Many of my friends and foes know that watching movies is one of the few pleasures I enjoy. The advancement of High Definition and now the upcoming 4k and beyond technologies just make the experience that much richer, more lively. The drawbacks of such wonders in technology is a little thing called DRM that makes it difficult for us to enjoy on multiple devices. Blu-Ray is no exception. For most they simply pop the disc into a standard player connected to their TV, but what about us who build Home Theater PC (HTPC) or want to watch them on the road? For that we need a solid software player along with the right hardware and with that long winded introduction; I give you my review PowerDVD Ultra 13 from Cyberlink.
PowerDVD Ultra 13 right off the bat impresses with an easy and quick install that I’m not used to with such full-featured products. Also having used previous versions that were slower to install and launch, this was a welcoming update. Designed for multimedia enjoyment from DVD, Blu-Ray, media files and more I took it for a test drive on a few machines.
For testing I put the main focus on Blu-Ray playback using a copy of the Avengers on Blu-Ray. The test bed of machines include an HP DV6-6135dx with AMD A8-3500m CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics, a custom built rig with an Intel Core i7 3770k and on board Intel HD 4000 graphics, and finally a custom built HTPC with an Intel Core i7 3930k and AMD Radeon 7770 graphics. All except the HTPC run Windows 8, the HTPC is still running Windows 7.
On all three machines playback was flawless and just as awesome as Blu-Ray should be. It was a simple case of installing and popping the disc in, no need to change any settings except in the case of the HTPC. The HTPC is connected directly to a surround sound receiver via HDMI which it then sends the video signal to the HDTV via HDMI. On this machine, I just had to change the audio decoding to pass directly to the receiver as opposed to the default built in software decoding.
PowerDVD Ultra 13 also makes it easy to playback multimedia files store on your hard drive or network attached storage device. It picked up my Seagate GoFlex Home 3TB Network drive right off the back and easily streamed HD video files. For this we would recommend using a premium router designed to handle high bandwidth and streaming HD video, such as the Linksys 4500.
The included mobile app that is included also works in the same manner to playback your multimedia both on your device and on your Network Attached Storage devices. However, it was unable to see the GoFlex Home. Media on the tablet played great. I tested the mobile app on a Samsung Galaxy tab 2 7.
A host of enhancements which work behind the scenes to improve playback under the TrueTheater name did in fact work as advertised on some of our non HD and shakier videos. Stabilization and up scaling were noticeable. Other improvements are included such as denoise, lightning, 3D conversion to name a few.
Other features we like are the ability to sync with a mobile android device and take some videos on the go. Connecting right to my UltraViolet account for easy enjoyment of my collection in the cloud. Also the social network integration with Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and additional Movie info available about your collection or what’s coming soon and in theaters. Seriously, this has seemingly packed it all in.
In conclusion, I find PowerDVD Ultra 13 a very powerful and easy to use media player. Blu-Ray playback is fast with disc loading, smooth playback and decoding of audio in HD is pretty sweet. The additional features such as streaming from my Network, UltraViolet account integration and the mobile app are gravy on an already great product. PowerDVD Ultra 13 is well worth the $125 MSRP and for a short time Cyberlink has an introductory price of $99.