Editor's note: A newer version of this product is available. The manufacturer lists the new version as offering the following features: TrueTheater Color and Sound; H.265 (HEVC) hardware acceleration; stream from CyberLink Cloud; Blu-ray and DVD Movie ISO file playback; audio extraction from video; Media Library for TV shows; and video scene selector. We will evaluate, rank and review the new version of this product when we next update the Blu-ray player software reviews.
If you have a computer with a Blu-ray optical reader, you may get frustrated that your computer can't actually play Blu-ray Discs. This is because optical drives don't come with the software necessary to read and view BD media. While there are free media players on the market, the best Blu-ray player software helps preserve HD content and turns your PC into your media hub.
PowerDVD 14 Ultra brings out the best in all of your media. We love how it makes navigating and viewing digital media easy. If you want to plug your HD television into your computer through an HDMI port, this software preserves the video and audio quality of your videos. Best of all, you get plenty of great features and tools for watching movies, including video upscaling and 3D video. PowerDVD is the best Blu-ray player software we tested and earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
PowerDVD 14 Ultra supports the latest audio and video technology to ensure optimal Blu-ray viewing regardless of your output configuration. First off, the Blu-ray player software supports all high-definition audio formats, including DTS and Dolby Digital – the two foremost standards in surround sound technology. Moreover, it provides HDMI 1.4 output for lossless 7.1 surround sound when your computer is connected to an external viewing device. To further amplify sound quality, you can specify your speaker environment and output mode, such as stereo, surround sound and so forth. We were especially impressed with the software's advanced headphone technology that is designed to replicate surround sound. Listening through headphones delivers cinema-quality sound that makes you feel like you are right in the thick of the action.
One of the software's coolest technologies is its upscaling capabilities. Designed to deliver the best possible picture, the software can convert standard definition (SD) DVDs and videos to HD, and those in 2D format to 3D. While the effects of a 3D upscale seem variable at best, the software's SD-to-HD function performs exceptionally well, a notion most PowerDVD 14 users we came across seem to share. The HD-formatted picture certainly isn't perfect, but its appearance is distinctly high definition, and the difference in quality from SD to HD is instantly noticeable.
Just as impressive is the Blu-ray player software's video technology. PowerDVD 14 is a universal player, which means it can play almost any type of video file, including Windows Media (.wmv) and QuickTime (.mov) formats. In addition to Blu-ray Discs, the application supports a wide range of additional HD and SD formats, including regular DVDs, BD-R/RE, VCD and AVCHD.
Since the software may be used on a computer or viewing device of virtually any size, one highly useful feature we found is the display stretch. TrueTheater Stretch automatically formats content to a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio without any distortion.
In terms of output quality, PowerDVD 14 truly excels. While the output quality of Blu-ray player software primarily depends on the graphics hardware of the system being used, this software consistently delivers high-quality video output that we found reminiscent of a high-definition television.
Sure, CyberLink PowerDVD 14 Ultra can play Blu-ray Discs, but it needs more than that to set it apart from the free media players on the web. Fortunately, PowerDVD offers something that no free program does: a virtual platform. This enables you to watch high-definition videos on your smartphone or tablet. You can also control PowerDVD through your mobile device, using it like a remote control.
Using PowerDVD, you have the capability to increase the quality of all your media playback, including your home videos. It doesn't matter where these files are stored – on your PC, YouTube or a network device. If you're using a DVD, you can improve the video quality for your high-definition display. You can even apply a layer of 3D to a 2D video or photo. This will give your media an extra element of greatness.
To begin with, PowerDVD has comprehensive Blu-ray support, so it can legally play any commercially produced BD without having to decrypt built-in Blu-ray copy protections – much like a conventional Blu-ray player. The software also retains all BD menus and supports BD-Live, a Blu-ray feature that utilizes an internet connection to access movie extras not stored on the actual disc. Additionally, the software offers support for 3D Blu-ray movies, although you must have compatible 3D displays and 3D glasses to view any 3D movie content. You should be aware that only the Ultra edition of PowerDVD is capable of both Blu-ray and 3D playback. The Standard and Deluxe editions do not support 3D.
While PowerDVD is primarily a Blu-ray player, the application is also a music and video library manager that fully integrates with modern Windows operating systems. Using the software, you can create music playlists, play virtually any video file, and stabilize and reduce visual noise in home videos.
Finally, PowerDVD is the only Blu-ray player software we reviewed that offers a multitude of fresh social networking features. The software is fully integrated with MoovieLine, Cyberlink's own online film community. Aptly dubbed "the ultimate companion website," MoovieLine allows users to instantly access movie stats and post movie reviews during playback. Furthermore, the software integrates with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, so users can upload video files and update their social networking profiles directly from the software interface.
Given that PowerDVD 14 Ultra is Blu-ray player software from a well-known international enterprise, it's hardly surprising the software is supplemented with a range of flexible customer service options. These include support via email, an online contact form and a toll-free telephone number.
We found the specific information about PowerDVD we were seeking in the FAQs supplied on the CyberLink website. A user guide, tutorial and system requirements for the software can also be found there. Moreover, you can access a knowledgebase directly from the PowerDVD 14 interface. You can also get help from other users through the PowerDVD forum.
Our only complaint with CyberLink's help and support is that customers must pay for telephone support. It costs a flat fee for two months of unlimited support. While charging for telephone support is rather common among multimedia software manufacturers, some of CyberLink's direct competitors offer free, albeit limited, telephone support. Also, CyberLink does not offer live chat, which makes the costly telephone service your only way to get instant help.
With a suite of rich features, a sharp interface and intuitive navigation, PowerDVD 14 Ultra is the pinnacle of Blu-ray player software. Not only does it deliver cinema-quality Blu-ray playback, but the software is also a universal, multifaceted media player that allows you to manage all your media content easily.
PowerDVD preserves high-definition video quality in all Blu-rays and offers upscaling for your DVDs.
CyberLink charges for telephone support and does not have live chat.
PowerDVD turns your computer into your media hub with its many features and high-quality playback.