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. Please take into account the fact that all ratings are for WinDVD Platinum 6.0 with Audio Booster Pack and Mobile Technology Pack, and so not all the features may be available in all versions of WinDVD.
Below is the specs for the test system used :
Pentium-4 3.2 GHz
1GB DDR400 RAM
ATI Radeon 9800 XT
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro
Liteon 16x DVD-ROM
Windows XP Pro
WinDVD Platinum 6.0
In terms of video quality, not much has changed from the previous version. However, WinDVD 6.0 now features a new video mode called Trimension™ DNM (Digital Natural Motion). I don't know exactly how this new mode works, but turning it on does produce a smoother picture. I tested this mode on my copy of Ice Age, and there is a significant difference between turning this mode on and off. With this mode off, the video appears jerky during panning and movement, and with this mode on, the picture becomes much smoother, almost as if there are now more frames per second than before. Maybe it was just me, but the movement was so smooth that it felt as if the playback was at a faster speed than normal, and a bit unnatural because I have gotten used to the normal and slightly jerky version.
After re-evaluation, the rest of this section of the review remains unchanged from the 5.0 version.
Video quality has not noticeably changed (for good or bad) since the previous version of WinDVD (WinDVD Platinum 1.0). The unprocessed (all display settings at default, no additional video filters/effects) picture is brighter than that of PowerDVD, which gives the impression of superior quality. The picture also appears sharper.
However, upon closer inspection, one could tell that the extra brightness/contrast and sharpness does yield just slightly more artifacts.
Notice in the comparison above the extra definition of the fur for WinDVD 5.0 over PowerDVD 5.0, but notice that when zoomed in, the same area presents more artifacts. It certainly looks like a sharpness filter (notice the bright edge around the two strands of hair in the lower comparison) has been applied in WinDVD 5.0's case. On a computer monitor, the extra sharpness and brightness of WinDVD 5.0 does give a better looking picture, but on a larger display, the artifacts would be quite noticeable. The artifacts are even more noticeable when there are patches of color, like the blue sky background. On this occasion, while WinDVD's sharpness impressed me, I prefer PowerDVD's lack of artifacts, as I am more inclined to playback DVDs on a large screen (where the sharpness is lost, but the artifacts are amplified). If you mainly playback DVDs on your PC monitor, than WinDVD's picture quality will not disappoint.
Because of new Trimension™ DNM, the video quality rating has been increased.
Rating : A+
Decoder efficiency was tested with 2 channel decoding turned on and all other filters/effects turned off. With modern CPUs, there is almost no difference between the performance of PowerDVD and WinDVD, so efficiency is becoming less of a problem all the time. PowerDVD does seem to have a more volatile CPU usage (eg. going from 26% to 38%, while WinDVD hovered around 33-35%) - this won't be a problem unless you have an older CPU (eg. a PIII-500). I doubt efficiency can be increased without sacrificing quality, not that it matters all that much with today's range of CPUs.
Rating : A+
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.
PAL TruSpeed is present again, I am pleased to say (I was a little upset when the previous version of WinDVD accidentally left out this option). PAL TruSpeed, for those that don't know, is for correcting the playback speed of PAL movie DVDs, which unfortunately, play a little faster than the original movie frame-rate of 23.976 FPS (PAL plays at 25 FPS). NTSC DVDs do not suffer from this problem, and this is why if you look at the running length of PAL movies, they are always shorter than the NTSC equivalent.
"Always on top" mode is available, as with NVDVD, which was one of those options a lot of people requested. As with previous versions of WinDVD, there is a "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.
A similar feature that was previously available in the previous version 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. WinDVD 6.0 has added "Finish on time" (set the time of the day you wish to finish watching the movie, and the playback speed is automatically adjusted for you) and "Play on time" (set the time in hours and minutes you wish to finish watching the movie) buttons, that allows you to further customize the time stretching mode.
One of the new features exclusive to the top-of-the-range Platinum version of WinDVD, as noted before, is Trimension™ DNM, which can be changed in the "Display" tab of the main console. Progressive de-interlacing, introduced in the previous version, is also accessible here.
To test the de-interlacing filter, I got out what I believe to be a classic example of interlaced content - the "Making of The X-Files Movie" feature from the original R1 The X-Files Movie DVD (the one with non 16:9 enhanced video). I wasn't able to get a good screen capture of Progressive De-Interlacing in action, but I was able to capture both force weave mode (interlacing at full glory) and force bob (the normal de-interlacing algorithm).
Note the interlacing lines on the weave capture, and the blurry outline of the bob capture. Normal bob de-interlacing removes the interlacing lines from the first capture but adds the blurry glowing effect, but progressive de-interlacing removes the blurry outline from the bob capture. Note that you can only notice these effects during fast moving shots, so the difference between bob and progressive de-interlacing is hard to tell sometimes, but should be much more visible on larger screens.
