Note : This is an archived review for an older version of WinDVD. For the latest review, please refer to this page.
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 3.0 and Cyberlink PowerDVD 3.0'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.
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. Contrast also seems to be better in WinDVD.
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 now also has a DTS version that adds DTS decoding - this means you can actually now hear your DTS CD/DVDs on your computer. No other software DVD player, to date, has this support yet.
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).
WinDVD 3.0 now also adds multiple subtitle support (4 subtitles to be exactly, double that of PowerDVD 3.0 - although only a few people would really need to have 4 subtitles on screen at a time).
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. There hasn't been any change to the capture feature in WinDVD 3.0, which is a shame, since this is one area that PowerDVD 3.0 still has the winning edge.
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. WinDVD 3.0 has now added a zooming option in the right-click menu, so now you can easily un-zoom without opening up the main console.
A popular feature is to convert widescreen movies into full screen ones, and WinDVD 3.0 has sort of added such support, again, accessible by using the right-click menu (under the "display" sub-section). With 2.35:1 non-anamorphic DVDs, I could drag out a square area and zoom into this area, and use the "pan" function (only available on main console), to drag it around to "emulate" PowerDVD 3.0's widescreen->fullscreen function. However, with 2.35:1 anamorphic DVDs, I was not able to drag out a square area unless I turned off the "keep aspect ratio" option - if I do this and zoom, the picture will fill the whole screen, but the aspect ratio will be wrong (ie. objects appear to be too tall). If I turn on "keep aspect ratio", I can only zoom to a widescreen area (holding the "shift" key would mean that I can drag any area, but the aspect ratio may be wrong), not full screen. To WinDVD's credit, they have included a "pan & scan" preset, which does the "zooming" for you (no dragging needed), but again, I could not get a full screen video from a 2.35:1 DVD. With 1.85:1 DVDs, however, I was able to get a full screen video by using the "pan & scan" option, just like in PowerDVD.
So to sum up in WinDVD 3.0, non-anamorphic DVDs require you hand-drag the area to zoom into (the "pan & scan" option does not work). With 2.35:1 anamorphic DVDs, you can use the "pan & scan" option to zoom in, but it won't be full screen. Only 1.85:1 anamorphic DVDs will zoom in completely to a full screen title (with the "pan & scan" option). With PowerDVD 3.0, however, all 3 kinds of titles are able to be zoomed to full screen with the built in "pan & scan" option. Panning is also more difficult in WinDVD, as you'll need to access the main console to do it (whereas in PowerDVD, you just drag the screen around with the mouse), but then again, WinDVD does offer you the option to zoom into any area you want (no matter how small the area is), but PowerDVD limits you to only a few pre-selected zooming options (eg. 4x, 9x). It seems that some work still needs to be done in WinDVD, in order to get the zooming feature to work flawlessly.
Not much has changed from the previous major version of WinDVD, but there has been a few small tweaks that have helped. First of all, the playlist gets a much needed work over. The previous playlist would always try to access my floppy drive everytime I opened it, but the new one does not. The old one also required you to select between "file" and "disc" mode but defaults at the "disc" selection, which was quite annoying (since most people use playlists to open "files", not "discs") - the new playlist now by default selects "file" mode. Networked drives are also now easy to access within WinDVD. Overall, I like the new playlist very much.
Personally, I believe PowerDVD's interface is much more friendlier than that of WinDVD, but that may be because I use PowerDVD more often than WinDVD. The buttons on the WinDVD console are not as small as before, and the slider button, is now more visible and easier to control. 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 (eg. panning, capture - but zooming support has definetely improved, as mentioned earlier), and not on the main console it self, which can be confusing to new users.
Changing skins is also not easy to beginners, since it is not in the WinDVD Configuration/Properties area (you'll have to right click on the main WinDVD console to select skins). Overall, I found the WinDVD Ex skin to be the most comfortable, and the user friendliness of WinDVD 3.0 better than previous versions.
There was no problem installing and running WinDVD 3.0. WinDVD is now also compatible with DirectX Video Acceleration Application Programmers Interface (Dx VA), which means that it will be compatible with Windows XP, when it is eventually released. This is not new, however, as PowerDVD is the first DVD player to have received Microsoft WHQL Certification for DirectX VA. But it does mean that even before Windows XP is released, we are already guaranteed two very competent DVD players. WinDVD 3.0 also plays back the new VR (Video Recording) format for DVD-RW and DVD-RAM media. The VR format is being used by major Consumer Electronics manufacturers for their next generation of set-top recorders and camcorders.
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, 2000, XP, 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.