Note : This is an archived review for an older version of WinDVD. For the latest review, please refer to this page.
This decoder is still less efficient than Cyberlink PowerDVD 3.0
's decoder, although WinDVD
makes up for it in greater quality visuals and audio and this performance/efficiency gap is getting smaller with every release of WinDVD. With the 2.1 version, CPU usage on my slow Celeron 333a test system was always at 100% during playback, and any action on my behalf (like righ-clicking to bring out the menu) would mean serious skipping of the picture - the 2.0 version didn't seem to be this bad - and now in version 2.3, the situation seems to have been fixed, and CPU usage is back down to around 90%, similar to PowerDVD's 85%.
Video quality is extremely high and I would say the best so far, although PowerDVD isn't far behind. 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.
The graphics acceleration supported has not been documented, 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. Version 2.2 added iDCT support for ATI cards, which is not yet present in PowerDVD.
Audio volume is better than that of PowerDVD, although not by much now since PowerDVD 3.0 has been relased with a new audio decoder, and LFE decoding is supported, meaning better bass if your speaker can handle it. Unfortunately, not as many sound card models are supported (for 4/6 speaker and Digital audio output) compared to PowerDVD, but it is getting better, as the new version adds quite a few more cards that are compatible with it. From the current Intervideo FAQs, not as many 6 channel sound cards are supported as in PowerDVD 3.0, but this could just mean that the FAQ hasn't been updated.
WinDVD supports both closed captions and subtitles - subtitles can also be displayed at the same time as closed captions. Closed captions are available as white text on black background, which enhances visibilty (PowerDVD 3.0 implements closed captions as white text with a transparent background, which isn't as clear).
Still frame capture allows a user to capture a single frame of the movie, which cannot be achieved with the usual "Print-screen" key, as DVD players use a special overlay which cannot be captured normally. WinDVD's capture support is pretty limited - basically it will capture into a BMP file into the "capture" directory under WinDVD's installed directory once you press the capture hotkey or button. Unlike PowerDVD's implementation, you do not have the ability to capture to clipboard, instead of a file, nor do you have the ability to specify a location to store the captured file.
Zoom support has been added in version 2.1 and in a way it is both superior and inferior to the implementation in PowerDVD. The zoom feature can be accessed by holding down the left mouse button and dragging an area around the screen in which you want to zoom to. To restore to the original size, you'll have to access WinDVD's main console, expand the console by pressing on the ">" button located just below the "power" button, and click on the "zoom" button. There is also a "pan" button located there to allow you to, again using the left mouse button, to pan the picture in any direction.
Personally, I believe PowerDVD's interface is much more friendlier than that of WinDVD. The buttons on the WinDVD console are small, and not easy to use, especially the 3x5 pixel slider button, which is very hard to see/control for those using high resolutions or with notebook type display screen. The different skins does add a little bit of user friendliness, but still lacks easy access to the frequently used functions - whereas PowerDVD skins tend to be too big, WinDVD skins tend to be too small. The "extended control panel" ("WinDVD Plus" skin's control panel shown above) is a comfortable size, but too many of the important functions are in this hidden (by default) extended control panel, and not on the main console it self, which can be confusing to new users.
Intervideo seems to have tweaked the decoder somewhat, and at first, it refused to function properly on my test system. This was quickly fixed by tweaking my graphics card's DirectX settings - so the problem has to lie partly, if not fully, with my graphics card's drivers - this was not an issue with the previous version of WinDVD
. When I first installed this software over an older version, and did not do the recommended "reinstall", the player crashed on me, which only a hard reset would fix - my bad =)
PowerDVD has it's I-Power internet support, which allows your main PowerDVD screen to be turned into an HTML browser using the IE engine. The web-support feature of WinDVD is not as sophisticated, and basically puts a button on the main control panel to allow you to access some internet short-cuts (by opening a new IE window). If you were familiar with HTML, you can in fact alter the default I-Power screen for PowerDVD, where as here, you cannot alter the default short-cuts. PowerDVD wins out here. Personally, I don't really see why DVD players should have internet support, especially the half-assed effort shown here by Intervideo - I would have preferred they exchanged that button with a button for still capture - it would have been much more useful.
WinDVD is supported under a wide range of Windows version, including 98, Me and 2000, as well as NT 4.0. Because of the limitations of driver/multimedia support under NT/2000, not all of the enhanced features (like acceleration support) will be available. For a full list of the limitations, please refer to Intervideo's Operating Systems FAQ