The Applications

The last time we looked at Blu-ray/HD-DVD playback on PCs we were sorely disappointed in software support, mostly because we needed to use a separate application for Blu-ray and HD-DVD playback despite similarities in the standards. Thankfully both Cyberlink and Intervideo have since introduced universal versions of their applications that support both Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Cyberlink's PowerDVD Ultra and Intervideo's WinDVD 8 support both standards through a single UI; unfortunately neither application appears to be quite ready for prime time.

Cyberlink's PowerDVD Ultra 7.3 gave us the most problems, especially with ATI hardware. The application was simply far more prone to random crashes than WinDVD 8, which was unfortunate given that it was the only of the two that properly enabled hardware acceleration on ATI GPUs.

WinDVD 8 didn't crash nearly as much as PowerDVD Ultra 7.3, but it did give us its fair share of problems. Complete application crashes were fairly rare, but on NVIDIA hardware we'd sometimes be greeted with a green version of whatever movie we were trying to watch. There was no rhyme or reason to why it would happen, but it just did. When things worked, they worked just fine though.

If you're running 64-bit Vista, you'll probably want to avoid installing either application as the problems we encountered were only amplified under the OS. Enabling hardware acceleration for ATI hardware under 64-bit Vista caused PowerDVD to crash anytime it attempted to playback an H.264 stream, while VC1 content was totally fine. WinDVD 8 gave us the wonderful problem of throwing an error whenever we hovered over a program menu item for too long. As much as we appreciated the improvement to our reflexes, we fondly preferred using WinDVD under 32-bit Vista where we could spend as much time as wanted in the menu without running into an error.

A quick perusal through Cyberlink and Intervideo's forums reveal that we aren't the only ones that have had issues with their software. Do keep these issues in mind if you are planning on turning your PC into a Blu-ray/HD-DVD playing powerhouse, as we're not yet at the point where you can get a truly CE experience on your PC with these applications.

It's a shame that we could only get ATI's hardware acceleration to work under PowerDVD and it's equally unfortunate that PowerDVD was so unstable because it was actually the faster of the two applications when it came to menu rendering/interaction time. Clearly both applications need work, but for our benchmarking purposes they sufficed to give us an initial look at what will be available once the bugs are fully vanquished.

Index The Test
POST A COMMENT

64 Comments

View All Comments

  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    I corrected the statement, we will have our 8500 review sample in the coming weeks :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Anand, you need to keep an eye on both ZZF and Newegg on release dates for new computer hardware, just in case your review versions don't materialize. The MSI 8500GT (o/c version, irc) was orderable and In Stock at ZZF @10PM Pacific Time on April 16 and continued to be in stock for at least part of April 17. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 28, 2007 - link

    We know they're available, but if we ran out and purchased every piece of new hardware for testing rather than relying on our partners, that can start to put a pretty sizable dent in the old paycheck. Not that we don't often purchase hardware anyway.... Reply
  • mmp121 - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Page 3 paragraph 1, last sentence ends abruptly.

    quote:

    We included both 8600 cards to confirm NVIDIA


    Could you comment on what you are confirming?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Just confirming that the two 8600s perform the same despite their differences. Thanks for the correction :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • WarlordBB - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Did I miss it, or did you mention it in a previous article?

    What the heck are you using for your HD-DVD drive?
    Reply
  • mmp121 - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Most likely the XBOX360 HD-DVD drive. Or heck, maybe he ripped it to HDD? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    We used the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive. We would never rip a HD-DVD movie to HDD, that would be illegal of course ;) Reply
  • DerekWilson - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    quite ... of course, inspite of the fact that ripping the HD or BD movie is illegal (DMCA violation), *having* the HD or BD movie on your HDD is protected by fair use ...

    as Anand alluded to, though, playing back content that isn't aacs protected would result in lower cpu utilization and wouldn't be reflective of the average consumer experience.
    Reply
  • Ard - Friday, April 27, 2007 - link

    Well, strictly speaking that's not exactly true. Having a ripped movie on your HDD, assuming you legally own the movie in question, is certainly a fair use due to the software archival provisions in the Copyright Act. However, since the DMCA is itself a part of the Act, having the movie on your HDD essentially becomes de facto illegal because the only way you could put it there is through ripping, which, as you stated, is illegal anti-circumvention. It's things like this (the chilling of fair use and extension of copyright owners' rights) that make me hate the DMCA and all who would use it for their gain.

    On topic, I'm glad to see that the 8600 line is capable of significantly decreasing CPU utilization. I wasn't expecting a drop from 80+% to 24%. It's really incredible.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now