Thanks to Intervideo Inc. We have been able to get our hands on an exclusive review of their new software DVD player "WinDVD". I first read about this new player when I was scouring the internet for new DVD news. I read up on the new features that the player was set to give to the user and immediately e-mailed Intervideo to see if it was possible to review it on ActiveDVD.
WinDVD comes with a large number of features I have yet to see in any other software DVD player, including many new and excellent audio features, I'll go into more detail with those later on, but for now, here is a feature list.
Software DVD/VCD/SVCD/MP3 Player (InterVideo Engine)
DVD Karaoke Title Support
IDCT H/W Support
CUSTOMER SPECIFIC FEATURES:
CSS Region Support
Right, lets get on with the review. First up I'll talk about the installation of WinDVD. The program comes with both DirectX 6 and DirectMedia (Both need to be installed to get the best performance) but if you have either of the programs already installed, then you can bypass them easily. WinDVD weighs in at 4.5mbs (Excluding DirectX and DirectMedia) and is a simple install.
Once installed WinDVD will now autoplay any DVD you place into your drive (Excluding DVD-ROM titles). This is now the norm for all DVD players on your PC, but sometimes I find that many of them will not allow you to switch off Autoplay despite selecting the options to do so, with WinDVD its easy and it worked. From a personal view, I don't like Autoplay for DVD's.
Upon the first load of WinDVD I went to the preferences section, having a Pentium II 450 machine meant that I wanted to make sure all of the options were selected so I could start with the highest possible quality and work my way down if the performance I got back from WinDVD was bad.
As you can tell from above, I started in the Audio section and selected the options that were best suited to my Audio setup (Rubbishy two speakers, any offers for 4-5 speakers anyone?). There are a whole host of options available, a number of which I have not seen in any other software DVD player. For example: WinDVD supports S/PDIF output assuming you have a card that supports it, such as the SoundBlaster Live!. It also has full 4 speaker and 6 speaker 5.1 Surround sound. But for those of us with just the two speakers you can try out the new 3D Audio setup, this does actually enhance the audio output quite a bit. I'll talk about that later when I discuss the performance. The vocal options you see in the bottom right corner are mainly used when playing Karaoke titles.
Next we have the display settings. The options available here are the same as in any other DVD player, including Software Bob (Controls video "jitters" for interlaced video content (30fps), enhancing the smoothness and sharpness of the picture quality) Smooth Vertical Scaling (Improves the picture but takes up more processor times) and Smooth Horizontal Scaling (The same, improves picture quality but takes up more of your processor time). The low quality setting just means all custom quality options are turned off, the High setting means to opposite, while custom allows you to toy around with the quality options to come up with whatever is best for your PC.
From the general options settings above you select the region your DVD's come from. This option can be changed five times before the last selected region is locked into the Windows registry. Player settings is where you select the letter of your DVD drive and whether you would like to use Auto Play for DVD's. The view panel is where you select the amount of "Toolbars" you wish to have displayed on the screen, read on later and see that there is one major missing option when it comes to viewing DVD's in WinDVD full screen mode.
Now onto the quality of playback. My PC has an ATI Rage Pro card installed, this means that WinDVD takes advantage of Hardware Motion Compensation Support, this in theory means that the quality of playback is improved, and also means that there is less strain on the processor. WinDVD supports a number of other cards that have Hardware Motion Compensation included, just check the list of features at the top to check if your is currently supported.
I checked out almost all of my DVD collection with InterVideo WinDVD and the playback quality was excellent, there is in my mind at least, no doubt that this is now currently the top software DVD player in terms of playback quality. I tend to use ATI DVD Player as my main DVD player but with WinDVD I don't get juddering like I do in ATI's player, this is a big benefit when sitting close to the monitor when watching a DVD. For example, watching the excellent Out Of Sight starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez I could see a notable improvement over every other software DVD player I have played that particular DVD on.
There is no doubt that WinDVD playback is improved when using Hardware Motion Compensation on its supported video cards, but even when it is turned off, the playback is still very good, and far better than that of CineMaster whilst slightly improved over XingDVD.
There is one big problem when playing DVD's in WinDVD's full screen mode, it isn't actually in "Full Screen" it still displays the taskbar, unless you remove it yourself via the taskbar settings. I at first thought this was just an option I had looked over somewhere in WinDVD but unfortunately in this release it isn't, I have been told though that it is likely to have the option of no taskbar in full screen mode in the next version (Bring it on)
Audio in WinDVD is great, there are so many options for those us with two speakers as well as great support for those with four speakers or more, and with the addition of S/PDIF support for Creative SBLive! and the ForteMedia Audio Chip, you can't go wrong. The new 3D sound option for two speakers works well, although every so often there are some weird effects given out, and also some dialogue seems to get drowned out, but all in all the 3D sound option does improve two speaker audio.
The Interface (Apart from the taskbar problem) isn't bad either, there are more options available to the user than in most DVD software such as different layouts, views, speed controls for fast-forward and rewind etc as well as a number of brightness and color controls. The only problem is that there are so many options, it can get confusing when using them, the different layouts for example are good, but tend to pop up in too many places, and then have to be switched off....I'd rather just use Right Click and then select my options personally, also most options can be controlled via the keyboard.
Overall WinDVD 1.10 would probably be my top choice for software DVD playback on my PC if it wasn't for the full screen display problem I mentioned earlier, but unfortunately that is holding it back as I love to view my DVD movies in complete full screen without anything being on screen to distract me.
DVD Titles Tested
Reviewers PC Setup