Page 10 of 24: Full Review of WinDVD 4.0

Note : This is an archived review for an older version of WinDVD. For the latest review, please refer to this page.


Below is a review for the latest version of WinDVD.

Below is the specs for the test system used :
    Pentium-III 1000
    512 MB PC-133 CAS-2 SDRAM
    NVIDIA GeForce2 Ultra
    SB-Live Platinum 5.1
    Pioneer A05 16X DVD-ROM drive
    Windows 98 SE
    WinDVD 4 Plus
Index :

Video Quality

Video quality remains high, just like the previous version of WinDVD. Of course, this is dependent on your graphics card and settings, rather than directly on the Video decoder. Some people might actually experience better quality on PowerDVD, but most should be able to get the highest quality from WinDVD (at the expense of performance, of course). WinDVD does seem to be less blurry than PowerDVD in full screen mode, which is related to scaling and how each software DVD player implements it. Contrast also seems to be better in WinDVD.

WinDVD 4 Rating : A+
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A+

Decoding Efficiency

With modern CPU, the efficiency of the decoder is becoming less of a problem. On 1000 MHz systems, there is almost no difference between WinDVD 4 and Cyberlink PowerDVD 4.0's decoder, however, on lower end systems, PowerDVD still comes out ahead efficiency wise. WinDVD does makes up for it's greater CPU usage in greater quality visuals, especially picture sharpness - but this will greatly depend on your graphics hardware, as each decode is optimized for different types of graphics card.

WinDVD 4 Rating : A
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A

Video Support

The graphics acceleration support documentation has not been updated (eg. it does not include GeForce4), so it isn't easy to say which card is supported. I would expect most forms of Motion Compensation and some forms of iDCT are supported, along the lines of PowerDVD.

WinDVD 4's Video Configuration

"Always on top" mode has been added, which was one of those options a lot of people requested. There is also the new and exciting "Video Desktop" mode, which allows you to playback the DVD as the background image of your Windows desktop - so for those who have called for animated Windows desktop backgrounds, your wish has (sort of) come true. "Video Desktop" may not be very practical (if you have multiple windows open, your desktop is most likely blocked out), but at the very least it makes an interesting screensaver/desktop background.

As previously mentioned in the What's New page, there is also a new playback mode called "PAL TruSpeed", which plays back PAL DVDs at their right speed. When NTSC (US) movies are transferred from film to PAL DVDs, the playback speed will actually be 4% faster than normal (NTSC 30 FPS converted to 24 FPS using 3/2 pulldown, and this 24 FPS movie is played back at 25 FPS - hence the 4% speed increase).

A similar feature that was previously available in WinDVD 3.0 is time stretching playback, which allows you to playback a movie either faster or slower, but with the audio's pitch unchanged (just the playback speed) - you'll have to see it to believe it, but it works quite well.

Gamma correction and color adjustments are only available in WinDVD 4 Plus.

WinDVD 4's Time Stretch Function

WinDVD 4 Rating : B+
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A
(updated 9 December 2002)

Audio Quality/Support

Audio quality has been improved with the addition of SRS "Dialog Clarity" and "TruBass" processing. 4, 6 and now 8 channels of audio are supported, although one 8 channel card is supported (also because there aren't that many 8 channels cards on the market yet). Most Creative sound cards, which are still the most popular consumer level sound cards, are supported.

There are also DSP effects, which are like the type of effects you get on home theatre amp/receivers (eg. Hall, Soft, Echo). There are also environment processing options, such as the late night mode, also a favorite of home theatre amp/receivers.

Karaoke features are also included for karaoke-fans, with pitch control, as well as the standard vocal options - a lot of standalone DVD players that have karaoke functions have these features as well.

To compare with PowerDVD, both player's audio support are about equal, while WinDVD just slightly edges PowerDVD in terms of audio quality.

WinDVD 4's new Audio Options

There does appear to be a bug, in that my Soundblaster Live 5.1 Platinum card was only recognised as a "2 channel DirectSound device", and so I could not select 4/6 channel audio (which should be supported). Hopefully, this bug may be just isolated to my system, and hopefully, it will be ironed out soon in a patch.

6 June Update : After talking with Intervideo's tech-support gurus, I have determined the reason why 4/6/8 speaker audio was not selected. In order to select 4/6/8 speaker audio, your Windows audio setting must be set correctly to the required number of speakers, otherwise WinDVD will prevent you from selecting the proper audio mode. WinDVD actually checks your Windows system speaker settings to determine which output mode it should allow you to select, as opposed to PowerDVD giving you all available options, regardless of whether your sound card supports it or not.