Video Effects has been stackable since the last version. I am not totally convinced about the necessity to apply effects to the video in the first place, let alone multiple effects at the same time, so while it does add something new, it's not a feature on the top of my wishlist.
Like PowerDVD, there is a range of brightness, contrast, color and gamma controls. The Platinum version of WinDVD 6.0 provide a few presets for these controls designed for different types of display devices (monitor, LCD, TV, Projector), and can be useful if your computer is connected frequently to different devices.
Overall, the video support part of WinDVD remains a very high standard, although there isn't really anything new (other than Trimension™ DNM, which has already been covered in the Video Quality section) to elevate WinDVD over PowerDVD significantly in this area.
Rating : A+
For the most part, audio quality in WinDVD 6.0 remains the same as WinDVD 4/Platinum 1.0/5.0.
WinDVD Platinum 1.0 added 96 kHz/24 Bit audio decoding mode, Dolby Virtual Speakers and more headphone support (for both Dolby and SRS). Previous releases added 4/6/8 speaker support, SRS enhancements, Karaoke options and tons of DSP effects. There is also the late night mode, which is just another way of saying dynamic compression (which is what PowerDVD calls it). This brings PowerDVD and WinDVD practically equal in terms of both audio quality and support - I guess that tend to happen after 5 or 6 generations of continued competition. If you need your sound to be loud, clear and adjustable, then either PowerDVD or WinDVD will be more than adequate.
What differentiates PowerDVD and WinDVD eventually is WinDVD's support for DSP modes, and with the Audio Booster Pack (now only available as part of the Platinum version of WinDVD), an equalizer. DSP effects include Hall, Soft, Echo, Rock, Vocal, Classic ... The Audio Booster pack also adds individual speaker adjustments (volume and delay), which is actually quite a useful feature, essential if you have non matching speakers in non uniform distances from the listener.
To compare with PowerDVD, both player's audio quality are about equal, while WinDVD 5.0/6.0 has just pulled ahead of PowerDVD in terms of audio support. Note that PowerDVD's audio support is still quite extensive, and more than enough for most people - WinDVD just happens to have more :)
The previous version of WinDVD received the highest possible score in this area, and there is no change in the new version. However, there is nothing significantly new here to justify reducing PowerDVD's score in this area either (our ratings for each DVD player is relative to the other players, so an improvement in one player's ratings may mean a decrease in another player's ratings).
Audio Quality Rating : A+ Audio Support Rating : A+
Nothing really has changed in this area over the previous version of WinDVD, and you can read what I wrote for the previous version below :
Both subtitles and captions are supported here, the same as WinDVD 4. 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 visibility (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.
Rating : B+
WinDVD 6.0's capture facility is similar to that of WinDVD 4/Platinum/5.0's. The capture browser allows you to capture multiple frames and preview/delete/save them here with ease - captured frames can be viewed as thumbnails, or as a plain text list. 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). This allows for multiple captures at the same time and preview them before saving. New in 5.0 is the ability to select which format to save the capture under, either as JPG or BMP. It also adds email integration, which automatically launches your email client with the captured image as the attachment.
One disappointing exclusion in the previous version of WinDVD is the option to specify which directory captured files are saved to. Thankfully, this has been addressed, and you can now specify the capture/bookmark directory in the setup section.
For a reviewer, the ability to capture to the clipboard would have been a nice options to include as well. Overall, both PowerDVD and WinDVD's capture facilities are about the same. WinDVD has the ability to preview captures before saving, select between JPG/BMP and email integration. PowerDVD, on the other hand, has custom resolutions captures and clipboard capturing.
New in version 6.0 of WinDVD is animated GIF capture, or what is referred to as "Quick Clip". The target audience of this feature seems to be mobile/cellular users.
Overall, this new mode works quite well, although the limitations of the animated GIF format does show here (ie. poor quality, large file size). I would have prefered maybe MPEG-4 capturing, since many mobile devices now support this format natively, and it has a much better quality/file size ratio than GIF. Perhaps copyright issues prevents MPEG-4 from being used... If you wish, you can download this sample clip I've captured (extract both the HTML page and the GIF file to the same directory, and load the HTML file to view the animation) - as you download it, you can already see the problem of file size, 1.2 MB for only a 10 second audio-less clip. While I can't give much of a rating increase just for this feature, it's a step in the right direction, and I hope the next version of WinDVD will have a more efficient video capturing facility.
NVDVD, and a few other DVD players, now have audio capturing, and so both WinDVD and PowerDVD will have to catch up in this area.
Rating : A
WinDVD 6.0's interface extends upon the interface found in WinDVD 5.0 - basically just the same skin with new graphics.
The new skin is quite well designed with clear and large buttons, as well as a large numerical display.
The subpanel way of organising options continues. The subpanels in this new version is the same as the previous version, offering functions ranging from the standard navigation (select up/down left/right, titles, chapters ...) to language selection (audio/subtitle). 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.
