile update to this well-respected media player if you want to stay at the cutting edge of video playback technology, or if you're a budding film critic with a bent for social networking. The ability to play back any 2D material in 3D is a bit of a gimmick, but it can add a bit of fun to your home movies. Its support for most 3D viewing hardware ensures you should be covered whichever way the 3D wind ends up blowing.