To make sure your speakers are setup properly in Windows (note that different versions of Windows may have slightly different instructions/names for the settings below) :
  1. Go to the Windows Control Panel
  2. Access "Multimedia" or "Sound and Multimedia"
  3. Select the "Audio Tab"
  4. Click on the "Advanced" or "Advanced Properties" button for audio playback
  5. In the "Speaker Setup" section, select the number of speakers that matches your system (eg. under Windows 98, "Quadraphonic Speakers" equals 4 channel audio, whereas "Surround Sound Speakers" equals 5.1 channel audio)
  6. Make sure your sound card's setup is also properly configured (eg. if you have SB-Live, you should use the "Surround Mixer" application to ensure 4/5.1 channel audio is selected)

3 June Update : I've been informed by Intervideo that the build of WinDVD that I tested is not the same as the retail build, and so it should not have the same problems as I experienced. I am currently in the process of obtaining the retail build for further testing.

1 June Update : You can enable 4/6/8 speaker audio using the third party WinDVD Tweaker tool. I find disabling the DirectSound options (see top part of picture below) helps.

Fixing WinDVD 4's Audio Options

WinDVD 4 Audio Quality Rating : A+
WinDVD 4 Audio Support Rating : B
WinDVD 4 Plus Audio Quality Rating : A+
WinDVD 4 Plus Audio Support Rating : A
(updated 9 December 2002)


Both subtitles and captions are supported here, although interestingly, it isn't as full featured as WinDVD 3.0. Only one set of subtitle/captions are supported at a time (WinDVD 3.0 could display up to four different subtitles at the same time), as opposed to the two different subtitles that PowerDVD can display at the same time. Granted, having multiple subtitles on screen is pretty useless for most situations, although it is odd to remove a feature that was already present, even if it is not that useful.

Closed captions are available as white text on black background, which enhances visibilty (PowerDVD implements closed captions as white text with a transparent background, which isn't as clear).

Neither PowerDVD nor WinDVD allows you to change the position of the subtitle/captions, which if possible, would be a good feature to consider for the future.

WinDVD 4 Rating : B+
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : B+


There is now a dedicated "Capturing Browser", which allows you to capture multiple frames and preview/delete/save them here with ease. It's one of those "why didn't I think of it" features that just make life a whole lot easier (if your life revolved around capturing still frames from DVDs, that is).
WinDVD 4's new Video Capturing Browser

Video capturing has always been one of WinDVD's weakpoints, but this is no longer, as I believe the "Capture Browser" is better than how PowerDVD manages still captures.

WinDVD 4 Rating : A
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A
(updated 9 December 2002)

User Interface

As mentioned before, WinDVD 4's interface has been completely re-designed, apparently from the ground up.

The first thing you notice is the new skin, which I am glad to say, is quite well designed with clear and large buttons, as well as a large numerical display.

WinDVD 4 also introduces the subpanel. There are a total of seven different subpanels, offering functions ranging from the standard navigation (select up/down left/right, titles, chapters ...) to language selection (audio/subtitle), and quite a few audio subpanels. I quite like subpanels, since it allows you to get to important functions quickly and easily, as opposed to navigating page after page of configuration panels, or menu options.

WinDVD 4's new subpanel options

WinDVD 4 has also simplified it's single file opening feature, which is now separated to the "Open File..." option, as opposed to going through the playlist all the time.

WinDVD 4 Rating : A
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A
(updated 9 December 2002)

OS Support

WinDVD supports all Windows versions, although functionality depends much on your video/audio drivers.

WinDVD 4 Rating : A+
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A+


Zooming in WinDVD 4 seems to have gone a little backwards compared to WinDVD 3.0. You are limited to zooming into a fixed area, which is at the same aspect ratio as the current movie. The way to specify where to zoom is actually quite good. Once you enter zoom mode by pressing the zoom button, you can select the area to which you want to zoom to using a white rectangle shown on the screen - you can click the left mouse button to zoom in to this area. You can repeat this several times, before the zoom is cancelled. Once zoomed into an area, you can right click to bring up the zoom menu, and select the panning option to pan the zoomed area.

The new widescreen mode allows you to change a fullscreen movie into a widescreen one, and more importantly, change a widescreen movie to a fullscreen one.

WinDVD 4's new Widescreen Options

WinDVD 4 Rating : A
WinDVD 4 Plus Rating : A



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