There are controls on the top of the main playback screen. These controls allow you to select the source of playback, and access Zoom, Audio Booster, Capture Browser, Bookmark Browser and the Playlist. This is a nice touch, although these controls can only be accessed when using WinDVD in windowed mode, not in fullscreen mode. The Quick Clip animated GIF capture button has been added.
"Video docking" is still supported - it is a feature which allows you to attach and detach the main control console with the playback window. For those that read my NVDVD review, I mentioned that the NVDVD's docked style interface (the controls are attached to the playback window) was a nice feature that makes moving the window around much easier, although it really depends on personal taste. With WinDVD "Video docking", you can now have the best of both worlds. Most component can be docked, including the capture/bookmark browser and the new playlist editor.
The playlist editor is part of the capture/bookmark browser component. Buttons on the playlist editor allows you add/delete playlists and to load in individual files, or entire directories into these playlists. Playlists are saved whenever you exit the playlist window.
I should also mention WinDVD's "Play DVD from folder" option, which allows you to playback ripped DVDs from your hard-drive directly. PowerDVD 5.0 has improved its equivalent option by opening ripped folders, instead of opening the IFO file, and so both players have pretty much the same ripped playback support. However what I found a little annoying was the fact that WinDVD refused to remember that last opened ripped DVD folder, meaning that I have to locate the ripped folder each and every time I wanted to playback from it. The resume function does work with ripped DVDs, which is something PowerDVD doesn't seem to be able to do.
Although it's been there, I haven't really mentioned the bookmark function before. The functionality seems unchanged from previous versions, and you can easily add a bookmark for a DVD, or choose to automatically add every chapter (which is problematic, since it adds all chapters, not just from the main movie, but from the extras - best to avoid if there is a stills picture gallery feature on your DVD, which means possibly hundreds of chapters being added, taking several minutes to complete). You can choose to import or export your bookmarks as a file.
I guess this is as good a place to mention the DVD Movie Encyclopedia function, which allows you to search the net for information regarding the currently playing movie. I am not sure how useful this will be, considering one could just open a browser and search IMDB to get the same information, with greater detail as well. This feature remains unchanged from previous versions.
Overall, it's the status quo again in this area of WinDVD. Again, nothing to suggest a rating change for either WinDVD or PowerDVD.
Rating : A
Update 21st November 2004: The release of PowerDVD 6.0 has decreased the Interface rating for WinDVD because of improvements made by PowerDVD and the relative loading times and lag that is now taken into consideration.
WinDVD 6.0 supports all versions of Windows (98 SE, Me, 2000, XP), after WinDVD Platinum 1.0 was only released for Windows 2000 and XP. This is a good move, since while it may be hard for some of you to imagine, there are plenty of users that are satisfied with their Windows 9x/Me setups and excluding them would be unfair.
Rating : A+
This section describes zooming and aspect ratio issues.
Zooming in WinDVD 6.0 remains the same as in WinDVD 4/Platinum/5.0, which is actually a little disappointing. As you may remember, the zooming in WinDVD 4 seems to have gone a little backwards compared to WinDVD 3.0. You are not 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.
However, WinDVD does have a function which allows you to turn a widescreen movie into a fullscreen one, which is one of the most requested features. Fortunately, this feature is easy to access, and does not require tricky configuration as with some other DVD players. All one needs to do to activate this feature is to go to the "Display" sub-panel, and change the "Widescreen" option to "Pan & Scan" (this option is only available in fullscreen mode). This doesn't appear to work for non anamorphic enhanced title (such as The X-Files DVD I was testing progressive de-interlacing on). The "widescreen" option previous here has been moved into the Setup -> Preferences section, (using non square pixels).
WinDVD also has Smart Stretch, which is similar to PowerDVD's CLPV, but has greater flexibility. Smart Strech allows you to view fullscreen content on widescreen monitors and vice versa using non-linear stretching (eg. the center of the picture is stretched less than the sides). PowerDVD's CLPV has fixed settings which you cannot adjust, but Smart Stretch allows you to adjust the width and height of the display.
Along with PowerDVD 5.0, these zooming features does seem a little less featured. What would make both players more attractive would be custom aspect ratio (eg. allowing the user to specify any random aspect ratio, like 19:6) - this would be very useful for people who connect their computers to widescreen displays (such as projectors) at non standard resolutions (eg. 1280x720). Again, a tie.
Rating : A
The pricing structure of WinDVD is now much simpler than the previous version. There are now just two main versions, and a single add-on pack (for Interactual DVD-ROM content support), as opposed to the 8 different combinations of add-on packs in the original release of WinDVD 5.0 (which was then simplified with a reduced price). DVD-Audio support is also now included with the Platinum version, as is the Audio Booster Pack.
At $49.95 and $69.95, there is almost no reason why one would go for the Gold version over the Platinum version, since the Platinum version offers so much more for only a little bit of a premium.