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Product: Power DVD 3.0
Company: Cyberlink / WSKA
Estimated Street Price: $49.50
Review By: Julien Jay

DVD Technology Reminder

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: DVD Reminder & Decoding Features
3: Software Features
4: Conclusion

For those of you who forget, the advantages of the DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) format are numerous: first on a small 12 centimetres width plastic circle you have a high digital quality film available in up to 8 different languages (eventually with subtitles) with at least a Stereo CD like sound or with most of today films a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (or DTS). Films are stored on DVDs using the well-known MPEG 2 compression process ensuring an incredibly high image quality: two faces’ DVDs can contain up to 17GB of data making DVD the perfect media for video storage. The basic bandwidth of a DVD player running at 1x reaches 1.3MB per second which is sufficient enough for video flux. Compared to a standard VHS tape the quality of the image is highly better: a VHS tape features a 240 lines resolution (around 300 for SVHS) while a DVD features a resolution that can climb up to 500 lines. Another observation is the fact that films aren’t yet originally digitally mastered so some DVDs may still present dust points like on VHS tapes since the master is still an analogical one but quality lost is practically non-existent. The other advantage, in terms of imaging quality, of the DVD over the VHS tape is that the quality of the image doesn’t decrease while you play it and doesn’t fear dusts, fingerprints, wear, magnetically damages, etc. If VHS tapes, due to their analogical format, feature a random image quality that depends on many factors (is the playing head of the VCR clean, how many playing heads the VCR have, is the tape not too old, etc?) with a DVD you’re sure to always have a clear & bright image on every player of the world even 10 years after you originally purchased the disc. This is partly why the image is so good on DVDs and that’s also why more & more people turn to DVDs even if they aren’t as flexible as VHS tapes since you can’t record films on them.

    One thing to consider is that the DVD-Forum has divided the world in 8 regions to make sure you can’t read a region 1 DVD if you live in region 5… This is quite absurd for users but it’s necessary for the video industry to avoid piracy. That’s why today DVD drives are RPC-2 with a firmware that can let you change the region setting only 5 times. Anyway the quality of the image will definitely stick you in your couch while the sound will propel you in the heart of the action. At the sound level, to enjoy a cinema like one, you’ll have to purchase a set of expensive 5.1 speakers with their Dolby digital decoder: if it provides an incredible detailed & spatial sound it requires you to put cables in your whole house to position speakers correctly to have front & background effects meaning you’ll often take your feet into the cables that go through your living room unless you can afford the inclusion of cables into the walls. Digital Video Discs are also interactive since they often come with bonuses like producer comments, free pictures, soundtracks, movies announcements, etc. some of them even let you choose the camera’s angle.

Notice About DVD-Rom Drives

    DVD-Rom drives manufacturers maintain a doubt over the impact drives’ performance has when watching movies. Indeed many people believe that with a 16x DVD-Rom drive they’ll have better DVD Video playback than with a 6x DVD-Rom drive. This statement is absolutely false! Indeed for video playback the DVD-Rom drive is used in ‘1x’ normal baseline speed so even with a ‘16x’ model you won’t get smoother video or so (but you’ll experience better loading time with programs that are stored on DVD-Rom).

Decoding Features

    PowerDVD 3.0 obviously comes with all the features that made its success plus new interesting we’ll see here. The first new major advantage of Power DVD 3.0 is clearly its new Dolby headphone feature originally created by Dolby Laboratories & Lake Technology. The principle of this feature is to bring a five speaker like sound experience through a classic pair of headphones. And here I must say I was very impressed! This new killing feature amazed me: the Dolby headphone sound isn’t a marketing trick or something like that! It really works, increasing the relief & spatiality of the sound, providing surround sound through a standard headphone making you feel like if you were in a black theatre. So frankly this feature itself justifies the acquisition of PowerDVD 3.0. But as with every good thing there’s a drawback: indeed the Dolby Headphone feature consumes a lot of system resources (enabling it increases the CPU load of work by 30%) so to enjoy it you should have, at least, a Pentium II 400 computer.

Dolby Headphone Feature

Always at the leading-edge of technology, Cyberlink included a new Dolby Digital decoder in PowerDVD 3.0 with support for 2/4 or 6 channels speaker. Supporting every sound hardware acceleration, Power DVD also offers a wide variety of audio output choices: S/PDIF (you can choose to send streams of undecoded Dolby digital/DTS sounds directly to the external decoder), DirectSound, Dolby Surround, Direct Sound 3D, AC3, Casual Stereo so whatever your sound system is you’re sure to enjoy the best sound experience with PowerDVD 3.0. Also supported by this new state of the art DVD player is the Dolby ProLogic Decoder that’ll let you have a taste to the joy Dolby surround technology brings (if supported by your hardware). Indeed if PowerDVD 3.0 supports almost every sound enhancement technology, the sound you’ll experience will depend of sound card & speakers’ couple you have. To experience Dolby Digital sound you need to possess a sound card supporting 5.1 speakers and a set of 5.1 speakers with a separate Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder. Odd enough (not sure if this is weird in fact since it’s a Creative Labs product) Sound Blaster Live! Cards feature a lot of compatibility issues with PowerDVD 3.0 under Windows 2000. Those issues seem to be at last fixed by the silent release 3219 of the SB Live! 5.1 drivers.


« Introduction

Software Features »


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