No matter what your home cinema set-up, you’ll never obtain a truly cinematic experience. How would you possibly get popcorn that over-priced outside of the theatre foyer? And you’d need to set up some sort of huge fan to emulate the impossibly efficient air conditioning which is always turned on full-blast even in mid-winter.
Not to mention the multiple sweet wrapper rustlings at quiet, crucial dialogue moments and the bloke who wants to go for a pee and knocks over your drink as he blunders past in the dark. And… hang on, we’d better stop this now before we get carried away.
While home cinema will never feature that hundred foot wide screen, it does deftly sidestep all the above-mentioned painful issues. And as big TV technology comes down in price, more and more people are adopting it, including PC users who are making their Athlon or Intel box the centre of their home video (and music) systems. All you need is a graphics card and sound card with the appropriate digital outputs (DVI and 5.1 respectively) and you’re away.
Well, not quite. You also need a PC-based software DVD player, and rather than plumping for some basic freebie version, it pays to get a decent program. So how does PowerDVD 6 Deluxe stack up? Pretty well, actually. After installation, the first thing we did was to run a side-by-side comparison with the version of WinDVD that came bundled on our machine.
The difference was quite marked, with the PowerDVD picture seeming a little sharper with much richer colours. And that was with none of the program’s filters applied. These include a Vivid mode which lends extra colour depth, and Cyberlink’s CLEV-2 technology (new for version 6) which purportedly creates an even brighter luminance and more natural colours. While this sounds like typical marketing speak, amazingly enough it does work, although it suits some films better than others.
Alongside the quality picture, PowerDVD 6 Deluxe offers a suite of sound options. There are several impressive virtual surround settings for those with two speaker set-ups, a surround mode designed for headphones and support for Dolby Pro Logic IIx.
On top of this there’s CLMEI-2, another Cyberlink technology, which optimises 2-channel audio when played over an 8-channel home theatre system. Then there’s DVD-Audio support and a whole host of preset graphic equaliser configurations (jazz, techno, hard rock, etc.). All this sonic tomfoolery is new to version 6 and it’s a major upgrade.
PowerDVD’s interface impress too. It’s easy to use, with handy short-cut keys and a well designed pop-up menu bar for full screen play, plus you get multiple skins for the player. Handy features are built in such as the auto-resume which detects when you put a DVD back in that you didn’t finish watching in the last session, asking whether you’d like to continue viewing where you left off. Our only complaint here is the shuttle dial, which is a touch fiddly.
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