PowerDVD 13 brings improvements in both performance and playback

Cyberlink's latest release not only improves responsiveness but adds extra layers of playback enhancements.

Don't let its name fool you; Cyberlink PowerDVD may sound like a name that's stuck in the past, but it's a media player and library manager that goes beyond just standard disc playback. Instead, PowerDVD 13 aims to distinguish itself from the premium media player crowd with features like "TrueTheater" enhancements, presentable media browsing, and customizable playback tools. To wrap it all up, PowerDVD also aims to rope all your media devices into one experience.

Installation is the standard shindig: Cyberlink takes about 360MB of space and leaves a light footprint. And like any good media experience, it's important to at least have some organization with your media content if you haven't already done so; Cyberlink will add your system's default "My Videos" and "My Pictures" folders and display just about every video on your PC. Do yourself a favor and separate them into folders in advance for the best navigation setup.

View your local video files or even YouTube channels, presented like a photo gallery. (Credit: Screenshot by Eddie Cho/CNET)

With that said, browsing your media is a pleasant experience. PowerDVD will generate a thumbnail for every movie file and present your library in a photo-gallery-like mode over a dark layout. By default, PowerDVD separates your content by identifying your files as photos, videos, or movies by size and type. PowerDVD will also scan your movie library and cross reference your files with an online database to display movie info like summaries, reviews, and thumbnails. When combined with the use of a remote or smartphone via Wi-Fi and Cinema mode , your movies are displayed in a layout comparable with that of XBMC and Steam's Big Picture mode.

TrueTheater lets you increase the image sharpness and brightness during playback. (Credit: Screenshot by Eddie Cho/CNET)

The meat of the application is in PowerDVD's playback delivery. In addition to increased support for movie file types and speedier performance gains, tweaks like TrueTheater, DLNA support, and 3D conversion have made their way into the new version. TrueTheater is basically a fancier option for adjusting the sharpness and brightness during movie playback. Though this is usually bad habit in photo editing, applying the setup to motion pictures did indeed improve the viewing experience. Given that Blu-ray files are such high definition, adjusting image settings does little to reduce the overall image quality. The gain from this minor trade-off results in a clearer picture, like clothing textures and facial structures, and is a well executed feature if you have the hardware to run it. Enabling split-screen mode lets you compare your results in real time while the movie is playing so you don't have to adjust blindly while going back and forth.

PowerDVD will cross-reference your movies with an online movie database for information about the film. (Credit: Screenshot by Eddie Cho/CNET)

Should you ever run out of content or feel like browsing your videos online, Cyberlink also includes the obligatory support for Facebook and YouTube. You can log in to your Facebook account or YouTube account to watch all your uploaded movies and subscribed channels. Unfortunately, this option wasn't available in Cinema mode for our review build.

PowerDVD 13 pretty much covers all the bases: it supports updated standards for 4K and higher-resolution content, lossless audio a-la FLAC, and enough customizable tweaks to satisfy an image-quality-obsessed crowd. Combined with existing DLNA support for playback on tablet devices, it brings a lot to the table in both playback and unification of your media device ecosystem. Grab the trial here.

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